The cliché reminds us that “a man’s home is his castle,” implying that home is much more than a dwelling place—it’s a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the world.
Perhaps at one time you dreamed of living in a castle, living the lush lives of lords and ladies of the royal court, just like the scenes in epic movies.
In actuality, your home is far from a castle, and when you know all the effort it took to heat one, you’ll be thankful that it’s not. (You’ll be even more thankful for a reliable heating system.)
Historically, castles were dramatically different from the scenes in the glittering and glamorous Hollywood movies. True castles were smelly, lacked privacy and were extremely cold. Not only that, but they had few innovations to battle the soggy, dank, and dark British winters.
While smaller manors could take advantage of innovations like heated floors, castles built in the 1000s and 1100s lacked many of these luxuries.
Why were castles so cold?
Remember: a castle was much more than a home; it was also a fortress built to withstand attacks, guard property and barons, harbor prisoners, and feed (as well as entertain) royalty.
Heating systems weren’t exactly at the top of the priority list.
In fact, some guard quarters weren’t even heated at all. This also means that running water wasn’t available, so hot water for bathing was out of question…which wasn’t a problem since bathing was infrequent (if it was done at all).
There are several reasons why these medieval landmarks were so frigid. Thick, stone walls and unglazed windows provided poor insulation, because they were designed for defense, not comfort.
How were castles heated?
If you were fortunate to live in a castle –as opposed to a peasant hovel, which was even colder and less hygienic—you probably heated your estate in one of these ways.
A central fire heated the room, where smoke would escape through a hole in the ceiling. Open fires do not distribute heat well, and it made the castle extremely smoky as well. This technique was inefficient at best.
It was only around the 12th century that actual fireplaces were common place. Fireplaces heated not only the room but the stones around the fireplace. Venting the smoke through a chimney alleviated a lot of the smoke problems.
The elaborate and colorful masterpieces were for much more than décor. They acted as a type of insulation, and kept heat from escaping
There’s a reason the king was dressed to the nines in fur-lined-capes and elaborate layers of clothes —castles made it necessary to dress warmly.
A princess living in a castle may sound like the perfect ingredient for a wonderful fairy tale, but realistically, castles were incredibly problematic to heat even under the best circumstances.
Aren’t you glad you don’t have to hang massive tapestries around your house just to keep warm? It makes you thankful for a reliable HVAC. Speaking of which, have you gone through an HVAC checklist to be sure you’re ready for winter? The temperatures may still be warm, but you don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of an infamous Triangle cold snap to find that your heating isn’t working.
Betcha didn’t know that!