|Warwick Through the Fog|
Should the portcullis fail to be lowered because the mechanism had jammed or through some trick or treachery, the attackers would still find themselves in a roofed passageway in which they could be fired upon from arrowslits on either side and assaulted from above through openings in the ceiling known as murder holes. The passage would be closed at the far end by a second door and portcullis.
All these defenses, except the drawbridge, can be clearly seen at Warwick Castle, which also has, as an additional defense, its splendid barbican. This is a fortified outwork, built on the other side of the moat, so that it had to be attacked and taken before any assault could be launched upon the Gatehouse proper. Visitors who pass through the barbican's outer gateway will readily see that if the attackers did penetrate that far, the still had to advance along a narrow passage towards the Gatehouse, from whose towers and the adjoining walls they would be subject to a murderous fire.
One of the commonest ways of trying to capture a castle was to completely surround it in hope of starving the garrison into surrender. But, since this was necessarily a long drawn-out business, efforts would be made to take the place by storm. As a first step, part of the moat had to be filled with earth or rubble, the soldiers working behind movable shields called mantlets. Next, a battering ram or a sharp pointed bore would be brought up to hammer away at the base of the walls, the soldiers again being protected by a roofed shelter known as a cat. Scaling ladders might be tried, as well as tall siege-towers from the top of which a bridge would be thrown across the battlements. Various siege-engines, such as the ballista and the mangonel, hurled heavy bolts and stones at the defenders but more to be feared was the mine, a tunnel dug beneath the walls and supported by wooden props, until, when all was ready, they were set on fire, so that the tunnel collapsed, bringing down a section of the wall to make a gap through which the attackers could pour into the courtyard.