Hedingham Castle is located in the village that takes its name from the castle, Castle Hedingham.
The manor of Hedingham was granted by 1086 to Aubrey De Vere I by William the Conquerer as he had fought at the Battle of Hastings. It is believed that the site of the current castle may occupy the site of an earlier castle believed to be a ringwork.
Built by the De Vere family, possibly on the orders of Aubrey II (1085-1141) or Aubrey III, 1st Earl of Oxford (1115 – 1194), the castle’s keep is one of the best preserved examples of a Norman stone tower in the country. The keep was built during the height of the Anarchy, probably around 1140. It is thought that William de Corbeuil, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the architect of Rochester Castle, may be behind the design of Hedingham Castle.
The keep is of a flint rubble with lime mortar construction faced with ashlar stone bought from Barnack in Northamptonshire. As with most Norman keeps, it is nearly square with the walls on average three metres thick. The castle had two baileys,the larger of the two soon being lost to the construction of the village of Castle Hedingham.
Extensive building works were undertaken at the castle at the end of the 15th century. This is probably when the most of the curtain wall and other buildings were raised, and were replaced with ranges of apartments and brick towers. The only buildings to survive this period were a gatehouse, which has since been demolished, and the keep itself. Two of the keep’s four corner turrets may have been demolished at this time.
A notable death at the castle was that of the wife of King Stephen (1135-1154), Matilda, who died there in 1152.
Hedingham Castle has been beseiged twice in its history, both during the First Barons War (1215-1217) in 1216 and 1217, both being successful.
Today the castle is open to the public in February and from April until September, certain days of the week.