Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Castle (from Latin castellum, a fort), in a wide sense, signifies a fortified dwelling. Some of the earliest examples are the lake dwellings, and the many hill-forts which were in use among prehistoric peoples. The Musk-rat's castle in Fenimore Cooper's Deerslayer was a more modern example. The castle as now generally known among us, generally in the form of ruins, is the latest and final stage of the fortified dwelling, which passed out of use with the invention of gunpowder and the advance of civilisation. The germ of the castle seems to have been the keep, built on a mound, and surrounded by a ditch and palisade. This keep, which had the general assembly hall upon the ground floor, the family apartments on the second floor, and the garrison accommodation mostly in the upper part handy to the battlements, gradually became too restricted for the tastes of the day, and the more elaborate castle had in addition outer walls with towers at the angles, and containing more extensive and comfortable buildings; the towers each forming a stronghold, and the keep providing a final refuge in case all the rest of the castle were taken. Drawbridges, which could be easily raised from within, and doorways defended by strong doors and single or double portcullises, and having over them apertures for pouring red-hot lead and other unpleasant things upon the assailants, increased the security of the castle. On the principle of an animal who has two entrances to his retreat, there was generally a postern door, which communicated with the outside, and was kept, when possible, secret. Many castles owed their fall to the discovery or betrayal of this secret. There are some fine specimens of castles in England, from Arundel downwards. The castle of Bouillon, in South Belgium, is a fine specimen, with its double moat, of the latest (17th century) condition of castle fortification. The term was also used in chess; at sea, where it remains in the term forecastle; while most of us have built castles in Spain, or in the air. Examples of the castle frequently occur in heraldry both as a charge upon the escutcheon and as the whole or part of a crest. Unless particularly described as otherwise, it is understood to be a gate or portway in a battlemented wall between two towers. When the cement is of a different tincture to the stones, the castle is said to be "masoned" of that colour. If the portway is defended by a portcullis, it must be specially mentioned, and when the field is visible, through the windows and ports, the term "voided of the field "is employed. When these, however, differ in colour both from the castle itself and from the field, they are supposed to be closed, and they must be particularly blazoned. A castle with four towers, or, as it is more generally known, "a square tower," is occasionally met with, and is always drawn in perspective. If other towers, which are sometimes termed "castellets," rise from the battlements, their number must be stated, as also particulars of any domes, cupolas, and banners which occur.