Last edited 13 Jan 2021


The garderobe at Peveril Castle, Derbyshire, England.


[edit] Introduction

Garderobe is a historic term for a small room in a medieval castle. These rooms had several purposes, amongst which were as wardrobes (or cupboards that might have been lockable, most often used for keeping clothing and expensive possessions), bedrooms, storage rooms (for supplies or valuable items) or toilets (which became the most common usage of the word in English).

[edit] The medieval toilet

During the middle ages, the garderobe toilet would often be situated in a remote portion of the castle (although clothing would sometimes be stored near the toilets, since it was believed that the odors could kill bugs that may have otherwise infested the fabric).

The garderobe would have been provided with a closed door, but an open window (without glass) to control odours. A stone or wooden bench with a hole often functioned as the actual toilet.

[edit] Transporting the waste

Garderobes were sometimes built to project out from the wall. This allowed waste to fall into the castle moat or cesspit below. Others were designed to empty into a courtyard or over the edge of a cliff. The waste would either fall directly, or it would be transported by shutes. Shutes that came close to reaching the ground had to be fitted with bars to prevent intruders from using them to invade the castle.

--Heidi Schwartz

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