Where did the families of constables live in the middle ages?

Where did the families of constables live in the middle ages?


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I know this might be a question that is considered "too broad" since the Middle Ages spans almost a thousand years across all of Europe. But I'm looking for information in regards to the whole of this period (across all of Europe) and if standard practice shifted over the period and between different countries that is of extra interest. I'm mostly interested in an broad overview perspective to get an idea of how society changed during this extensive period of time. So feel free to provide me with information and examples from any time within this span and any place in Europe you have knowledge of.

My understanding of the constable in the middle ages is that he was in charge of the castle when the lord living there wasn't at home. I've also read somewhere that the constable's living quarter was in the gatehouse. But where did his wife and family live? Did they all live in this room in the gatehouse? Was it big enough for a family of 3-4? Or did they have a house somewhere; in the village, or the town near by or on the countryside? Or was the life of the constable essentially a life in celibacy and servitude to the lord of the manor and they weren't allowed to get married?

Are there any historical records of people in these positions with their names? It would be great to have some examples that I can look up and read more about their personal lives, if such information is available?


Here is:

  1. A plan of Harlech Castle, built by Edward I between 1283 and 1295;

  2. A modern view from the SSW (left-upper-left in plan above); and

  3. A close-up of the Guard House itself.

As you can plainly see, the Guard House is more spacious than the other four towers combined, all five being three stories tall as well. The back half living quarters of one floor of the Guard House would have had inside measurements of about 25' x 50', a spacious 750 sq. feet, more than enough for a family considering no kitchen, lavatory, or play area is necessary - those all being supplied.

Harlech was established with a garrison of 36 men: a constable, 30 men, including 10 crossbowmen, a chaplain, a smith, carpenter and stonemason…

The families of those other than the Constable and, in this case, the King would likely have lived outside the castle except during a siege. The castle was designed as a place of business, not a home except in in extremis.

The first Constable of Harlech Castle was John de Bonvillars, who had previously overseen the construction of Conwy Castle, from 1285 until his death by drowning in 1287. His widow Agnes de Bevillard remained Constable until succeeded in 1290 by James of Saint George - clearly Agnes would not have been entitled, or capable, of fulfilling the role of Constable unless fully involved in running the castle with her husband.

James of Saint George, the second Constable of Harlech, was a master mason and architect from Savoy who had designed Edward I's seven North Wales castles, including Conwy, Harlech, and Caernarfon, as well as Beaumaris on Anglesey.

In the case of Conwy Castle, another of Edward's North Wales castles, aroyal charter of 1284 decreed that the Constable was to also be Mayor of the nearby (new) town of Conwy - a practice that continues to this day as an ex officio duty of the current Mayor.

That Conwy Castle regularly fell into neglect suggests that perhaps combining the duties of Constable and Mayor was a poor idea, with the Constable perhaps living less frequently in the Guard House and more frequently in more lavish accomodations in town


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