Hello, our tour through Secrets of the Castle continues in Episode 4. Ruth, Peter, and Tom continue their work on Guedelon Castle. More castle-building secrets are being revealed through this archeological experiment. Ruth, Peter, and Tom have lived on the Guedelon site for four months and are now exploring all the skills that were used to build a castle. It was a combined effort of the community to build a castle.
Blacksmiths, quarrymen, woodsmen, carpenters, and stonemasons all came together to build a castle. The first castles were built of wood and there is a sample of an early castle on the Guedelon site. These castles consisted of a walled enclosed area and a tower. Eventually, these castles would be made of stone, especially if they were at a key strategic site. In England, stone castles were a sign that Norman Rule was here.
The workers at Guedelon are reviving the old practices in building the castle. They are proud of the job they have done at the castle. The walls are made out of a combination of rough field stones with areas of smooth cut stones to strengthen the walls and towers. There were leveling courses to help give the masons a chance to work on a flat surface. Tom helps in the quarry to get a stone that is to be used for a leveling course. He uses the techniques that the Medieval people would have used. In the Middle Ages, quarrymen would have used the natural cracks in the rock to cut stone.
Masons were well paid and well-traveled men, their skills were in high demand. They all gathered in the stonemasons' lodge. It was where the masons’ secrets were kept. Ronald Hutton joins Ruth as they tour the masons’ lodge. Ronald discusses the history of masons and freemasonry. Middle Ages masons had nothing to do with the Masonic Movement and the modern freemason movement was founded in the 16th Century and evolved from there. Ronald sums up the Middle Age masons as doing God’s work because they were the ones that built the cathedrals.
Ruth, Tom, and Peter explore the next skill needed to use build a castle: carpentry. They would have built doors and maintained the scaffolding. Scaffolding was not built from the ground up but moved up as the walls moved up. Guedelon is using modern processed wood and steel bolts for the scaffolding, but the scaffolding on the site resembles what would have been used in the castle building. There have been compromises for health and safety, however despite that the workers still work as they would have done in the Middle Ages.
Blacksmiths were also seen on the site of the castle. They made hinges for the doors and other metal implements for the castle. He keeps the tools sharp for the workers. Tom and Peter work to make a furnace to help smelt iron. Together they make a bloom of iron for the blacksmith’s use. By able to make steel they can make good tools.
The woodsmens’ skills were also used in castle building. They carefully selected trees for use in the castle. Each tree had a specific use for the castle. Tom works on getting a tree chopped down. Sarah the site administrator helps translate for the woodsman. This section demonstrates how much thought the woodsman had to do for a tree to fall safely in the forest.
To continue to see the other skills used in castle building continue to watch this episode. This is another episode that features STEM and STEAM activities for the classroom. This is a skill-heavy episode and demonstrates how everyone came together to build a castle. It also showed how much work was involved in building a castle. If you do not want to show the full episode, then show clips to a class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Hello, our tour through Secrets of the Castle continues in Episode 3. Our time travelers Ruth, Peter, and Tom explore how a castle was decorated. When we think of castles, we just think of a barren place that is cold and drafty. However, this archeological experiment is proving otherwise. Castles could be richly and colorfully decorated. The material that early castle decorators used came from the earth. Ruth, Peter, Tom continue to explore the Medieval World.
The castles people visit now are a far cry from what they were when they were in use. They had tile floors, whitewashed, plastered, and covered with clothes. Ruth sums up the difference between castle ruins and the historical experimental castle as “an entirely different beast.” The experimenters are decorating the castle according to the period of King Louis IX of France. The experimental castle is modest, decorated for a lower-ranked noble.
