Thoughts on building a castle

Start collecting pictures, floor plans, articles, ideas, castle videos, sketches of castle construction details, and anything else that catches your interest. Research castle books, construction magazines, videos, medieval architecture references, and periodicals that focus on masonry construction details, techniques and structures, timber framing, blacksmithing, and castle layouts and construction. Build a personal library of castle books. Study everything available to you in libraries, bookstores, and other places of references. This will expose you to a large variety of castle styles, construction details, design elements and ideas.
If possible plan a vacation or special trip to visit existing castles for a close up examination of the castles of your choice. Take lots of detailed photographs of critical and important parts of the castle. And and if possible take measurements.
When you have decided upon which particular castle and time period you want your castle to reflect, pay particular attention to the construction of the medieval castle that you favor. When you find something of interest include it in your "my design scrapebook". This collection of ideas, sketches, pictures, photographs, notes, and anything else of importance will be your primary reference source for ideas and construction details when designing your castle.
After your preparatory thinking, reading, and collecting information is almost finished, begin the next step. Start this step by laying out a "a schematic floor plan" for your castle. The primary purpose of this step is to establish the relationship of each element to one another in the planning of the grand design of your castle, and to establish a foundation upon which to build your design.

The planning of the castle layout and the design and construction details are critical to the success of the castle building process. Two primary critera are paramount. First the castle buildings, structures, and the whole castle must meet the needs of the owner and his family. This is true for any house and the basic domestic needs must be. Second, the appearance and construction should be that of a typical medieval castle. However, this does not in any way limit the interior construction and uses for our castle. For example, central heating, electrical power, indoor plumbing, advanced modern surveilance and security systems, and an indoor swimming pool can easily be planned and built into a castle. Even a conservancy and greenhouses can be incorporated into the design. We are limited only by our imagination and our finances.
When selecting a site, keep in mind the defensive requirements of your castle and the fact that your castle should must have command of the area. So that when built, your castle will stand firm and boldly on guard, ready for any event.
The castle must look like a medieval castle and follow the general characteristics mentioned before. In addition the site selected to build upon should not be overcast by a distractive background or surrounding buildings. The site size should be at least ten acres in size, more perferabily. Ideally the background would be that of a forested mountain side. And panoramic views of the river valley below would help to provide a great setting.
Additional, the castle is generally planned around the castle keep or die Bergfried. The Keep is designed to be the strongest structure of a castle. The walls were the thickest and the enterance was usually above the first floor. All the essentials for prolonged living in the Keep was provided for. And in most castles, it is the tallest tower and the most prominent structure of the castle. The Keep is the last refuge of the castle defenders and sometimes it served as the castle owner's home instead of the Palas or Manor House. The Keep also provided the best lookout for intruders because of it's height and strategic placement.

Throughout history finding funding for building a castle has been a necessary ingredient in the planning process for building a castle. Even Kings had to borrow money sometimes to finance the building of large castles.
The easiest way to finance the building of your castle may be to fund it yourself. This may be done by selling other property, using savings, or selling stock. But if this will not provide enough money, then other ways of financing are available.
Financing the construction of a castle for a primary dwelling or home may be as simple as going to your local bank or mortgage company and appling for a loan. Be sure and bring a copy of your approved building plans, list of required materials, and an estimation of the cost for labor and materials. Also an explanation of what you want to do and how you will build your castle. This includes who will do the work and how long will it take to build the castle
However, for larger castle projects, the task becomes somewhat more difficult. But determined castle builders usually find a way to get the money.
If you are planning a very large castle, it may be to your advantage to start a non-profit organization to build and to own the castle. One big advantage to this idea is that all income is generally income tax free. This means all of the funds raised can be applied to building your castle. Then grants, trust funds, donations, gifts, and monies raised by indiviual or group efforts and fundraising drives are tax free and will go into your general building fund.
One big disadvantage of using this non-profit organization idea with which to build your castle, is that you do not own the castle. The non-profit organization does. When you decide to sell your castle, all profits from the sale must remain with the non-profit organization.
Labor will be a big part of the cost of building and maintaining your castle. Some labor can be free and other labor can be traded for use of the castle instead of money. For instance so many hours of labor yields so many hours of the use of castle amenities.
A third method of financing your castle is to form a for-profit corporation to build, maintain, and to own the castle. This method will allow you to sell shares of ownership in the form of common or preferred stock with which to raise the necessary money. However, here again you don't own the castle, only with others. However, you will have your castle and you can sell your shares and use that money to build another castle.
A forth method of raising the required money is by carefully buying real estate, improving the property, and then selling, or renting the property. By doing this enough times you may accumulate the necessary money to buy the castle property, buy the required building material, even purchase a suitable rock and timber source, and hire the skilled workers to help you to build your castle.
Whatever method or combination of methods that is chosen for your method of financing, understand everthing about your choice. This will reduce your chance of surprises.

We have researched the web for private castle building projects and a list of their URL's can be found by clicking on the this link. These sites are useful because they may tell you how each builder has solved their particular problems and their web sites may also provide some insight into building a castle, for yourself.

The selection of a suitable strategic hilltop for our castle location is very important. The completed castle must have a clear unimpeded view in all directions. And the hillside approaches to the castle must be long, steep and very difficult to climb on foot or on horseback. Perferably not possible at all, except for a narrow approach well controllable from the castle. The chosen hill must be stable and structurally sound. Actual soil stability tests by qualified personal may be necessary to insure that the site is suitable.
And there should not be any places above the castle that an adversary could fire projectiles down upon the castle.
The castle footprint should conform to the top of the selected hill so that it appears to have grown there naturally. This accomplished two things. First it is easier to design the placement of the outer curtain wall and the main gate approach. And second minimal restructuring of the hill top is required. This is important because the great weight of the stone or brick buildings, walls and main tower requires a firm undisturbed foundation. And usually this approach means that the placement of the outer walls of the castle does not form a square or a rectangle, but instead takes the general shape and conture of the hill top. This sometimes also dictates that the castle floor be multi-level. That is in a stepped fashion because the floor of each courtyard and all other sections of the castle must be level. So a limited adjustment of the hilltop surface soil may be required.

As each home owner wants to make his home to be distinctive and unique, each castle maker wants a distinctive castle. In fact no two castles were ever built alike. Each was built for a specific location and reason. A castle designer can concentrate on just about anything in a castle to make it unique. The Grand Hall, Towers, Main Gate, Knights Hall, broad stairways, and hallways can be made in a grand manner and very distictive. Wall structure and hangings, well built heavy wooden gates, and hand carved doors, portcullus and gate house and well place watch towers are a few areas where a little special thought will yield great results.
Your castle could be designed and built to reflect a specific time period and place. The interior furnishing, tapastries and other decorations would then be selected to reflect that place and time period.
Another important area to consider would be in the defensive and offensive capabilities of your castle. This is an area where the natural lay of the land, specific location, plus well designed and constructed defensive abilities could set your medieval castle apart from just about all other castles. We will cover these defensive abilities in more detail in the sections on building your medieval period castle.
Remember, in designing your castle you are limited only by historical facts, your imagination and your funding.

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This page was first published March 14, 2001.
This page was last reviewed August 06, 2015.