A lowered gate could trap attackers inside the gatehouse.

The gatehouse, the castle's entrance, was the early castle's most vulnerable point. Later, military engineers bolstered it with impressive defenses. A drawbridge could be pulled back, lifted, or pivoted like a see saw, while portcullises—iron-covered wooden grills that moved up and down in front of the gatehouse door—provided additional protection. Castle dwellers could also slide wooden beams behind the doors to reinforce them.

If attackers broke down the outer door and entered the gate's passageway, they ran the risk of being trapped. Sometimes defenders would drop a portcullis behind them. Roofs above gate passages often had so-called "murder holes" through which castle soldiers could drop burning oil, hot sand (able to enter armor), or scalding water onto enemy soldiers. Loopholes in the walls of the gate passage also gave defending archers—only feet away from trapped attackers—a deadly advantage.

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