Norwich Castle, Norfolk…

Norwich Castle in the city of Norwich was built on the orders of William I (the conqueror). Some 98 Saxon houses are thought to have been demolished in 1067 to make way for the castle. Originally constructed in wood, the castle was surrounded by dry defensive ditches which were very deep.

The castle was held for the king by Earl Ralf of East Anglia. In 1075, Earl Ralph along with two other Earls plotted against the king.  The king learnt of the plot and Earl Ralph fled to Brittany. His wife remained at the castle and after a three month seige, was allowed to join her husband in Brittany and the the garrison were promised they wouldn’t be harmed.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, Norwich Castle is one of the 48 or 49 castles mentioned.

In 1094, work began on constructing the castle in stone on the orders of King William II (William Rufus). William died in 1100 and it then fell to his brother King Henry I to complete the castle. The castle was finally completed in 1121. The castle didn’t take the form of a normal castle, it was intended as a royal palace. No kings ever lived there permanently, Henry I is the only king known to have stayed at the castle at Christmas 1121.

The keep was constructed out of limestone from Caen in Normandy, France. The design of the castle as a palace was later copied in other castles such as nearby Castle Rising, in Norfolk. The castle originally had flint faced walls at ground level with limestone facing on the upper level.

In 1173-1174, Henry II’s sons and wife lead a revolt against his rule. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, one of the local nobility joined Henry’s sons and wife in the revolt. Along with hundreds of his own men and some Flemish soldiers, he captured Norwich Castle. The castle would later be restored to the crown when the conflict was ended when Henry’s children were reconciled to him.

The castle was used as the county gaol from the 14th Century and buildings were erected on the motte for this purpose. It was used for this purpose until the 1790s when a new prison was constructed around the keep, with the old buildings being demolished to make way for the new prison.

The buildings around the keep became quickly outdated and were pulled down between 1822 and 1827. Between 1834 and 1839, the keep was refaced, this refacing was said to be sympathetic to the original architecture of the castle. This refacing was done with Bath stone.

The castle ‘s life as the county gaol would come to an end in 1883, when it it was purchased by the City of Norwich and converted for use as a museum, which opened in 1894.

Today Norwich Castle still operates as a museum and is open to the public.

Norwich Castle Keep
Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep

Farnham Castle, Surrey…

Farnham Castle in the Surrey town of Farnham was built in 1138 on the orders of Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. The castle would be the home of the Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years.

The original castle consisted of a great tower or keep with a motte and bailey (fortified enclosure). This keep had walls some three meters thick, the base of which can be seen at the castle to this day as well as an associated well.

The castle motte was constructed around the base of the keep, with it being formed out of chalk and clay. The likely reason the keep was constructed in this way with the motte being added later may be to provide defence against mining and attacks from battering rams. The keep was probably three to four storeys in height above ground.

At the same time that Farnham was built, Henry also had castles constructed at Downton, Merdon, Waltham and Taunton, though it has been suggested construction on these castles started earlier.

After the Anarchy (1134-1154), a period of civil war where the English throne was under dispute between Bishop Henry’s brother, King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, Henry II, Matilda’s son who had inherited the crown after Stephen’s death in 1154, ordered a large number of castles to be destroyed. It is thought that the first keep at Farnham is one of the castle’s he ordered destroyed.

Sometime after the keep was destroyed, work was started on a new shell keep, which can be seen at the castle to this day. The exact date that construction of this new keep started isn’t known, however, it was definitely in existence by the time Bishop Peter de Roches (1205-1230) started his accounts in 1208.

The shell keep is unusual in that it was constructed around the base of the motte and not on top of the motte such as at other castle like Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.  The keep also had five towers around its base circumference, with only the gatehouse retaining its original height. Though it was altered on several occasions. There are also remains of a drawbridge pit and other remnants of castle defences.

In the 13th Century, the keep contained minimal buildings, with buildings for the garrison, including weapons stores, lodgings and a well. Over the coming centuries building work took place, with buildings being added to the castle.

The castle was the official residence of Henry Beaufort who was Bishop of Winchester in the 15th Century (1404-1447). Henry is famous as he was the one to have oversaw the trial of Joan of Arc, the heroine of France, in 1414.

