Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Carmarthenshire…

Newcastle Emlyn Castle was built in the mid 13th Century by one of the Welsh Princes, Maredudd ap Rhys. It is likely that the castle was originally a wooden structure but was then rebuilt in Welsh stone.

The castle occupies a strategic position overlooking the River Teifi. What remains of the castle are parts of the curtain wall and the gatehouse. These date from around the early 14th Century when the castle was improved.

The castle at Newcastle Emlyn was attacked and changed hands during a revolt (1287-1289) against the English crown, lead by Maredudd’s son, Rhys ap Maredudd. Upon the revolt being put down and Rhy’s death, the castle passed to the crown.

In 1400 a new rebellion broke out in Wales lead by Owain Glyndwr, who had been proclaimed Prince of Wales. He successfully took the castle at Newcastle Emlyn in 1403. It was quickly retaken by the English and Glyndwr’s revolt was ultimately unsuccessful.

By 1428 the castle is reported to have been in ruins. It wasn’t until the early 16th Century and Sir Rhys ap Thomas acquiring the castle that it was rebuilt and many of these newer alterations are reflected in what remains of the castle today. During the English Civil War the castle changed hands several times. With the defeat of Royalist forces, the castle was slighted with gunpowder so that it couldn’t be used in any possible future conflict.

Following this slighting, the castle was the victim of being used as a source of building materials, as was the case with many other castles.

Admission to the castle is free.

Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Newcastle Emlyn
Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Newcastle Emlyn
Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Newcastle Emlyn
Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Newcastle Emlyn

Penrith Castle, Cumbria…

Penrith Castle is located in Castle Park in the town of Penrith in Cumbria. Work began on the castle at the end of the 14th Century and was completed by about 1470. The castle’s intended purpose was to defend against Scottish raids.

It is unclear who the specific builder of the castle was, it has been suggested that either William Strickland, Bishop of Carlisle or that Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was responsible. It has also been suggest that Neville may have utilised the earlier building by Strickland as the core of a new castle. Whoever was responsible for the castle’s construction, it remains unclear.

Penrith Castle’s was in the ownership of the Neville family until 1460 where upon the death of the Earl of Salisbury the castle passed to Richard, Earl of Warwick who was also known as the ‘Kingmaker’. Warwick was killed at the Battle of Barnet and had no male heir to which to pass the castle. The castle reverted to the ownership of the crown until 1471 when it was granted to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who is better known as King Richard III.

Following on the from the death of Richard (1485), the castle at Penrith remained in the ownership of the crown until it was granted to the Earl of Portland in 1696, the castle was then sold to the Duke of Devonshire in 1787 before later becoming the property of a railway company.

The ruins of the castle are directly opposite the railway station in Penrith and are open all year round.

Penrith Castle, Cumbria
Penrith Castle, Cumbria
The Keep, Penrith Castle, Cumbria
The Keep, Penrith Castle, Cumbria

Rampton Castle (Giant’s Hill), Cambridgeshire….

Rampton Castle (also known as Giant’s Hill) in the Cambridgeshire village of Rampton is another Anarchy castle built during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda between 1135 and 1154. The castle at Rampton was never completed and is likely to have been abandoned when in 1144 Geoffrey de Mandeville, the Earl of Essex and leader of a rebellion against King Stephen in the East, attacked Burwell Castle, was injured and later died at Mildenhall.

With Geoffrey’s death, there was no longer a need for the castle at Rampton to contain Geoffrey’s rebellion, and thus the site was abandoned. Spoil heaps as earthworks can be seen on the site at Rampton where the castle was never completed.

Rampton Castle consists of a rectangular platform, surrounded by a wet moat that is 50ft wide on the south, east and north sides, on the west side, the moat is 120ft wide. The platform is 150ft long and 135ft wide and is accessed by a causeway at the south west corner of the platform. No stone ruins have been found on the site related to the castle, so it is assumed construction would have been of wood.

The castle is on land owned by Cambridgeshire County Council and is open to the general public all year.

Moat and Platform, Rampton Castle
Moat and Platform, Rampton Castle
The Moat from the Platform, Rampton Castle
The Moat from the Platform, Rampton Castle
Platform, Rampton Castle
Platform, Rampton Castle

Burwell Castle, Cambridgeshire…

Burwell Castle dates to the Anarchy and was built by King Stephen on the site of a former Roman villa in 1143. It formed part of a string of castles that were built by the king to protect the region. Other such castles were erected at Lidgate, Rampton, Swavesey and Caxton.

The castle was never completed but it consisted of a small motte, a rectangular earthwork, a gatehouse a curtain wall and moat. It was constructed out of stone and wood.

During the Anarchy, Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, was dispossessed of his lands and rose up in revolt against King Stephen. The earl based himself at nearby Ely from where he attacked Burwell Castle in 1144. It was during this attack that the earl was hit by a crossbow bolt. The attack was unsuccessful and following the battle, the earl retired to Mildenhall where he later died from his injury.

Following Geoffrey de Mandeville’s death, the castle at Burwell was never finished, though it has been suggested that the site remained occupied until the 15th Century and was then abandoned. Substantial earthworks can be seen to the present day.

The castle is on land owned by Burwell Parish Council and is free to visit.

Burwell Castle, Earthworks
Burwell Castle, Earthworks
Platform and Moat, Burwell Castle
Platform and Moat, Burwell Castle
Platform and Moat, Burwell Castle
Platform and Moat, Burwell Castle

Bungay Castle, Suffolk….

Bungay Castle in Suffolk is located just off the main high street in Bungay. The Norman castle dates from about 1165 and is the second to be built on the site, having replaced an earlier fortification built around 1100. The castle was owned by the Bigod family who were granted lands in East Anglia at Bungay and Framlingham as a reward for their support by William the Conqueror.

The castle was built on a site that took advantage of a curve in the River Waveney for protection. Although the castle is not the largest in relative terms, it was constructed with walls that were at least 5-7m thick and which probably stood 33m in height.

During the 12th Century, the Bigod family were involved in several rebellions against the crown, including the Anarchy, with their properties at Bungay and Framlingham being confiscated on several occasions and then being returned to them. The castle at Bungay stayed in the ownership of the Bigod family until 1297, when upon Roger Bigod’s death it reverted to the crown.

After this, the state of the castle at Bungay deteriorated, in 1483 the castle passed into the ownership of the Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk. It remained in their ownership until 1987 when the Duke of Norfolk gave the castle to the people of Bungay. The castle is now owned by the Bungay Castle Trust. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

There is a café and visitor centre on site and will be able to see ruins of the gatehouse, curtain wall and parts of the keep.

Gatehouse, Bungay Castle
Gatehouse, Bungay Castle
Curtain Wall, Bungay Castle
Curtain Wall, Bungay Castle