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The Castle as an early warning system Every building in the borders by law had to have some sort of early warning system in place to warn of raiders or the imminent threat of invasion. This normally consisted of at least two items. Firstly a large bell was provided to be rung in times of danger, (Similar to the system reintroduced in WW 2) Secondly a large brazier had to be supplied which could be ignited within a moment’s notice to signal well over 5 miles. Consequently the position of night warden was an extremely trusted position. These beacons, placed on the highest point of the castle, towering some 12’ to 16’ feet above the battlements were guarded 24 hours a day. Interestingly Comlongon still retains its original fire bell, a copy of the alarm bell of the 16th Century, visible on the hotel just to the left of the entrance to the Keep. Misconceptions. We have many misconceptions about medieval life, often sourced by naïve Victorian writers and then reinforced by Hollywood films. We often view the typical portrayal of castles of the time as true. We view these buildings as cold barren structures, without glazing, with cooking being done in the Great Hall. The size of the fireplace would lend weight to this opinion. It must be remembered that many buildings open to the public today have been abandoned for generations if not centuries. Their roofs have been removed to save taxation and their original function of defence has been overtaken by political events. It may sound extreme, but take your own house, tear off the roof, and then show folk around some 200-300 years later and there will be some misconceptions around its present condition. However we must challenge contemporary thinking and ask ourselves; how did these people live? We often think that castles were cold unforgiving buildings, with no glazing. These structures were incredibly well designed, often employing artisans who were very well paid. And have survived despite warfare, taxation and time. Masons marks Throughout the castle are found numerous Masons Marks. These are small inscriptions or marks chiseled on certain stones around the building. These date from the time of construction and are believed to relate to the original masons who were commissioned to build the Castle. 19


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