In a previous post, we went over the decisions that went into the design of the keep’s lower floor. The upper floor is a little simpler in terms of its interpretation, but poses equal challenges for the model builder.
The upper floor of Byblos Castle was a residential space for the family that inhabited the keep. This is a common division of space in castles of this period; indeed, the upper floor is sometimes known as the “noble floor” because of its association with high-status living quarters.
In order to get to the upper level, residents and visitors would use a staircase located within the thickness of the keep’s wall. The entrance to this staircase is located next to the main entrance to the keep, meaning that visitors don’t have to pass through the lower level, with its storage areas and low-status sleeping quarters, in order to visit the lords of the castle or conduct business.
Stairs within the thickness of the wall are also very defensible. Even if attackers managed to get through the main entrance, it could still be possible to defend the upper floor. Indeed, William of Tyre records an instance in which attackers were able to destroy the door to the lower level and enter the keep. However, the defenders were able to prevent them from gaining access to the upper floor. The defenders held out until an approaching relief force made the attackers withdraw.
Although a staircase within the wall is highly defensible, it poses some challenges from a model-making perspective. Most model castles simply omit the stairs or relocate them to the interior of the building in order to simplify the task. This makes sense because in most models, the walls aren’t nearly thick enough — whether MDF of plastic, realistically thick walls would be heavy and expensive. If you’ve ever visited a medieval castle, you’ll understand why: castle walls could be metres thick.
To solve this problem, Supreme Littleness Designs created a castle that includes a double wall. Sandwiched between the inner and outer walls is the staircase. Gamers can position models on the staircase by using removable panels in the inner and outer walls.
The upper floor was far more than just a residential area, of course. Medieval buildings often included living spaces that could be used for several different purposes. In the case of a noble family, this could include activities ranging from dining to judging court cases; public activities like these served as forms of display that helped to reinforce the family’s social role.
The interior space of the upper floor might have been divided into a number of smaller areas, but it’s harder to determine what these might have been. There are small holes in the walls of the upper floor of Byblos Castle, but we don’t know exactly what these were used for. They could have been attachment points for marble cladding on the walls, which would have been yet another visible sign of the family’s wealth. Ultimately, what this means is that gamers can decorate the upper floor of the castle however they choose — with hangings, wall paintings, or panelling — and still be in line with the evidence.
Most wargaming buildings with multiple stories feature simple removable roofs that allow gamers access to the upper floor. The problem with this when designing a keep is that the roof of a keep is in use during combat. Players are going to want to have archer models lining the battlements, making it tricky to remove the roof. In the Byblos Keep model, Michael solved this problem by making only the central part of the roof removable. Because the walls are realistically thick, players can leave troops on the battlements while still having access to the whole upper floor.
The result is a model that represents as many of the features of the castle as possible while also being accessible for wargaming.