During the English Civil War (1642-1651), the castle was of some strategic importance. For most of the Civil War it was held by Parliamentary forces,  except on brief period in November 1642. It was later retaken by Parliamentary forces, and one if the keeps towers was destroyed to put the keep beyond use. It was further slighted in 1648 to make its defence even more impractical.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the castle was the base of the of an army unit that dealt with developing means of camouflage and deception.

Today, the castle is open to the public daily.

Farnham Castle Shell Keep
Farnham Castle Shell Keep
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Interior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Interior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Exterior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Exterior
Farnham Castle, Inside Shell Keep
Farnham Castle, Inside Shell Keep

Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire…

Scarborough Castle in the seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire sits on a headland that overlooks both the South Bay and North Bay of the town. It has a position in the town that gives it unparalleled views that demonstrate its strategic importance.

The occupation of the site the castle sits on dates back to the Iron Age having been the site of a hill fort. It was later the site of a Roman signal station in around 370AD, the foundations of which can be seen to this day. The signal station encompassed a square tower which sat in a courtyard that was square protected by a curtain wall. This enclosure was surrounded by a ditch. There were several of these stations built along the coast of Yorkshire in order to protect the country from Anglo-Saxon raids. They were abandoned in 410AD when the Romans withdrew from Britain.

The next occupation of the castle site would be during, possibly, the Anglo-Saxon period. During this time it is thought a settlement was built. Though the next definite period of occupation is during the Viking period from where the founding of the modern town traces its history. In 966/967 AD two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak lead a raid on Ireland, Wales and England. It was during this raid that Thorgils and Kormak founded what would become the modern town of Scarborough. It is thought the town’s name is derived from Thorgils nickname of ‘Hair Lip’ or ‘Skarthi’ in Viking and the Viking word ‘borg’ which means ‘stronghold’. So stronghold of Thorgils. The history of Scarborough and the Vikings is a mixed one, with Harold Hardrada going on to raid the town in the months prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It should be noted at this point, it has also been suggested in recent years that the roots of modern day Scarborough actually traces its history back to the Anglo-Saxon period.

Scarborough Castle itself was founded in about 1130 by William le Gros, Count of Aumale. William was created Earl of York by King Stephen in 1138. He then set about establishing his control of the region. The first castle was constructed out of wood, as were many castles of the period. William is recorded as enclosing the headland that the castle occupies with a wall and erecting a great tower where the remains of the keep stands today.

In 1154, King Henry II aceeded to the throne. He set about regaining control of all royal castles. Scarborough Castle was built in a royal manor and thus fell into such a category. He took control control of the castle and on his orders in 1159 the reconstruction of the castle in stone began and took about 10 years.

A new town was established beneath the castle. A sum of £650 is recorded as being spent on the castle, this was mostly spent on the construction of the keep. It has been suggested the keep or `great tower` was constructed as a status symbol. No major works next occurred at the castle until the reign of King John. It is known that King John visited the castle and during his reign he spent quite a large sum improving its fortifications as he saw it as a key strategic stronghold in the north. Construction during John’s reign included a new curtain wall and a new hall. An inner bailey was created at this time,  In total, John spent over £2,000 on the castle. More money was spent on Scarborough Castle during John’s reign than any other castle.

After John’s death in 1216, his son Henry III continued to invest in the castle. Henry added a barbican between 1242-1250. The barbican was completed in 1343. The barbican that can be seen at the castle has been much modified since then. Henry never visited the castle and it seems to entered a period of decline toward the end of his reign (1216-1272).

It is recorded that the governors of the castle during this period often acted with imputiny, imposing tolls, seizing goods and generally causing issues for the local population.

In 1265, the castle was put under the stewardship of Prince Edward who would go on to become Edward I. Edward’s reign lasted from 1272 to 1307, during this time he held court at Scarborough Castle on several occasions. Hostages from his campaigns in both Wales and Scotland were imprisoned at the castle..

