Oxburgh Hall is a fortified manor house in the parish of Oxborough in Norfolk, and was built on the orders of Sir Edmund Bedingfield in 1482. Sir Edmund had inherited the land that Oxburgh stands on from his grandmother, Margaret Tuddenham. He decided to move the family’s main seat or administrative centre from Bedingfield, near Eye in Suffolk, to Oxborough.
Constructed out of brick, Oxburgh Hall, was unusual for the time as brick was usually only usually used by the king. During the Wars of the Roses (1455 – 1487), Sir Edmund supported the Yorkist cause of Edward IV (1461 – 1470, 1471 – 1483), and was created Knight of the Bath in 1483 at the coronation of Richard III (1483 – 1485).
Following Richard III’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Sir Edmund became loyal to the new king, Henry VII (1485 – 1509). For his loyalty, Sir Edmund was made Knight Banneret. The king, queen and the king’s mother would go on to visit Oxburgh.
Today, Oxburgh Hall is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.
The Tolhouse in Great Yarmouth, whilst not a castle, is a fortified townhouse. Built in 1150, it was altered in 1250. The borough hired the building in the 14th Century and purchased outright in 1552.
The building has had several different uses, including as a prison (1261 – 1875), town hall (to 1882), police station, court house and toll office. The building was restored in 1883 when a rear wing of the building was demolished. The building was bombed during the Second World War (1939 – 1945).
The building was restored again between 1960 – 1961. The building is constructed of flint with ashlar dressing.
Today, the Tolhouse is a museum and is open to the public. Check opening times.
Caister Castle in the Norfolk village of West Caister was built between 1432 and 1446 on the orders of Sir John Fastolf. Sir John was a soldier during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and as a child had grown up in Caister where his family’s estate was located.
Believed to be one of the earliest buildings in England to be constructed out of brick, Castier Castle also reflects Sir John’s time spent on the continent in its design.
Sir John died in 1459, leaving the castle to his friend and lawyer, John Paston. There were also several other claims to the ownership of the castle. These claimants would eventually sell their claims to the castle to the Duke of Norfolk after unsuccessfully pressing their claims in court.
During the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487), Caister Castle was besieged by the Duke of Norfolk in 1469. He lay seige to the castle in order to press his claim to it. The two month seige was ultimately successful, though the castle would later be restored to the control of the Paston family.
The Paston’s main residence was at Oxnead Hall in the Norfolk village of Oxnead. It was there that the family spent most of their time with Caister being abandoned in about 1600.
After this, the castle steadily declined. The Paston family continued to own the castle at Caister into the mid 17th Century.
The castle would then pass between the ownership of several different families.
Today, the great tower of the castle, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and large sections of the castle’s curtain wall remain, along with associated earthworks and a moat.
Middleton Mount, also known as Middleton Castle, is a motte and bailey castle located in the Norfolk village of Middleton, close to Kings Lynn.
The castle is thought to date from either the 11th or 12th centuries. It is thought that the castle may have been founded by William d’Ecouis who had accompanied William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087) during the Norman invasion of England. Alternatively, it may have been constructed during the Anarchy.
It is thought likely that the site of the castle may have been occupied during the Anglo-Saxon period as a manorial centre.
As with many other castles of the period, Middleton Castle would have been constructed out of wood. Today, the earthwork remains of the castle include the large mound or motte, surrounded by a ditch. The remnants of the bailey of the castle lies, including part of its ditch, to the east of the motte.
The castle is open to the public and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.
Great Yarmouth Castle was constructed sometime during the medieval period, probably during the 12th Century. It was constructed out of stone and had four turrets and was likely a tower keep.
From the mid 16th Century, the castle was given to the town and was used as a gaol. During this period, it is thought it underwent some repairs on several occasions. By 1620 the castle was being dismantled. First the upper storey was removed, the stone was used in enclosing a gun platform, known as the Mount. In 1621, the rest of the castle was dismantled.
