Pevensey Castle, East Sussex…

Pevensey Castle in the village of Pevensey in East Sussex began life as a Roman shore fort. The shore fort was constructed in the late 3rd Century to help protect Roman Britain from Anglo-Saxon raids. The fort formed part of a series of forts the Romans built in Britain around this time. The roman name for the fort was Anderitum.

The fort was abandoned in about 410 when the Romans left Britain. From then on until the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, the fort seems to have fallen into decline, with it being used by the local populas as a settlement. The walls of the Roman fort would go on to be used as the walls of the outer bailey of the later castle and can still be seen at the castle to this day.

In September 1066, it was at Pevensey that William, Duke of Normandy, later William I, King of England, landed with his forces to conquer England. It was also at Pevensey that William constructed his first castle in England. The first castle was constructed out of wood, and was built within the much earlier walls of the Roman shore fort. It was from Pevensey that William left to confront King Harold II, who reigned January to October 1066, at the Battle of Hastings.

After William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings, he granted Pevensey to his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain. Robert had fought with William at the Battle of Hastings and was granted many manors in England due to his loyal service. It is thought that it was Robert who started the refortitification of Pevensey. Robert built several other castles in England including Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire and Tremanton in Cornwall.

At this time, the Roman walls that would form the walls of the outer castle bailey were repaired. The earlier fortification that William had constructed was made permanent, with it becoming the inner bailey of the new castle.

In 1087, William I died leaving the throne to his son William II (also known as William Rufus – 1087-1100). During the rebellion of 1088, Pevensey Castle was attacked by William’s forces as it was held by Robert of Mortain who supported William’s brother’s, Robert Curthose who had been left the duchy of Normandy by his father, claim to the English throne.

After a six week seige, the castle garrison surrendered as they were running short of provisions. Robert, Count of Mortain was allowed to keep the castle by the king, though he had to pledge an oath to William.

After Robert’s death in 1090, the castle passed to his son William, who became Count of Mortain and took possession of Pevensey. In 1104, the castle was taken back by the crown, with as well as other lands William owned in England. Henry I (1100-1135) was now the king, and granted Pevensey Castle to the de L’Aigle family who held the castle until the Anarchy.

In the 1140s Pevensey Castle was granted by King Stephen to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. In 1147, King Stephen besieged the castle after Gilbert had declared his support for the Empress Matilda. King Stephen’s forces weren’t able to take the castle by force. Instead, it took the garrison running out of supplies to bring the castle to submission.

After the seige, the ownership of the castle was taken on by the crown. It was held by King Stephen’s son, Eustace, until his death in 1153. After King Stephen’s death in 1154, Henry II (1154-1189), returned control of the castle to the de L’Aigle family.

During this period of ownership, substantial rebuilding of the castle in stone was undertaken. It is thought that the keep may date from this time, though no exact date for the construction of it is known. The keep may in fact date from an earlier period.

In the first half of of the 13th Century, the ownership of the castle would pass between the crown and several different families.

During the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John (1199-1216), had the castle slighted in order to ensure that the castle didn’t fall into the hands of the forces of Prince Louis of France who had invaded on the invitation of the said barons to claim the English throne.

In 1246, the Henry III (1216-1272), granted Pevensey to Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle. It is most likely that during Peter’s tenure at the castle that much of the inner bailey that can be seen today at the site was constructed. This inner bailey takes the form of an enclosure castle.

Duing the Second Barons War (1264-1267), the castle provided shelter to the forces of the king in who had been defeated at the Battle of Lewes in May 1264. Simon de Montfort’s (the Earl of Leicester) forces besieged the the castle but were not able to take it. 

After the seige, the castle would remain in the hands of the crown for most of the following century. In 1372, the castle was granted to John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III of England (1327-1377).

In 1399, the constable of the castle was Sir John Pelham. He was a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke (John of Gaunts son), later to become Henry IV (1399-1413). Due to his support for Henry, Richard II’s (1377-1399) forces besieged the castle.

Sir John had gone to fight with Henry and had left the castle under the control of his wife, Joan. Ultimately, the seige was unsuccessful and Henry Bolingbroke seized the English throne. For his loyal service to Henry, Sir John was granted estates in Sussex as well as Pevensey Castle.

In 1415, King James I of Scotland (1406-1437) was held at the castle on the orders of Henry V (1413-1422). James had been captured by pirates while travelling to France in 1406. Out of his 18 years of captivity, he was held at Pevensey for one year.

Over the next century, the castle declined so that by about 1500 it had become ruinous and it was abandoned.

During the Tudor periodin a gun emplacement was built at the castle, though no major structural changes were made to it.

Over the next centuries the castle passed between the ownership of various different families. In 1925, the Duke of Devonshire gifted the castle to the state. The ruins were consolidated at this time.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the castle was used as a command and control centre and a radio direction centre. It was used by the British, Canadians and the Americans. There were modifications made at this time, including the addition of pillboxes, machine gun emplacents and others types fortification.

