Castle Learning Center Roofs
Castles of Britain


castle roof © 1999-2016 by Marvin Hull
Castle roofs were timber framed and covered with various materials. Wood was cheap and the most available material. Other material became available depending on the resources and wealth of the builder, and included thatch, oak shingles, slates, flag stone, and clay tiles.

Timber and oak shingles burned easily, so the lord needed something more durable to replace them. Some castle builders chose lead for roofing. Although expensive, lead didn't burn, and was water and wind proof. Sometimes an undercoating was laid beneath the lead to help dissipate the heat. The most common undercoating was sand. Today, some medieval castles retain their lead roofing, but much of it was stripped away when people needed to use the lead for other purposes, especially during a battle.

The shape of the roof has been, and still is, hotly debated. Many scholars believe that the roofs were flat. Circular roofs sometimes evolved into a cone or dome shape, while the square and rectangular ones formed single or double gables. Roof beams were set into holes or grooves in the masonry. The joist holes are still visible in many castles. The roofs were drained by gutters, which emptied into a drainage system inside the castle grounds or outside into the ditch or moat.