Castle Learning Center Towers
Castles of Britain


wall towers © 2002-2016 by Lise Hull
Mural towers were towers built into the castle wall. They were square, rectangular, polygonal, round, and D-shaped. Before the end of the 12th century, they were mainly rectangular in design. Polygonal ones appeared in the late 13th and 14th centuries.

Round and D-shaped towers also appeared in the 13th century and had many advantages over square or rectangular ones. They improved the field of fire for the defenders and eliminated dead ground in which attackers could work. They were also less vulnerable because they had no corners. Undermining the tower was difficult, therefore. Round towers also deflected missiles, and battering and boring also became more difficult. Knights fighting in the Crusades saw round towers on castles in the Holy Land and brought the idea back home, introducing the design to British castles.

Often, towers had more than one purpose. In later castle development, they served as miniature keeps, while also defending the curtain. Some combined the keep, church, living spaces, kitchen, and other castle amenities. Sometimes, the basement of the tower even served as a prison. Towers could also be entirely devoted to sanitary purposes.

Self-sufficient towers developed in the 15th century. These towers contained latrines and fireplaces, sleeping quarters, and other facilities.

So what was the purpose of the wall towers?

  • They flanked sections of the wall so that each pair of neighboring towers covered the entire face of the wall.
  • They guarded the rampart (a protected fighting platform for castle defenders), and exposed and confined any escalades.

There were three types:

  • Open. There was no masonry on the side facing inwards. Common in D-shaped mural towers.
  • Closed. Completely enclosed. Supported many floors, and acted as multipurpose towers, holding the kitchen, mini-keep, chapel, or other amenities. These towers sometimes had siege engines mounted on them.
  • Open-gorged. Closed up to the level of the wall walk, they opened at the parapet (protective wall on outer side of wall walk) level. Most common on town walls.

Many castles used a combination of shapes for wall towers. One good example is Bodiam Castle, located in Sussex, England. This is a 14th century castle.