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Castle Armouries: Safeguarding the Knights Tools of his Trade

In the medieval period, castles served as formidable fortifications, housing not only knights and their households but also their armies and valuable military equipment.

Among the essential components of a castle’s defensive capabilities was the armoury. Armouries played a crucial role in safeguarding the knights and their equipment, ensuring they were adequately protected and ready for battle.

The Purpose of an Armoury

The primary purpose of an armoury in a medieval castle was to store, maintain, and distribute weapons and armour for the castle’s defenders, particularly the knights. The armoury served as a central hub where knights and their squires would gather to prepare for battle, ensuring they had access to their personal arms and armour. It was a place of both practicality and symbolism, representing the strength and status of the castle’s lord and his warriors.

Armour
A medieval melee. Though not uncommon the weapons had to stored somewhere when not in use.

The layout and organisation of an armoury varied depending on the size of the castle and the resources available. In larger castles, the armoury was often a separate building within the castle complex, strategically positioned near the castle’s entrance or the great hall for easy access. In smaller castles, the armoury might be located in a designated room or storage area.

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Inside the armoury, various features and structures were designed to ensure the safe storage and maintenance of the weapons and armour. Racks, shelves, and hooks lined the walls, providing storage for swords, spears, shields, helmets, and other pieces of armour. Weapons and armour were typically displayed prominently, showcasing the castle’s military prowess and the wealth and status of its lord.

Types of Weapons and Armor

The medieval armoury housed an extensive array of weapons and armour, tailored to the needs and preferences of the knights. These included:

Plate armour, consisting of metal plates joined together, offered superior protection to knights. It included pieces such as breastplates, greaves, gauntlets, and helmets.

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Chainmail, made of interlocking metal rings, was a common form of armour. It provided flexibility and protection against slashing and stabbing attacks.

Shields were crucial defensive tools. They ranged from small round bucklers to large kite-shaped shields and were often emblazoned with the knight’s coat of arms.

Swords were the primary weapon of knights. They came in various forms, including the longsword, arming sword, and the two-handed great sword.

Helmets
It wasn’t just knights weapons that were housed in the armoury. Armour and helmets were also repaired and stored within. (Photo: Phil Hodges)

Polearms were versatile weapons with long shafts and blades. They included weapons such as the halberd, poleaxe, and spear, allowing knights to engage opponents from a distance.

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Ranged weapons like longbows and crossbows were also part of the castle’s armoury. They provided knights with the ability to strike from a distance and were often used by skilled archers.

Maintenance and Training

Maintaining the weapons and armour was a critical aspect of castle life. Knights and their squires would regularly inspect and repair their equipment, ensuring it was in optimal condition for battle. Armor required cleaning, polishing, and oiling to prevent rust and maintain its effectiveness. Weapons needed sharpening and occasional repairs.

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The armoury also served as a training ground for knights and their squires. Training sessions would take place, allowing knights to practice their combat skills, test new weapons, and familiarise themselves with different fighting techniques. The armoury provided a controlled environment where knights could hone their skills and prepare for the rigors of battle.

Legacy and Modern Perspectives

The role of armouries in medieval castles extended beyond their immediate purpose of storing and distributing weapons and armour. They symbolized the power, status, and military might of the castle’s lord. The grandeur and organisation of the armoury reflected the wealth and prestige of the noble family, impressing visitors and potential adversaries alike.

Armoury
As weapons advanced so did castle armouries. Here we see a mix of poleaxes and flintlock pistols.

Today, armouries in medieval castles serve as reminders of a bygone era. They allow us to appreciate the craftsmanship and skill of medieval armorers and offer a glimpse into the world of medieval knights. The legacy of the medieval armoury can also be observed in modern military institutions, where centralized storage and maintenance of weapons and equipment remain essential.

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Visiting a medieval castle and exploring its armoury provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the intricate details and rich history of the knightly tradition. The armoury stands as a testament to the valour, chivalry, and military prowess of the medieval period, leaving a lasting impression on those who had the privilege to witness it.

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