Parts of a Medieval Castle: The Ward or Bailey

A castle’s Ward or Bailey is a courtyard enclosed by a curtain wall. 

Wards can range from simple enclosures to concentric defences, depending on the local topography and the level of fortification needed. Regional traditions also resulted in distinct bailey designs. 

Yards could be arranged in sequence along a hill (for example in spur castles, creating a lower and a higher bailey) or nested one inside the other. 

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History of the Yard or Bailey

Germanic castles of the Holy Roman Empire had lower and upper valleys – called Vorbug and Kernburg respectively. Many German0speaking countries had castles with double curtain walls and narrowed enclosures between them. These zwinger were used as a killing ground. 

In Medieval Britain, the most important buildings such as the keep were located inside the inner bailey of the castle – sometimes called the central bailey. There are, however, exceptions. Flint Castle has its keep on the outside. More frequently than not, however, outer baileys or yards held less important structures such as stables. 

Some outer yards were mostly defensive in function and had no buildings. Like the mentioned Germanic examples, they mostly were narrow passages between concentric enceintes. 

The bailey at Caerphilly Castle.
The bailey at Caerphilly Castle. CC image courtesy of Steven Tyrer and Flickr Commons.
The inner bailey at Ludlow Castle. CC image courtesy of Eddie Crutchley and Flickr Commons.

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