At the end of the war, the castle was returned to use as a tourist attraction and today is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey

 

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Middleton Mount, Norfolk…

Middleton Mount, also known as Middleton Castle, is a motte and bailey castle located in the Norfolk village of Middleton, close to Kings Lynn.

The castle is thought to date from either the 11th or 12th centuries. It is thought that the castle may have been founded by William d’Ecouis who had accompanied William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087) during the Norman invasion of England. Alternatively, it may have been constructed during the Anarchy.

It is thought likely that the site of the castle may have been occupied during the Anglo-Saxon period as a manorial centre.

As with many other castles of the period, Middleton Castle would have been constructed out of wood. Today, the earthwork remains of the castle include the large mound or motte, surrounded by a ditch. The remnants of the bailey of the castle lies, including part of its ditch, to the east of the motte.

The castle is open to the public and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.

Middleton Motte
Middleton Motte
Middleton Motte Ditch
Middleton Motte Ditch

Hastings Castle, East Sussex…

Hastings Castle is located in the East Sussex town of Hastings in East Sussex. It sits high on a rocky promontory, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area and offering clear strategic advantages. This promontory had been used during the Iron Age as a hillfort, with some of its earthworks being reutilised in the later castle.

Built soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 began (before the Battle of Hastings) on the orders of William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087), the castle was one of the three fortifications that William first ordered to be constructed. With the others being at Pevensey and Dover.

The castle at Hastings was initially constructed out of wood and conformed to a traditional motte and bailey design. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William entrusted the castle to Humphrey de Tilleul. Humphrey returned to Normandy in 1069 and William granted the castle to Robert, Count of Eu.

In 1070, William ordered the castle to be rebuilt in stone. It is during this rebuilding period that Robert founded the collegiate Church of St Mary’s within the castle walls, though there may have been ecclesiastical uses of the site during the Anglo-Saxon period.

During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), further improvements were made to the castle, including the construction of a stone tower keep.

However, during the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John ordered the castle to be slighted in order to prevent Prince Louis of France, who had invaded England on invitation of the barons in order to seize the English throne from King John, from capturing the castle.

During the reign of John’s son, Henry III (1216-1272), Hastings Castle was refortified. Work began in 1220 to this end.

Over the course of the next couple of hundred years, the headland the castle sat on suffered greatly from erosion due to severe storms. The castle was also attacked on several occasions by the French.

These environmental effects saw much of the castle fall into the sea, and coupled with the castle being attacked , the castle gradually declined. In the 16th Century, the final death knell came to the castle when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The collegiate chapel closed and the land seized by the crown.

The land was sold to local landowners and used for farming. The ruins of the castle gradually became overgrown and lost until 1824 when it was rediscovered, excavated and some sections of wall rebuilt. The castle would henceforth function as a tourist attraction for the town.

During World War II, the castle was damaged by bombing. In 1951, the castle was purchased by the local council and continues to this day to be a tourist attraction.

The castle is open to the public.

Hastings Castle Motte
Hastings Castle Motte
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle

St Leonard’s Tower, Kent…

St Leonard’s Tower is located in the Kent town of West Malling and takes its name from a chapel that stood nearby.

It is not clear who built the tower, it is thought that it was either constructed by Bishop Gundulf between 1077 and 1108, or by Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Odo was the half brother of William I (the Conqueror) and held lands in West Malling. Odo was also Earl of Kent between 1067 and 1088.

Thought to have been constructed as a tower keep, the exact function of the building has also attracted some debate. It has been suggested that the tower is in fact the tower of the former St Leonard’s chapel that stood nearby.

St Leonard’s Tower is thought to stand to very nearly its original height to this very day. The tower originally had three floors, with two floors above the basement and the original entrance being on the first floor would have been accessed via a wooden staircase, as was common with tower keeps of the period. A later entrance was added at basement level.

Today St Leonard’s Tower is managed by English Heritage and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.

St Leonard's Tower
St Leonard’s Tower

Great Yarmouth Castle and Town Wall, Norfolk…

Great Yarmouth Castle was constructed sometime during the medieval period, probably during the 12th Century. It was constructed out of stone and had four turrets and was likely a tower keep.

From the mid 16th Century, the castle was given to the town and was used as a gaol. During this period, it is thought it underwent some repairs on several occasions. By 1620 the castle was being dismantled. First the upper storey was removed, the stone was used in enclosing a gun platform, known as the Mount. In 1621, the rest of the castle was dismantled.

Great Yarmouth Castle is likely to have had a close association with the town’s wall. Though the castle is likely to have predated the construction of the town wall by over a century, the two would have no doubt been crucial had the town ever been attacked.

The town was granted permission in 1261 by Henry III to construct the town wall, though construction didn’t begin until 1284, during the reign of Edward I. It took until the end of the following century for the wall to be completed.

