enter preformatted text hereI am well aware that posting the same question on two S.E sites is a big no-no.

I hope that there is more leeway on meta and so I freely admit that this is a duplicate of my World Builder META question.

Feel free to tell me whether I ought to delete that one. I just hope for help.

Everything between "horizontal rules" is that question, I add a few notes afterwards.

So, my question Where and how do I build a castle? got closed.

Probably because it was thought to be a dupe of:

My aim is to understand how castles were planned and built, down to the last detail (books & URLS are very welcome).

To that end, I would like to propose a series of questions, and my question here is whether this would be acceptable.

Here are some topics, from the top of my head. I imagine that more may be added later and that answers may lead to further questions.

I have a vision of an epic question chain, lasting for months, maybe longer, with one focused question per week, building on previous answers, until we understand out castle in the minutest detail.

Feel free to add more questions, re-order them or just plain say this series of questions is off-topic or uninteresting.

  • how many will attack me? Probably based on medieval history. How large would armies have been? How many of them can attack me at once? There is not much having 300,000 warriors if there are only enough walls for only 1,000 to attack simultaneously. However, they will also need archers, siege canon, such as trebuchet, etc. Perhaps they work in shifts, relived as men get tired? Cavalry to quell the local populace and cut off supply lines? Medics, cooks, drovers, etc, etc? We probably don't need to consider the non-combatants (other than that they need supplies, and perhaps insomuch as anyone can swing a sword when attacked)

  • for how long must I withstand siege, if it comes to that, until an army is raised and help arrives? (since there are no standing armies). How long does it take to raise, arm & equip, train(?) enough to defeat the number of attackers from the first question? Hmm, how long can they besiege me, given an "average" supply chain (whatever that is)?

  • the purpose of my castle? I will state that, although comments might be welcome. It is a sally point for a garrison. If any army passes with X miles on either side, we can sally forth and assail them. It also forces any passing army to stop sand engage, since they will not want to leave a garrisoned castle at their rear. When they stop, either the castle can attack, or an allied army can attack the besiegers from the rear.

  • who else is in my castle, other than the garrison? I suspect that there will be a fixed number of some positions, such as the actual castle lord, and a variable number, based on the garrison size, of others, e.g cooks, medics, smiths, armorers, fletchers .... and probably more professions. How many people in total in the castle? (and, do I want to allot space for peasants from the surrounding countryside?)

  • what supplies do I need for all of these? Water, food (livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, chickens), grain, preserved foodstuffs? Water and fodder for the livestock? Do I slaughter & salt the livestock, except for necessary horses at the start of the siege?

  • which buildings are necessary for all of the above? I seek an exhaustive list, right down to the toilets, with sizes, and hopefully we can draw a floorplan. This gives us a feel for the necessary size of the castle. Let's start with HQ, armoury, medical bay, chapel(?), smithy, tanner(?), storage for food, water, animals, sleeping quarters, timber, leather, .... ?

  • where to site the castle? If we have free range, do we build on top of a hill? That's good to tire attackers, makes it difficult/impossible to bring up siege engines (towers, trebuchet, etc). If there is a rock base, they won't be able to tunnel and undermine the walls. But, a hill means very deep wells, possibly dug through rock, to have access to water. Unless we build near a river, but what are the pros/cons of that? Genghis Khan diverted a river to flood a city; could a similar approach undermine our walls?

  • given the approximate known size of the populace and buildings, we have the size of the inner walls. Do we only have one set, or is there a fallback a Bailey ? Or two, so that each can defend the other? How many ad why?

  • how height should the walls be, and how thick? If we accommodate some form of catapult, that might determine the thickness, as would the damage doable by attacking artillery ( I am going to say that there is no gunpowder). We may also want a certain number of rows of defenders on the walls, plus stores of ammunition, etc.

How many staircases lead up to the walls? Enclosed or open? How far apart? Do they need to built near to certain buildings, or vice versa?

If am not building on rock, how deep do the walls go beneath ground in order to prevent or hinder tunneling?

  • how may towers do I need in order to enfilade the attackers? How far apart are they? How tall? How many defending archers or other troops can be active at once (those little slit windows won't allow many archers per floor to fire at once)). Should they be as tall as the walls, or butt out at the top (with holes in the bottom)?

  • one entrance only? Easier to defend, but limits sally possibilities. The more entrances, the more flexibility, but the more attack points. How to construct the gates? Iron reinforced wood? Portcullis? One gate, or two, with murder holes between.

