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What's in a Name.
6. The Castle or Tower House


Castle Features.


This article covers the features often seen in our Tower Houses, and exactly the same terms occur in Castle construction as well.

1.Battlements.  Crenellations.
At the top of a castle. A thin wall going round the top, to shelter the defenders, with openings (crenellations) and the parapet or wall in between (merlons).

2.Alure or wall-walk.
The walkway around the top, protected by the battlements.  Usually timber or stone slabs.

3.Machicoulis.
A short length of the battlements which projected outwards, and gave shelter to allow the defenders to shoot or drop missiles on the attackers from above.

4.Bartizan.
A special form of machicolation which is often built half way up the castle at a corner.  It serves the same purpose as a Machicoulis, but is easily reached from a passageway within the building.

5.Garderobe.
Another projecting feature which served a more domestic purpose.  It was a chute which ejected waste matter from the lavatory.

6.Fireplaces.
These need no description but are an important internal feature of a castle, and provide many variations depending on the wealth of the builder of the castle.  Three of the rooms in Carrignacurra are heated by fireplaces.

7.Redan.
A further defensive feature which only appears on later, say 16th. and 17th.c. castles.  It is built on one of the corners defending the front door.  It is slender and hollow, to allow two or three defenders to stand in it and fire guns across the front door.  Carrignacurra has one on the SE corner.  Mashanaglass had two, one at each corner adjacent to the front door.

8.Bawn.
An area around the castle surrounded by a wall.  Virtually all castles were provided with a Bawn of some sort, but few remain today.  The Bawn would usually be battlemented, and would have a gateway protected by a machicolation.  There were often a number of towers along the wall to give it support.



9.Loft.
Often seen on later castles.  An additional roofed room added to  the top of the castle, not defensible, but to provide additional living quarters to the owner and his family.   

10.Loops.
Loops are narrow windows built to fire weapons out of, not for light.  The earlier loops are cross shaped for bows and cross bows.  Later loops are smaller and made for muskets and hand guns.

11.Vault.
The most important constructional feature of a Castle.  The Vault is an arch which forms the ceiling to one floor,  and which in effect holds the outer walls together.  The fact that so many Tower Houses built in the 15th. to 17th.c. are still standing to this day is largely due to the use of vaulting,  plus of course the massive stone structure and the remarkable mortar which was used.  In some Towers, there were two vaults one above the other.

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All these features were originally included in the construction of Carrignacurra Castle.  They can still be seen, except for the Bawn of which there is now no trace.