Secrets of the Castle - Episode 2
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.
Secrets of the Castle - Episode 1
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.
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