Sarah, the site administrator gives Ruth, Tom, and Peter a tour of the most important rooms of the castle starting with the Great Hall. The Great Hall was the hub of castle life and it was a sight where the castle lord held court. It had to show off the lord’s wealth and status. They then make their way to the great tower where the lord and lady slept. It was the one room that had a fireplace. Peter and Tom are going to be tiling and painting some of the surfaces of the castle. Ruth makes her way to the kitchen. The kitchen is limewashed making it a bright and sunny area. The limewash keeps things clean in the kitchen.
Sarah explains that castles were often limewashed and was glad that they had the chance to experiment with how castles were decorated. The White Tower at the Tower of London got its name from being whitewashed on the outside.
Tom prepares lime mortar to put up against the wall. Rendering was put on the walls to insulate them and to prepare the walls for decorate. It was put on the wall roughly rather than in several layers. It also helps preserve the masonry underneath. They then move to make floor tiles for the site. 28,000 roof tiles were created and it took four years. An additional 80,000 tiles will be needed to cover all the roofs of the castle. Now production has shifted to floor tiles. Producing floor tiles is often laborious as the workers had to separate hard elements from the clay to make tiles. Tile making was one of the earliest industries to have regulations. These regulations included what type of clay could be used for the tile.
The toilets were a common element found in castles. They were called guard robes and clothes were kept in them to keep them bug-free. Ruth and Peter explore the history of the privy or guard robes. The squires often had to prepare the privies before their masters went in them. Often preparation included sweet-smelling herbs to help make going to the bathroom a pleasant experience. What did the Medieval people use for toilet paper? It was not leaves or moss, since you would have to deal with deforestation or have a moss plantation to keep people supplied. Ruth and Peter conclude that everyone had a flannel or shared a flannel.
To continue to learn more about how a castle was built continue to watch the episode. This episode is another fascinating look at how a castle was built. This episode would be suited to an art class, especially if a teacher was discussing how to make tiles or painting techniques. Ruth goes into a great deal on how the Medieval people made colorful paints. Again, teachers, you are only limited by your imagination when you use YouTube in your class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Secrets of the Castle continues with how the castle was defended. Guedelon Castle is a 25-year archeological experiment in the Burgundy region of France. The builders are exploring the different techniques that are used to build a castle. The castle at Guedelon was built for a lord who wanted to show off his wealth. There are 36 high curtain walls to protect the courtyard. There is a gatehouse where people could get in and out. There are four towers as well, and one is called the great tower because it is bigger and taller. The walls are 12 feet thick.
The 13th Century was the golden age of castle building. Crusades and dynastic struggles caused the evolution of the castle. The Medieval rulers built stone castles to establish their power and to provide for defense. Tom, Ruth, and Peter explore the defense of the castle and the weapons used in the Middle Ages.
Tom, Peter, and the masons install a special stone to connect the outside of the wall to the inner side of the wall to provide strength for the defense of the castle. If they did not put this stone in place, the wall would be vulnerable to caving in. They also explore the mortar and how it takes centuries to set. Tom points out that “experimental archeology has given you a mortar you can use.” Peter explains how the mortar is set in place and how the builders kept checking the level of the stones in place to keep the walls straight.
Sieges were a big problem for the castle. Soldiers could climb over the walls with ladders or tunnels under them. The Trebuchet was invented during this period. This weapon dominated the Middle Ages and siege warfare. The biggest Trebuchet was Warwolf, which was commissioned by King Edward I. Our time travelers go to a castle nearby where replicas of the weapons used are on display. A crew of five men set up a Trebuchet for firing. Even though the war machines were slow, they were feared. One glance at them caused towns to surrender. For the siege, it is the constant hammering away at the walls which caused a great deal of damage.
Tom, who is a midshipman in the Royal Navy, has a strong interest in Medieval history and armor. Ruth makes cloth armor for Tom and finds that it is a lot of hard work for very little progress. She makes it with sheep wool and linen. Ruth explores how cloth armor was made and explains that the linen and wool are layered together before being sewn down. Cloth armor is the precursor to the bulletproof vest.
