Glossary of Siege Warfare terms

Defensive fortifications
The massive castles which spring to mind whenever the subject of siege warfare is discussed are those from the end of the medieval period. There are several reasons for this: the earlier fortifications were either destroyed or replaced by stone structures, and a good stone wall is much more memorable than the remnant earth mound of a motte-and-bailey structure. Castles started out as fortified residences for a local lord in feudal Europe, and were taken to new levels after the Norman invasion of England. Castle building probably reached its zenith during the reign of Edward I and his conquest of Wales.

 
 

 
 

Bastide
A small fortified settlement on a strategic route or near a border in 13th century France.

 
 

Broch
An old pictish tower.

 
 

Caer
Fortified Welsh settlement.

 
 

Crannog
Defensive island in early medieval Ireland or Scotland.

 
 

Llys
Fortified residence for a Welsh lord.

 
 

Motte-and-bailey
Early type of castle with a tower on a raised mound surrounded by a wooden stockade.

 
 

Palisade
A strong wooden fence.

Pele towers
Fortified tower residences found along the England/Scotland border dating form the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Initiated during the reign of Edward I in response to continued raids by armies form Scotland (and England). Continued to be used throughout the era of the Border Reivers.

Shell keep
A stone replacement for the wooden walls of a bailey (of a motte-and-bailey structure) usually restricted by the size of the original mound.

 
 

Tower keep
A small castle formed from a single tower.

Castle features
This list is limited to defensive structures and buildings, rather than those features related to everyday residence.

 
 

Crenel
A single indentation of an battlemented parapet. Also known as an embrasure.

 
 

Bailey
The walled enclosure or courtyard of a castle.

 
 

Barbican
A fortified extension of a gateway to provide protection against attack.

 
 

Bomb Vault
An arched ceiling or roof made from stone (or brick) and designed to withstand the impact of artillery shot. Also known as a casement — especially if provided with an emplacement for cannon.

 
 

Curtain Wall
The perimeter stone wall of the castle. Replaced earlier wooden palisades.

 
 

Donjon
Central stone keep of a medieval castle.

 
 

Embrasure
The opening behind a window or arrow loop. Also used as an alternative name for a crenel.

 
 

Glacis
The sloping ground beyond the outermost works or the moat.

 
 

Guette
A watch tower attached to a castle.

 
 

Hourding
A timber gallery supported on beams which project form the top of a wall. Holes in the structure’s floor allowed defenders to drop stones (and other stuff like boiling oil) on attackers at the base of the wall. Such a gallery may also be used to provide cover at the top of a fortified wall or around a window on the wall (for a toilet, etc.). Also known as a bretache or bretesche.