Free Northman Reborn

Castle garrison sizes

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So this became a topic of discussion in another, unrelated thread, when talking about Winterfell's garrison compared to the size of the castle complex (which is huge, covering at least 3 times the area of Edinburgh castle by comparison).

Castles in Westeros are generally quite large, like just about everything else in the series. So, what do we know of the regular garrison sizes of noteworthy castles across Westeros? It seems (I can't quite recall where it was stated) that Winterfell had a garrison in the region of 100 men at the start of the series. By contrast, Roose Bolton had a personal garrison of 600 men, according to Ramsay. And Lord Reyne I believe, because Tywin surprised him, had only his household knights numbering 500 on hand to defend his castle during the Reyne-Tarbeck rebellion.

If someone is a household knight of a lord, does that mean he resides in the lord's castle and is part of his normal group of armed retainers who can serve as the permanent castle garrison? Does that mean Lord Reyne had a garrison of 500?

What would be the norm, across Westeros?

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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It appears that Winterfell has a guard of two hundred, since Ned brings his fifty best men (a quarter of the guard) to King's Landing.

Quote

Each man wore a new cloak, heavy grey wool with a white satin border. A hand of beaten silver clutched the woolen folds of each cloak and marked their wearers as men of the Hand's household guard. There were only fifty of them, so most of the benches were empty. (AGOT Arya II)

Jory and Ser Rodrik and Vayon Poole had gone too, and Hullen and Harwin and Fat Tom and a quarter of the guard.(AGOT Bran IV)

"Your lord father took the cream of his guard to King's Landing, and your brother took the rest, along with all the likely lads for leagues around. Many will not come back to us, and we must needs find the men to take their places." (AGOT Bran VII)

 

 

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Here are some more numbers, but they are from wartime.

The Twins:

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"Lord Walder will grant you your crossing. His swords are yours as well, less four hundred he means to keep back to hold the Twins. I suggest that you leave four hundred of your own, a mixed force of archers and swordsmen. He can scarcely object to an offer to augment his garrison … but make certain you give the command to a man you can trust. Lord Walder may need help keeping faith." (AGOT Catelyn IX)

Harrenhal

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She could go where she would. The garrison [of Amory Lorch] numbered no more than a hundred men, so small a troop that they were lost in Harrenhal. (ACOK Arya IX)

Dreadfort

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"And now, my sweet prince, there was a woman promised me, if I brought two hundred men. Well, I brought three times as many, and no green boys nor fieldhands neither, but my father's own garrison." (ACOK Theon VI)

Eyrie

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"If so, I cannot stop him. I keep a garrison of twenty men. Lord Royce and his friends can raise twenty thousand." (AFFC Sansa I)

Gates of the Moon

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Young Lord Hunter and his levies had joined the others two days past. Nestor Royce had closed the Gates against them, but he had fewer than three hundred men in his garrison. (AFFC Alayne I)

Riverrun 

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"You have a garrison of two hundred." Too large a garrison, in truth, but Lord Emmon had an anxious disposition. (AFFC Jaime VII)

Storm's End

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"A few good men remain, it's true. Ser Gilbert Farring holds Storm's End for me still, with two hundred loyal men. Lord Morrigen, the Bastard of Nightsong, young Chyttering, my cousin Andrew . . . but I trust none of them as I trust you, my lord of Rainwood." (ASOS Davos IV)

Power?" The king snorted. "I have thirteen hundred men on Dragonstone, another three hundred at Storm's End." (ASOS Davos V)

 

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Do not, repeat, do not expect accuracy or consistency or plausibility on this point from George R. R. Martin. This is a man who didn't know how high 700' was. Most of the world-building is wildly implausible; my advice is to just go with it.

ETA: just had to throw this in there: for instance, King's Landing was built from nothing 300 ys prior, which means for 8,000 years there was no settlement and no port at the mouth of a major river; meanwhile Duskendale is bigger than Maidenpool, which is bigger than Saltpans, which sits at the mouth of three rivers and yet "was never an important port".

Edited by Illyrio Mo'Parties

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Dragonstone

Quote

Rhaenyra herself presided, with her uncle and husband Prince Daemon. Her three sons were present with them, though none had reached the age of manhood (Jace was fifteen, Luke fourteen, Joffrey twelve). Two Kingsguard stood with them: Ser Erryk Cargyll, twin to Ser Arryk, and the westerman, Ser Lorent Marbrand. Thirty knights, a hundred crossbowmen, and three hundred men-at-arms made up the rest of Dragonstone’s garrison. That had always been deemed sufficient for a fortress of such strength. (TPATQ)

Tumbleton

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The castle overlooking the town was stout but small, garrisoned by no more than forty men, but thousands more had come upriver from Bitterbridge, Longtable, and farther south. (TPATQ)

 

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I would like to point out that in the case of Winterfell they always talk about the guard not the garrison. There could be a difference between both terms. Like:

guard (peace) vs. garrison (war)

guard (personal) vs. garrison (property)

etc.

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2 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So this became a topic of discussion in another, unrelated thread, when talking about Winterfell's garrison compared to the size of the castle complex (which is huge, covering at least 3 times the area of Edinburgh castle by comparison).

Castles in Westeros are generally quite large, like just about everything else in the series. So, what do we know of the regular garrison sizes of noteworthy castles across Westeros? It seems (I can't quite recall where it was stated) that Winterfell had a garrison in the region of 100 men at the start of the series. By contrast, Roose Bolton had a personal garrison of 600 men, according to Ramsay. And Lord Reyne I believe, because Tywin surprised him, had only his household knights numbering 500 on hand to defend his castle during the Reyne-Tarbeck rebellion.

