Castle Learning Center Stairs
Castles of Britain


masonry stairs © 2001-2016 by Marvin Hull
There were several types of stairs in castles, from moveable ladders to grand masonry ones. The earliest were movable wooden ladders. Most entrances were on a level above the ground, so when the defenders of the castle went to bed or needed to isolate the tower or keep, they would just pull the ladder up and store it.

Access to the wall walk seems most commonly to have been gained by temporary ladders or wooden stairs. The exterior wooden stairs would soon rot from the weather or could easily burn.

There were also non-movable wooden staircases. These were found throughout the castle, but mostly in the interior rooms.

Masonry stairs were found mostly in walls or towers and were either straight flights or rose in a spiral direction. There was a great concern for security, but the stairs also had to be convenient. The newel stair was common. This consisted of a central column or post around which a spiral stair revolved. Each step took the form of an eccentric keyhole. The circular terminations fitted on top of each other to form the newel, while the opposite and much broader end was built into the wall.

newel stairs

The first spiral stairs were laid on concrete vaults, but by the 13th century they were cut into slabs and fitted into the walls. Also, the spiral stairs in castle towers were designed to ascend clockwise, to make the attackers expose more of their body in order to use their swords in their right hands.