The defining feature of the castle is are the arrow loops. They were concealed in the walls and gave the archers an advantage. The mason shows the boys how to build an arrow loop. The arrow loop sloped down to help the archers see invaders. Tom and Peter then explore how archers shot their arrows out of the arrow loops. They even try to shoot into an arrow loop, which proved to be a failure.
To continue to learn more about the Secrets of the Castle continue to watch on. There are several good clips you can use for a shop class. The firing of the Trebuchet would be a good clip to show in a math class. Our time travelers are good at explaining how the castle was built as well as exploring the defense properties of the castle. They discuss how if the tower is attacked the way the stones are laid allow that force to be disturbed around.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
Now we are going to explore history meets reality TV in Secrets of the Castle. Tom Pinfold joins up with Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn to learn the secrets of castle building. Castles had a French origin. So our time travelers to go France and Guedelon castle. Guedelon Castle is part of an archaeology experiment to determine to build a castle. Castle building required a whole community of builders, masons, blacksmiths, lumberjacks, and tile makers. The project for the year is getting work done on the Great Tower.
So how do you build a castle? You start with a wooden model, which allows you to change things before you start building. The second step in building a castle is finding a good location for your castle. A good location includes access to water, wood, and rock. You also have to have the right stone to build a strong castle. Tom and Peter explore the different types of stones and where they were placed in the castle.
Ruth explores the Medieval Hovel and how the castle builders’ camps evolved into villages. Ruth works to make the hovel a home. She starts with the fire pit. She then asks a carpenter to make a grain arch. The grain arch has a removable lid so she can make dough. In the meantime, Ruth lays out the rushes on the floor of the hovel. She is putting theory about rushes into practice by laying them in a herringbone pattern. Ruth gets pots from a pottery maker. Using pottery for cooking is one of the longest practices in the world. Clay came from the nearest source as it could - from a pothole. The hovel is equipped with a grain arch, pots, bowls, nets for hanging other types of food. The hovel is not only a living space but a storage space.
Another vital resource in castle building is water. Thousands of gallons of water per day were used on the castle building site. Peter and Tom work to repair the well by getting a pulley and rope made. The rope is made by using a rope walk. Water is used to make mortar. Mortar formulas were closely guarded secrets and their strength determined how well the castle could hold off.
The boys help get a doorway prepped for a castle. They are surprised at how little metal is used in castle buildings. However, where metal is used it is in an essential place.
The boys put Ruth’s floor to the test and discuss the hovel. Their initial reaction to the hovel is one of disgust but once they discuss it they find that it is not a bad place to live. They find that the floor is warm and that the small space is would be easier to heat. The next morning Peter and Ruth explore Medieval clothing. Peter comments that he can see how clothing evolved.
To find out more about how a castle was built, continue to watch the episode.
With the first episode, you are not limited to a history class, you can bring this episode into a woodshop class or a class featuring STEM or STEAM. In the first episode, there is a demonstration of how carpenters worked wood without saws. There is quite a bit of STEM and STEAM you can get out of this series. You can even show this in a science class because historians are applying the scientific method during this experiment. If you need something do to in a pinch for a class, then you should show this series. However, if you don’t have a substitute teacher in the classroom, you should be able to find clips for use in the classroom.
You can learn more about Guedelon here.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Tom Pinford are at it again! This time helping build an 13th Century French Castle.
Each episode tackles an aspect of castle building: from setting up a temporary home for the castle workers, to blacksmithing, to stonework, millwork and creating a castle home. This not only is a fantastic series for a world history classroom but a math class and STEAM class. It makes one appreciate the skill in castle building and anyone should find something to learn from this series.
When I subbed in a middle school history class, the students were working on a project involving the Medieval period, so I showed them the first episode of the this series to help give them ideas for their class projects! The class responded well to the video and I ended up showing the second episode in a study hall class.
This castle is part of the world's longest archaeological experiment. You can learn more about it here: www.guedelon.fr/en/
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