In order to make this blog more navigable and interesting, I have added some widgets and articles I have written on the Normans and the Anarchy. The Anarchy is a period in time that particularly interests me as many of the castles around where I live, were built during this period.
I may in due course add some more articles as time allows. I hope you enjoy reading them.
Chrishall Castle is a ringwork located in Park Wood in the village of Chrishall in the north-west of Essex. It seems likely the castle would have been constructed of wood.
The ringwork is 85m east-west by 90m north-south in diameter and is surrounded by a moat which is mostly dry, though the west side does hold water. The interior of the ringwork is level, though there are denuded ramparts which could have possibly enclosed the whole site.
The site of Chrishall Castle is very overgrown. The castle is on private land and can only be viewed from a footpath which runs alongside the site. The castles lies 70 metres north-east of the village church in Park Wood.
Brougham Castle was began by Robert de Vieuxpont in the early 13th Century. Located two miles southeast of Penrith, the castle is strategically located between the confluence of the rivers Lowther and Eamont, with sweeping views across the Eden Valley. Built on the site of a former Roman fort, the castle initially consisted of a stone keep and a bailey surrounded by a rampart with palisade
In 1264 the grandson of Robert de Vieuxpont, also called Robert, was decleared a traitor and Brougham Castle, along with the de Vieuxponts family’s other castles and estates were confiscated by the Crown.The estates and castles were eventually returned to the de Vieuxpont family.
In 1269 the castle at Brougham came into the ownership of the de Clifford family through the marriage of Roger de Clifford to Isabella de Vieuxpont. On Roger’s death in 1282, the castle passed to Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. In 1296 the Anglo-Scottish War broke out. Robert held the title of Lord of the Marches and was responsible for the defence of the English border against the Scots. It was against this backdrop the defences at Brougham Castle were improved, with the wooden defences being replaced in stone and a new gatehouse being added.
Such was the importance of Robert de Clifford and Brougham Castle as his caput, Edward I visited him at Brougham in 1300. Robert de Clifford would go on to die at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 having served two kings as both Warden and Lord Warden of the Marches.
In 1322 Roger de Clifford, 2nd Baron de Clifford was executed for being a traitor having rebelled against the king. With this, the de Clifford’s estates were confiscated by Edward II. The de Cliffords estates were restored to the family in 1327 on the accession of Edward III to the throne, including the castle at Brougham.
During the early 1380s the castle at Brougham was improved, with domestic buildings being added. However, these hadn’t been completed for very long when in 1388 the castle was captured and sacked by the Scots. After this, Brougham Castle seems to have lost its status as the main administrative centre for the de Cliffords, with them preferring to spend their time at Skipton Castle in Yorkshire.
By 1592 Brougham Castle was in a state of disrepair. The castle was in the ownership of Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland at this time. The earl spent most of his time in the south of England as he held the post of the Queens Champion during the reign of Elizabeth I.
During the early 17th Century the castle went through a brief phase of restoration. The restoration must have been to a good standard as James I was entertained at the castle in 1617. Brougham Castle was inherited in 1643 by Lady Anne Clifford, who was the last member of the Clifford family to live at the castle. During this period, the castles in the ownership of the Clifford family at Appleby, Brougham and Brough (as well as other) underwent a period of restoration, with Lady Anne spending time at each in turn for several months. Lady Anne died in 1676 at Brougham. After this the castle at Brougham fell into a ruinous state having passed into the ownership of the Lord of Thanet who decided to concentrate his resources on maintaining nearby Appleby Castle. The castle passed into state ownership in the 1930s.
The site is now managed by English Heritage and is open to the general public.
Pleshey Castle in the Essex of village of Pleshey has one of the largest mottes in the whole of the UK. Whilst none of the stonework of this once substantial fortress still exists, the substantial earthworks that do survive to this day elude somewhat to the status and significance of this site.
Built by the de Mandeville family, Geoffrey de Mandeville (not to be confused with his grandson of the same name who was made Earl of Essex by King Stephen), was given substantial estates in Essex in appreciation for his service to William I at the Battle of Hastings where he was a leading commander in William’s forces.
De Mandeville chose Pleshey as the site of his centre of operations and administration (his caput). The castle at Pleshey was originally built in wood and is likely to have consisted of a motte and two baileys. There would have been a wooden tower on the motte with a palisade and the baileys would have been enclosed by a moat and rampart with palisade.
In the 12th Century the castle at Pleshey was upgraded and rebuilt in stone, though it is unclear exactly when. During the Anarchy, Geoffrey de Mandeville (grandson of the castle’s founder) was created Earl of Essex by King Stephen in 1140. Later, having been promised new property by the Empress Matilda if he revolted against Stephen’s rule, Geoffrey lead a rebellion against King Stephen in both Essex and Cambridgeshire. In 1143, King Stephen was successful in persuading the garrison at Pleshey to surrender the castle.
