How castles were built and financed in medieval times and how it’s done today

How castles were built and financed in medieval times and how it’s done today

One question we get a lot from our readers and during our tours is, “how were these great castles built and financed?” Not only are people curious about how it was done in medieval times. Some have also discovered that it can be done today, and follow up with that, wanting to know more. 

We hope you’ll be as intrigued as they are when they get to know the answers.

Castles in medieval times

Building

During medieval times, kings would order castles to be built, usually for the protection of their kingdom from possible revolts and outside dangers. They would commission a great swath of different craftsmen, from carpenters and blacksmiths to quarrymen and stonemasons.

Financing

Needless to say, the costs of the great castles and fortresses were immense. In modern currencies, they could be anywhere between $5,000,000 and $125,000,000, based on materials, size, location, logistics, and other such factors. 

Castles today

Building

These days, castles are not being constructed as much as they were in the past. There is no longer any need for great fortresses to fend off enemies (despite how tempted one might be to ward off their neighbor). It is possible, though, to buy castles – for a hefty sum, of course. So if you’ve got the means, how cool wouldn’t it be to live like a lord or a lady? 

More often than building castles, people buy existing ones so that they may refurbish them and make them habitable. They may be meant for homes, but hotel businesses are also quite eager to get their hands on them, as they are quite exclusive and appealing. Many museums also choose to showcase their exhibitions in castles. 

Financing

When it comes to financing a castle in modern times, we reached out to several mortgage experts. We got many interesting answers, and an especially informative account from Ingvild Aagre, editor in one of Norway’s more innovative services when it comes to comparing loans.

Ingvild has specialized knowledge of loans and personal finances, and has also visited the Caernarfon castle several times, which makes her view on the matter particularly interesting. Here is what she wrote in her email: 

“The idea of living like a wealthy aristocrat in a great castle is no longer as impossible as it once was. For some people, the dream is quite achievable, although it does take quite the capital. To buy a castle today, one would need to have a very strong income, and might have to consider several financing options. 

For the castle itself, a mortgage would be a natural choice. In the ongoing process, though, a hefty amount of refurbishing is usually needed, which might make a personal loan more fitting. 

Financing a castle is not that different from financing a home, and the basics are the same. So for those of your readers who would actually be interested in getting their own castle, it may prove to be extra useful, not just as a reference, but as a guide…” [The email continues a bit further, but we got the most important points across]

Thanks to Ingvild for that thorough and explanatory answer! If you want to learn more from her about financing, perhaps not a castle, but a house and its inventory, you should check out her articles within the category forbrukslån fra Lån for deg. It contains some of the most up-to-date principles of personal loans, which are usually needed when furnishing a home. Their website is only in Norwegian at the moment, however we see that about 30% of our website visitors are from Norway, so hopefully it’s a page with some value to you. 

Now you know a little bit more about how castles were built and financed in medieval times, as well as how it’s done today. 

PS. We are soon opening up the tours again! Contact your local ticket office or book via our website (subject to change depending on lockdowns, etc).

The Castle

The Castle

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
click to enlarge

Located about five miles north of Wick the Castle is dramatically and grandly situated on a long narrow peninsula projecting into Sinclair Bay and the North Sea with perpendicular sides of between fifty and sixty feet. It is separated from the mainland primarily by an arm of the sea known as a goe. This is a Norse word meaning a cave, a rocky inlet or creek or a deep ravine that admits the sea. The remaining separation is by a dry moat over which there was a drawbridge to the Castle which was protected on the mainland side by a barbican. There are two distinct groups of buildings forming the Castle as it is divided into an inner and outer bailey by another dry moat.

Access to the outer bailey is through a vaulted late 14th Century passageway which leads into a courtyard, surrounded by buildings. There was a drawbridge over the internal dry moat to the surviving Tower House which rises to three storeys, with one wing built to the east on the sea side. One of the two rooms forming the basement of the Tower House probably contained a well – now in-filled. The inner bailey has a range of out buildings running to the end of the peninsula where a stone staircase cut through the middle of it descends to a sally point.

This impressive stronghold was built as one Castle in the late 14th century and adapted regularly over time until abandoned and partially demolished in the mid 17th Century. It is built of Caithness slate with red sandstone facings and was once lime-washed. Archaeological excavations have revealed that was a high status Castle of vital importance and had incorporated into it the latest architectural ideas.

It has the highest classification for preservation in the UK being a Scheduled Monument and was listed in 2002 by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World in their Watch List published every two years.