  • If on flat ground, do we need a moat? How wide, deep? Ditch or water filled? Stakes/caltrops at the bottom?

Errrm, that's probably enough to give a feel for it. I could write more, but may just bore you. I think that there is enough here to decide whether this could be a meaningful series of questions or not.

Comments, suggestions, criticism?

Notes & Clarifications That one was posted after my main site Where and how do I build a castle was - quite correctly closed.

This obviously cannot be a single question. It requires a series of questions, each building upon the answers of those previous.

So, (finally), my question to you is whether a series of detailed questions would be on-topic (probably) and welcome (this is where I am unsure).

[Update : moved here from my reply to @Mark's comment question]

I am purely interested in real world castles. I am currently living in the UK and am totally fascinated. I am happy to restrict it to a century or two in the UK. Also, any mention of gunpowder was only to say that I don't want my castle to have to defend against it.

I am a programmer by trade trade. We start with requirements : "withstand an army of X for a period of Y"; we go back & forth, asking questions of the intended end-user until we are certain that the requirements are complete and consistent. Then we proceed to the software architecture and review that until it fullis the requirements and is consistent.

Then, we start on the detailed design, which also requires a lot of review. in fact, the actual coding part of it takes only 10% or 15% of the total time. But, I digress. I can look at castles, as they exist now. I can infer - but I do not know, and I wish to know.

From the largest "how large a garrison do I need to withstand a force of X?" right down to "I notice that the fletchers are always built near to the privvies. I wonder why (invented example)".

I want to understand exactly how a castle was planned (the mechanics of the building interest me, personally, less). I want to get inside the minds of those who planned castles. There is no one book that I can find which does so. I am willing to spend 5 or 10 years researching and write it myself (to very little audience, no doubt), and here seems like a good start, before I dig into the tomes.

  • 1
    I'm concerned that (a) this is a hypothetical and out of scope and (b) when and where are critical. 800CE Ireland will build castles differently than 1600 France, and neither will look like Feudal Japan. You reference siege canon, which is limits time, etc. (c) how will you select an authoritative answer? Seems like there will be multiple correct opinions in response to each question - we assume that there is one authoritative answer.
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 8:40
  • Couple of comments (1) I was listing concerns, not vetoes - just things that stuck out at me; that said, please move everything from the comments into the question. long comment strings are an anti-pattern, and decrease the chance that a question will get a good answer. (2) SW design is top down; my impression is that very few premodern artifacts are designed in that sense; they emerge from constraints similar to neural network behavior. (3) Please support any question with preliminary research.
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 10:46
  • 1
    I'm confused. Did you intend to post this on Worldbuilding's Meta instead of History's'? I'm not seeing any question mentioned in here that would normally be on-topic here.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 12:36
  • @MarkC.Wallace 1) Sorry about that. It started out as a small comment .. and just grew out of control. I have moved them into the question. 2) good point! But, within the constraints, I imagine that it was still top-down. I would certainly like to address those constraints, but imagine/hope that there is an 80/20 here and I could just address the 80% is common, no matter the site 3) will do, as I post each individual question. What to you think? Could I ask an extended series of questions, each designed to elicit one verifiable fact?
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 19:14
  • @T.E.D. I originally did ask it on WB, as they tend to be inventive. But I realize now that I want factual answers, rather than opinion (as much as is possible). Which questions do you not find on topic? I will happily work with you to make them so. If I start with "what was the average / maximum size of army that a UK castle would have to withstand in the 11th to 14th centuries". would that be on-topic? From there, I would seek historical examples of the size of garrison necessary to defend against the, and so on. Can you help me make this on topic? Thanks
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 19:18
  • 1
    We could answer questions about specific sieges (most of which would probably start with something like "We don't know for sure, but..."), but there's no good way to come up with an "average" like one might be able to do with modern levels of data gathering and record keeping.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 20:19
  • hmm, I see what you mean. I am torn between "good enough" and "worst case". I suppose I could just postulate a size & take it from there. X enemy means Y garrison, which need Z arrows per man per day, plus # blacksmiths & so on. Then they all need a certain amount of space, which determines the size of the castle & number/type of rooms within it; then comes layout ...
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 21:35
  • 1
    I'd add that we don't really know the answers to this. A lot of good research has been done by Robert Liddiard though and I'd suggest you look towards his works.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 6:22
  • Thanks for that (+1). I bought a few of his books.
    – Mawg
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


I thought this might be best answered not by addressing individual elements or aspects of what you wish to ask, (which will still have to be addressed on a question by question basis) but how you might successfully ask these questions on this stack.