Having surrendered the castle to King Stephen, it wasn’t until after the king’s death in 1156 that the de Mandevilles regained the castle. However, this new tenure was short-lived. In 1158, King Henry II ordered that the de Mandeviles castles at both Saffron Walden and Pleshey be dismantled as part of the king’s programme to ensure that many of the castles built or used during the Anarchy were put beyond use.
During the 1170s, Geoffrey’s brother William was allowed to refortify the site. In the course of the following century, the castle at Pleshey was besieged, most notably by King John in 1215 and surrendered to Prince Louis of France in 1216. On William’s death, the castle passed to the de Bohun family through Maud, William’s sister’s marriage to Henry de Bohun, 1st Earl of Hereford.
The castle became the caput for the de Bohuns and would continue in their ownership until 1629 when Robert Clarke purchased the castle and demolished most of its buildings in order to build a house nearby with the materials.
It is possible to view the castle motte at Pleshey from the specially created viewing area in the centre of the village. If you wish to view the inside of the earthworks and climb the motte, it is possible to do so. Though this is strictly on an appointment-only basis.
Baconsthorpe Castle in Norfolk was built in the 15th Century by the Heydon family. Not so much a castle but a fortified manor house, it reflects the style of the period where fortification was becoming less important for defence but critical as a status symbol.
The castle was started in about 1460 and was completed by about 1486 on the orders of John Heydon and later Sir Henry Heydon. The history of Baconsthorpe Castle very much mirrors that of its owners, being improved as their wealth increased and then gradually falling into a ruinous state as their fortunes declined.
The inner castle was comprised of two courts, the service court which contained servant accommodation, a brewhouse, stables and a bakehouse, all of which serviced the second court which was the main house. The service court was located on the eastern side of the inner castle and the main house on the western side.
Initially the Heydons had derived much of their wealth from the legal profession but they then successfully diversified into the wool industry from which they accumulated serious wealth. An outer gatehouse and a park were added in about 1561. Some of the buildings in the eastern service range were converted to accommodate a wool processing factory. The Heydons would also later add a mere.
The Heydon were not very good at managing their financial affairs and by about 1650 had accumulated large debts. In order to pay some of these debts off, the Heydons pulled down much of Baconsthorpe Castle and sold the material.
The outer gatehouse of the castle was lucky to survive this destruction and was converted into a private home. The gatehouse was given the name of Baconsthorpe Hall and was occupied until 1920.
Baconsthorpe Castle is managed by English Heritage and access to the site is free.
Therfield Castle is a probable adulterine motte and bailey castle located in the Hertfordshire village of Therfield, close to the town of Royston. Therfield Castle is also known as Tuthill.
Pottery evidence recovered from the site suggests a date of 1135-1154 for the castle’s construction, which correlates with the suggestion of Therfield Castle dating from the Anarchy.
No buildings or masonary remnants of the castle remain, only the earthworks survive. The motte, which is surrounded by a ditch which has suffered some damage, is 14 metres in diameter at its base and 8 metres in diameter at its top. It is 1.5 metres in height. The ditch that surrounds the motte is 5 metres wide at its widest and 1 metre deep. The centre of the motte has suffered some damage as it was excavated by treasure hunters in 1920.
The bailey lies to the south of the motte. During archaeological investigations into this part of the castle evidence was found of occupation of the site prior to the castle being built. A date of 1050-1100 has been suggested for this occupation.
At the time of the castle’s construction the land that it stands on was owned by Ralph of Therfield, who had purchased the land from Ramsey Abbey who owned the manor.
The castle itself was never completed, as was the case with a lot of other contemporary adulterine castles. It seems reasonable to suggest the castle was abandoned or slighted on the accession of Henry II to the throne.
Therfield Castle sits 50 metres north-west of the village’s church and can be viewed from the road.
Claxton Castle is tucked away in the Norfolk village of Claxton some eight miles south-east of the city of Norwich. A licence to crenellate was granted to Sir William de Kerdeston by King Edward III in 1333.
The castle at Claxton remained in the de Kerdeston family until 1446 when Sir Thomas de Kerdeston died, the castle then passed to William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk. It has been suggested that the castle at Claxton was owned at some point by Anne of Cleve’s, one of Henry VIII’s wives, and that she lived there for a time.
Some time after this the castle at Claxton is believed to have fallen into a ruminated state. It was at this time a Tudor manor house will built on the site of the castle.
Later in the 17th Century, much of Claxton Castle was demolished and much of the stone was used in the construction of a manor house that sits on the site currently.
Some ruins of the castle can be seen to this very day. Part of one of the walls and one of the towers remain intact.
The castle can be viewed from the road and is a private residence.