If someone is a household knight of a lord, does that mean he resides in the lord's castle and is part of his normal group of armed retainers who can serve as the permanent castle garrison? Does that mean Lord Reyne had a garrison of 500?

What would be the norm, across Westeros?

There is no reason to keep big garrisons when there is peace and no threat and that is why the House Stark Guards only were 200 strong. 

The reason for Roose keeping such a large garrison back at the Dreadfort was because he is an unloyal, sneaky and cunning man and he had probably made plans with Ramsay.

500 knights were all the knights that lord Reyne had and he used them to defend his lands but they arent the normal "garrison". There are some knights who live inside the castle/town/city of their lords but most would have their own lands and keeps but they would be swift to respond to their lords call since they are already trained at arms and mounted so lord Reyne didn't have a garrison of 500 knights instead they were all the forces he could muster quickly to defend his lands and they arent part of a garrison.

The garrison norm across Westeros would be to keep a couple of hundred soldiers garrisoning the castle but ofcourse it depends on the strength of the House and castle/town/city and what the threat to them is.

 

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A garrison would be the term referring to all the armed men in a castle (e.g. the quote about the garrison of Dragonstone during the Dance). The household guard of a lord (Starks, Lannisters, etc.) would only refer to the footmen running around in the clothes of their house they are sworn to (they are comparable to a City Watch in that regard). Household knights are knights permanently in the service of a lord. They seem to be paid and fed by their lord, unlike landed knights who actually own land of their own and only owe their liege lord military service in wartime.

In peace times only very wealthy lords would bother keeping a large garrison. And we only see the Lannisters and Tyrells (and possibly the Hightowers as well) along with the wealthy houses of the West like the Reynes have a very large garrison consisting of household knights.

The Dreadfort garrison most likely does not represent the usual size in peace times but rather was enlarged by Roose before he left his castle to join Robb's host to enable Ramsay to strengthen the Bolton position in the North while most of their neighbors were away.

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1 hour ago, Nittanian said:

Dragonstone

Tumbleton

 

Thanks Nittanian for that wealth of information. Much appreciated. I'm going to take a bit of time and list all the castles you mentioned in order of garrison size then. What I take from your figures, is that we need to distinguish between peace time and war time garrisons. Generally, in peacetime, a garrison of 200 would seem quite large for a castle.

And even in war time, 300 appears to be ample. The Freys - notoriously wealthy and populous, capable of raising 4000-5000 men in total, had a war time garrison of 400. Which is quite high compared to other examples.  In this context, the Dreadfort's 600 strong war time garrison is extremely high, especially when compared to that of the already distrustful and cautious Walder Frey.

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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Even Winterfell has it's abandoned parts, like the tower Bran falls off. So it's likely that, unless you are very rich, you don't always use all parts of the castle during peace time, so even the larger castles would probably have a few dozen guards, maybe even a hundred or more in case of lord paramounts, but not a lot more. 

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The size of a castle's garrison always bothered. 100 soldiers already seens to much to hold a castle, then we have castles with 4 or 5 times more.

I hope that they aren't all expected to actualy hold the castle.

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38 minutes ago, The Hoare said:

The size of a castle's garrison always bothered. 100 soldiers already seens to much to hold a castle, then we have castles with 4 or 5 times more.

I hope that they aren't all expected to actualy hold the castle.

Some of the castles are very huge. You need a lot of men to hold a castle the size of Winterfell and a hell of a lot more to hold insanely huge castles like Harrenhal or Casterly Rock.

One has to imagine that for some strange reason the 'castle culture' of Westeros effectively makes castles play the roles a town would actually play. A lot people live in the average (bigger) castle in Westeros. 

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Do we know the length of the Winterfell (or any other castle) walls?  For Alfred's burhs they wanted 4 men for every pole (5.5 yards, or 5 meters).  Now the burhs are not equivalent to Westerosi castles, but it could give us some insight.

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17 minutes ago, mmenolas said:

Do we know the length of the Winterfell (or any other castle) walls?  For Alfred's burhs they wanted 4 men for every pole (5.5 yards, or 5 meters).  Now the burhs are not equivalent to Westerosi castles, but it could give us some insight.

There is a fanmade diagram on the Winterfell Wiki page. I don't know if it is accurate, but it shows Winterfell being roughly 300m x 250m in size. We do know the Godswood is supposed to cover 3 acres, and on that diagram it does appear to roughly correspond to that size. So I guess it is a ballpark representation of the complex.

http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Winterfell

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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6 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

There is a fanmade diagram on the Winterfell Wiki page. I don't know if it is accurate, but it shows Winterfell being roughly 300m x 250m in size. We do know the Godswood is supposed to cover 3 acres, and on that diagram it does appear to roughly correspond to that size. So I guess it is a ballpark representation of the complex.

http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Winterfell

Using 300mx250m, we'd end up with 1100m of wall, meaning it'd require 880 soldiers to man it to the standard of one of Alfred's burhs.   However, Winterfell has much higher walls and I'm guessing that would make it easier to defend with fewer men.  Maybe someone with more knowledge of medieval warfare could cite examples of the number of men required to guard something like the White Tower, as it's walls are more comparable to Winterfell.

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Near me, a medieval castle with 600 m long outer wall circuit of just 7 m height had a normal peacetime garrison of 50.

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