  1. Do (and show us) your research.

Quick questions, or one-two line questions which show no evidence of previous research have a high likelihood of being downvoted and closed. To generate proper, sourced answers often takes a good amount of time, and it is quite irritating to write up an answer and the OP says 'Ya, I read that, but wanted something else...'. Well sourced questions do better here.

Not only outside sources, but look at this site. There are 361 mentions of 'castle' in a site search. We may have covered the issue before. Look at those answers, and follow up on the sources they cite.

  1. Eliminate any hypothetical aspect from your question.

We close hypotheticals, often rather quickly. Sometimes a hypothetical can be hidden as a search for historical facts. Not 'How many men might besiege my hypothetical castle', but 'What was the largest army to besiege a castle (in your time and place)' or 'How many men were in King Henry's Army during battle so and so'. Remember if you ask these without first checking that they can be readily answered (back to do your research) on Wikipedia or in earlier questions, the questions will be closed...

  1. Be specific enough, (but not too specific)

We get a lot of questions which want 'medieval' information for worldbuilding/historical fiction use. Medieval covers a 1000 year span, and can be applied across a large range of cultures. Be specific concerning time period and location, enough for authoritative research to answer your question within reason. As pointed out in comments, information relevant to England might not be relevant another location. (looking for information on the military use of castles will limit your time frame anyway)

On the other hand, try not to be so specific as to eliminate the presentation of possibly related solutions to your question. If you were asking about the first development of courtyard castles and specify only in England, you might miss out on an answer which can compare the development in France.

  1. Be ready for downvotes and closures, and be interactive when it happens.

We close 4 out of 10 questions here. When your question is closed, don't immediately abandon it, but look at the comments and try to address the issues raised, and make substantial edits to correct the perceived issues with the question. OPs that do this have a much better chance of reopening a question.

Be cautious about being too interactive. Make responses to comments by altering the question when applicable.

  1. Don't swarm the site, and be patient.

You talk about wanting to ask a large string of questions, but it has been my experience that swarms of questions are often look at as intrusive, especially if the questions need to build on each other or are closely related enough that they might somehow be considered duplicate. Sometimes its best to get an answer before proceeding to the next question. (This appears to be the format you were considering anyways.)

It takes time to do this type of research, and build a decent answer. The worldbuilder people respond, sometimes rapidly, with unsupported information. That is discouraged here. Sometime users here want to reply with poorly sourced information (Wikipedia, Blogs, random websites='the internet says'). This also is discouraged here. It may take several days before a good answer shows up.

On the other hand, again, if the question can be instantly answered by a link to Wikipedia, then see pt. 1; the question was not a good question by site standards. Do your research first.

All that said, I hope after you research your topics that some of them find their way onto the site as questions.

...And since this is meta, and reference requests weren't really the topic here, I'll offer one. There was a six part series on Discovery/Channel 4 with historian Marc Morris called Castle. There is a related book, and you may find the episodes of the series on YouTube if you look. You mention spending 10-15 years to answer your question, so I think the 6 hours spent watching these videos will help your background knowledge on the subject, and give you a perspective better enabling you to proceed with your questions here.

  • Wow! an impressive piece of help & advice, thanks. A lot of it is common sense/same as other S.E sites, although a closure rate of 40% probably exceeds even the notoriously close-hungry S.O :-/ 1) a lot of people turn to S.E as their 1st port of call. On this topic, I would prefer to do the reading first & ask her for interpretation calcification. 2) opinion based questions get closed on almost all S.E sites which I frequent. NP 3) be specific. Wilco (else, GIGO) ->
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 21:14
  • -> 4) downvotes & closures. This cuts 2 ways; the bane of S.e is a downvote without explanation. How can I learn & not repeat my mistake if I am not told what it was? But there a few who really engage and are willing to help others rework a question to make it acceptable. On s/w recs I like to do this by asking the posters questions, to guide them towards a better question. 5) don't swam the site. I think that there will be enough reading to do, followed by thinking, that it might be months between questions ->
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 21:16
  • -> Once again, thanks for taking the time to write so much. Great guidelines for most S.E sites. And thanks for the links
    – Mawg
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 21:17

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