The town wall enclosed an area between the river rivers Bure and Yare. Constructed out of flint, brick, basal stone, and Caen stone from France, the wall enclosed an area of 538,232 square metres. A moat was also dug around the wall to offer an extra level of protection. The wall had 10 gates and 16 towers.

During the 16th Century, in the reign of Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk was instructed by the king to put the town’s defences into order. At this time the wall was improved, a rampart was constructed against the internal side of the wall and was continually improved during the mid-to-late 16th Century, ultimately being completed in 1587. Gun placements were also added at this time.

During the Civil War (1642-1651), the town was refortified. At this time, the moat was re-excavated. During the conflict, Yarmouth had declared for Parliament and the towers and gatehouses along the wall were used to house prisoners.

By the late 18th Century, the wall had ceased any defensive use. The moat had also been filled in.

Today, nothing of Great Yarmouth Castle can be evidenced, though large stone foundations and a floor were found during building work in the mid 1960s which are thought to be associated with the castle.

Large sections of Great Yarmouth Town Wall and 11 of its towers survive to this day and can be seen in the town.

Great Yarmouth Town Wall
Great Yarmouth Town Wall

Great Yarmouth Town Wall
Great Yarmouth Town Wall

Great Yarmouth Town Wall
Great Yarmouth Town Wall

Lewes Castle (Bray Castle), East Sussex…

Lewes Castle in the East Sussex town of Lewes was began in 1069 on the orders of William de Warenne I, Earl of Surrey. William de Warenne also held other estates such as at Castle Acre in Norfolk, where he also built a castle (Castle Acre Castle), in Surrey and in Yorkshire.

The first castle at Lewes is thought to have been constructed out of wood, as were many other castles during the period and it followed a traditional motte and bailey design. The first motte at to be built at Lewes is called Brack Mount and can be observed across the bailey from a second higher that was added some 30 years later. Having two mottes makes Lewes Castle fairly unique, the only other castle in the England to have two mottes is Lincoln Castle in Lincolnshire.

Once the second motte had been constructed, a shell keep was constructed on top of it built out of flint and the bailey between the two mottes was enclosed by a curtain wall also constructed out of flint and a gatehouse was added. A dry motte was also constructed around the castle bailey.

In the 13th and 14th Centuries, the castle’s defences were improved. Some new towers and a barbican were added at the castle. In 1264, during the Second Barons War (1264-1267), some of the king’s knights stayed at the castle the night before the Battle of Lewes at the castle. The Battle of Lewes was one of the major battles during the War, and during it both the king, Henry III, and his son, Edward, were captured by the barons.

In 1347, the last of the Earls de Warenne died, the castle then passed by marriage to Richard Fitalan, Earl of Arundel.

Lewes Castle was also attacked during the Peasants Revolt of 1381.

Today, the castle is owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society and is open to the public.

Lewes Castle Motte and Shell Keep
Lewes Castle Motte and Shell Keep
Lewes Castle Barbican
Lewes Castle Barbican
Lewes Castle Barbican and Norman Gateway
Lewes Castle Barbican and Gateway

Rye Castle (Ypres Tower), East Sussex…

Rye Castle, or Ypres Tower as it is also known, is located in the East Sussex town of Rye. It is not entirely clear when the castle was built. Though it may have been constructed in 1249 as part of the town’s defences against French raids, which were common place at the time as England was at War with France. The castle has also been known as Baddings Tower.

It is thought Peter de Savoy who was granted permission by Henry III to construct a castle at Rye may be behind the construction of the castle. Though it has also been suggested that the castle in fact dates from the 14th Century and was constructed as part of the town’s new defences which were built at that time.

During the medieval period, Rye was an atient town of the cinque ports on the south coast of England who were responsible for providing ships to the king in order to defend the country. In return the towns received many freedoms of self government. During the 14th Century, Edward III granted permission for the defences of Rye to be upgraded. A new curtain wall for the town was built, and Rye Castle formed part of these new defences, and the castle may alternatively date from this period as mentioned. Once these new defences were complete Rye became a full cinque port rather than an antient town.

Rye was attacked during the period on many occasions, but by the end of the 14th Century the castle was no longer used to defend the town. Over the course of about 60 years until 1430, the castle was used as a prison and as the town hall. In 1430, the castle was sold to Jean de Ypres, which is where the castle gets its alternative name from – Ypres Tower.

In the early 16th Century, the local council purchased the tower back and used it as a prison. Over the next 500 or so years, the defences at Rye were improved or decommissioned depending on the threat from the continent. The castle was also continually used as a prison until 1865, when it was decided it should only be used for short-term confinement. This use was discontinued in 1891.

The castle was also partially used as a soup kitchen from 1870 until 1895, it also functioned as the town mortuary with this use continuing until 1959 (the mortuary was based in the castle basement)..

In 1954, the castle opened to the public as a museum with exhibits on the ground and first floors.

Today, the castle still houses part of the museum and is open to the public.

Rye Castle
Rye Castle