Castle Learning Center Castle Fireplaces
Castles of Britain


© 2001-2015 by Marvin Hull
fireplace Heating of a castle was somewhat crude in the beginning. Fires were started by striking pieces of flint over tinder. Tinder consisted of small dry twigs or leaves. Most of the time just an open fire or open hearth placed in the middle of the floor supplied the only heat. Many areas of the castle were not heated at all. Later the open hearths were placed against a wall. An arch and back were added, and the true fireplace appeared.

Fireplace backs most often were made of stone and had a herring-bone pattern to reduce the effects of heat. The chimney rose for a couple of floors, then to the outside. Later fireplace development included highly decorative arches. The decorations included fine paintings, and, later, motifs of heraldry. Most traces of the motiffs have vanished, though.

Castle kitchens also had large fireplaces for baking, many of which can be seen in castle ruins. These fireplaces are most often called ovens. Many ovens now are in a better state of preservation than the other fireplaces scattered throughout the ruins.

Next, fireplaces began to protrude from the walls, but still did not have hoods. Hoods were eventually put over the fireplace. At first they were supported by pillars. Some fireplaces developed into massive structures, protruding more and more prominently and proudly from the wall. Still, with all of these developments, some areas of the castle remained unheated. There were portable heaters called braziers that a person could carry around. Also, heavy tapestries were hung on the walls to help absorb the heat from the fireplaces and keep out the cold air.

What a harsh life it must have been then! No heated bathrooms (latrines) or wash rooms. Sometimes the guard quarters and other rooms were not heated at all. We are so lucky to have central heat in this modern age.