What did Henry VIII, Count Dracula and George Harrison all have in common? They all lived in castles! Castles are a commonplace sight around the UK but here are a few things that you probably didn’t know about these rather heavily fortified houses.
1There are thought to be around 1,500 castles in England alone. We’re a little surprised that nobody has ever come up with a more exact count. Particularly as we’ve only ever heard of one that moves around and that was in a film. That means that there is one castle for every 45.257 people. If English castles were allocated on a time-share basis to 123 people at a time, everybody in the country would be able to occupy a castle for one day per year.
2Wales, on the hand, has 400 castles but a much smaller population. If a similar time-share scheme were to be adopted in Wales, you would only have to share your castle day with 21 other people. Fortunately, we don’t have any numbers for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
3Ask any British child to tell you a joke about castles and they’ll almost certainly come up with this old classic:
Why aren’t castles made of ice-cream? Because the Wall’s would melt!
If you don’t come from Britain you might find this a bit confusing as Wall’s is a popular British ice-cream brand. But for those in the know, this is a powerful testimony to the timeless quality of British schoolyard humour.
4There are four main types of castle. The Concentric Model, the Square Keep and the Shell Keep, however, were all variations on the original design created by Wilberforce Winton Motte and Jeremiah Bailey sometime around 960 AD. A recent YouGov survey indicated that 38% of Brits would still opt for the classic Motte and Bailey approach if they were building a castle today. Not bad for a design that’s well over a thousand years old!
5Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix once sang that “Castles made of sand fall into the sea, eventually.” Being an American, Hendrix was probably unaware that a sand-castle is a model of a castle created by a bored child on a beach, whereas a real castle is almost invariably made of stone. The one exception to this is the Elephant and Castle which is largely made out of unsightly concrete. The Elephant and Castle isn’t actually a castle, though, and merely stands as a monument to English people’s continuing struggles with foreign languages.
6Don’t assume that everything called a castle is actually a castle. Whilst Warwick Castle and Windsor Castle are, indeed, large stone fortifications, Roy Castle was the man who presented Record Breakers, Barbara Castle was a politician and Andrew Castle was famous for being slightly less bad than his British contemporaries at tennis.
7Castling is one of the more complicated moves in chess. It is somewhat baffling to beginners because it can be done, in a different way, on either side of the board. To limit the confusion, the move is only permitted once per game. And sometimes, not at all, depending on which pieces have already been moved.
8Castle is a television show that doesn’t feature a single castle! It’s about a fictitious crime writer called Rick Castle who investigates some real-life crimes which are actually fictitious, too. That’s all very meta, really, and quite possibly over our heads. We haven’t seen it so we can’t comment but it does seem to get some pretty favourable reviews, so we’ll put it on our list (the list of things to watch, not the list of interesting things that you didn’t know about castles, obviously).
9Many British castles are surrounded by moats. Moats would, of course, have been far more effective had they been filled with crocodiles. Sadly, though, by the time that the non-indigenous crocodile finally arrived in Britain, the natives had already grown bored of attacking each other’s castles. It’s a very similar story with piranha fish which tend to prefer a South American climate.