In 1308, Henry Percy, Baron Percy was occupying the castle. During his tenure at the castle a new brewhouse, bakehouse and and kitchen in the inner bailey were added. Edward II (1307-1327), made Isabella de Vesci the governor of both Bamburgh and Scarborough castles in 1312. During that year, Piers Gaveston the king’s favourite sought sanctuary at the castle when pursued by the Barons who imposed the ordinances of 1311, which sought to restrict the powers of the king (Edward II). The Barons saw Gaveston as the king’s favourite as a threat to their interests. In 1312, he was made governor of the castle by the king. Though his time in the role of governor was short, he was seized at the castle following a short seige. He would later be executed. King Edward responded by revoking the royal status of the town in return for not supporting Gaveston.

The next significant period in the castle’s history was during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).  Scarborough was raided on several occasions, with John Mercer of Scotland leading a raid in 1378. In 1393, with the threat of French invasion growing, a survey was undertaken of the castle’s defences. Henry VI ordered major repairs between 1424 and 1429.

Richard III (1483-1485) was the last monarch to stay at Scarborough Castle in 1484. He was there to prepare a fleet in order to repel a possible invasion by Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. Richard would die the following year.

The next major conflicts at Scarborough occur in the early 16th Century, when both French and Scottish forces attacked the castle. In 1536, a revolt broke out against Henry VIII’s (reigned 1509-1547) religious reforms. The revolt was known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Robert Aske the leader of the rebellion lead an assault in the castle which was unsuccessful. Renovation work was undertaken at the castle in 1537. The governor at the castle was Sir Ralph Eure. He reported that some of its walls had fallen down at this time.

In 1557, the castle was attacked by forces lead by forces loyal to Thomas Wyatt the Younger who lead a rebellion against Mary I. Thomas Stafford lead the attack on the castle, his forces held the castle for three days. Stafford would later be executed for treason.

The next period of major events to effect the castle was during the English Civil War. When the war broke out in 1642, the castle was held by Parliamentary forces under the leadership of Sir Hugh Cholmley. Sir Hugh and his forces would latterly switch sides to the Royalist cause. The fortifications of the castle were enhanced, with a new new gun battery being added.

With Scarborough Castle and the town in the hands of the royalists, Parliament saw Scarborough as a valuable asset that wasn’t under their control.

In 1645, Parliamentary forces attacked the town of Scarborough. It took them three weeks to capture it. Sir Hugh and his forces retreated to the castle where they held out for five months.

The castle came under heavy and sustained bombardment. The bombardment was so intense that half of the keep collapsed as can be evidenced today. The seige was one of the most bloody of the civil war, there was large amounts of hand-to-hand fighting. The leader of the attacking Parliamentary forces, Sir John Meldrum, was killed in heavy fighting near the castle barbican.

On 25th July 1645, with the conditions in the castle having become dire with scurvy being rife, lack of supplies and able men, the castle garrison surrendered. After the seige, the castle was refortified by Parliament. In 1648, the castle garrison under the leadership of Matthew Beyton declared their support for the king as Parliament had failed to pay them. The castle then suffered a second seige during which Parliament regained control of the castle. In total, the castle changed hands seven times during the war. The castle would later be used as a prison during and after the Commonwealth years. The castle was returned to the control of the crown when the monarchy was restored.

One of the most famous people to be imprisoned at the castle was George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). He was held at the castle from April 1665 to September 1666. During the Glorious Revolution that ousted James II (1685-1688) from the throne, the castle was captured by forces loyal to William of Orange. The castle had been in decline prior to its capture and hadn’t been garrisoned.

In 1745, during the Jacobite Rebellion which aimed to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the throne, the castle was refortified. A barracks building was constructed in the walls of King John’s Chamber and new gun batteries added by 1745. In 1748, the Master Gunner’s House was constructed.

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the castle was garrisoned and but saw no action. This garrison remained in place until the middle of the 19th Century.

During the First World War,  on the morning of 16 December 1914, two German warships bombarded the town and castle. The two German ships was also go on to attack Whitby and Hartlepool. During the bombardment, seventeen people were killed with 80 seriously wounded. The castle itself sustained heavy damage with the barracks, keep and curtain wall being badly affected.

The castle became the responsibility of the state in 1920 when the barrack block which had been damaged during the bombardment was demolished.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep