Clare Castle, Suffolk….

Clare Castle in Suffolk is located in the small county town of Clare. Originally a wooden motte and bailey castle built by Richard de Gilbert (de Clare) soon after the Norman conquest, it was later rebuilt in stone. Whereas most Norman castles have one bailey, Clare Castle was different in having two. The motte is 850ft wide and 100ft tall.

The two baileys were protected by large fortifications, including ditches and palisades. They stretched to the north and east of the motte and were likely to have been linked by a drawbridge.

The castle itself is built on the site of a former Anglo-Saxon hall, as is common amongst Norman castles, and is surrounded by three parks.

Remains of Clare Castle Keep
The Remains of Clare Castle Keep.
Clare Castle Motte
Clare Castle Motte

The castle continued to be in the possession of the de Clare family until the 15th Century  when in 1405 the castle passed to the Mortimers of Wigmore on Elizabeth de Clare’s death. After this transfer of ownership, the castle later became property of the crown and steadily deteriorated over the centuries.

All that remains of the castle now is a wall of the keep, the motte on which it stands, some of the castle’s inner bailey stone wall and some earthworks. The castle is located in Clare Castle Country Park.

The Inner Bailey Wall, Clare Castle
The Inner Bailey Wall, Clare Castle

Thetford Castle, Norfolk..

Thetford Castle in Norfolk is located in what is now a public park. The second largest, man-made mound in England, it is a traditional motte and bailey castle, with a massive mound and ditch, and would have consisted of a wooden tower.

The castle itself was the second to be constructed in Thetford, there having been a previous castle called the Red Castle that dated from the Norman conquest. It was constructed by Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk in about 1100. He positioned the castle to protect the town of Thetford and the crossing of the Icknield Way.

The motte, it is estimated, would have taken 24,000 man-hours to build, with most of the material coming from nearby quarries as the amount provided by digging the surrounding ditch didn’t provide enough material. It is believed the chalk that was used to build the motte came from Gallows Pits in the town.

At some point in the castle’s history it is possible a stone curtain wall and keep were erected by the Bigod family. Though no evidence of this remains, as the castle was captured by Henry II during the revolt of his son in 1173 and was mostly destroyed apart from the earthworks.

Thetford Castle Motte
Thetford Castle Motte
Thetford Castle Motte and Earthworks