Great Yarmouth Castle is likely to have had a close association with the town’s wall. Though the castle is likely to have predated the construction of the town wall by over a century, the two would have no doubt been crucial had the town ever been attacked.
The town was granted permission in 1261 by Henry III to construct the town wall, though construction didn’t begin until 1284, during the reign of Edward I. It took until the end of the following century for the wall to be completed.
The town wall enclosed an area between the river rivers Bure and Yare. Constructed out of flint, brick, basal stone, and Caen stone from France, the wall enclosed an area of 538,232 square metres. A moat was also dug around the wall to offer an extra level of protection. The wall had 10 gates and 16 towers.
During the 16th Century, in the reign of Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk was instructed by the king to put the town’s defences into order. At this time the wall was improved, a rampart was constructed against the internal side of the wall and was continually improved during the mid-to-late 16th Century, ultimately being completed in 1587. Gun placements were also added at this time.
During the Civil War (1642-1651), the town was refortified. At this time, the moat was re-excavated. During the conflict, Yarmouth had declared for Parliament and the towers and gatehouses along the wall were used to house prisoners.
By the late 18th Century, the wall had ceased any defensive use. The moat had also been filled in.
Today, nothing of Great Yarmouth Castle can be evidenced, though large stone foundations and a floor were found during building work in the mid 1960s which are thought to be associated with the castle.
Large sections of Great Yarmouth Town Wall and 11 of its towers survive to this day and can be seen in the town.
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.
Weeting Castle is a medieval manor house located in Weeting near Brandon in Norfolk. It was built around 1180 by Hugh de Plais, a tenant of William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, who had his regional caput (administrative centre) at nearby Castle Acre. The de Plais family would occupy Weeting Castle until the 14th Century when it passed to the Howards, Earls of Norfolk. The castle would later be abandoned.
Evidence of earlier occupation on the site has been found, most notably three ditches with finds of Saxo-Norman origin and burnt daub. It is thought a Saxon settlement occupied the site prior to the castle.
Weeting Castle’s design is similar to that of a hall in the outer bailey at Castle Acre Castle and is thought to have been heavily influenced by the design of the building.
The manor house was built of a flint rubble with stone dressing construction. The ruins of the building define a building rectangular in shape. It consisted of a hall, which would have been used to entertain important guests and for holding important events. At the other end of the hall, was a three-story chamber block. On the ground floor of the chamber block was a storage area with a vaulted ceiling, on the first floor was a suite of private chambers with an adjoining latrine block. This block contained three cubicles.
At the other end of the hall was a service block. This contained a buttery and pantry. A passage from the service block lead out onto a courtyard. A freestanding kitchen also fronted onto this courtyard and catered for the manor house’s needs. A wall separated this courtyard from the grounds of the manor house.
The ruins of the manor house sit on an island that is sub-rectangular in shape that is surrounded by a moat that was added in the 13th Century as a decorative feature.
Today, Weeting Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public during reasonable daylight hours.
Castle Rising was begun in 1138 by William d’Aubiny (sometimes spelt d’Albini) II, on his marriage to Adeliza, the widow of Henry I. William had inherited the estate of Snettisham (which included Rising) from his father, who had been granted various estates in Norfolk. William also built castles at New Buckenham, Norfolk and Arundel in the south of England, having been made Earl of Arundel in 1139. New Buckenham Castle would go on to serve as William’s and the d’Albinis caput (administrative centre) for their estates in Norfolk.
Prior to the castle being built, the site of the castle at Rising had little significance. It was neither strategically important or a great centre of note. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the land on which the castle stands was granted to Odo of Bayeux, the half brother of William the Conqueror. During this period, no doubt, several Anglo-Norman buildings occupied the site. When Odo fell from favour, the site the castle now stands on was granted to the d’Albini’s.
With William’s growing wealth and influence, he began constructing his castles. With the site at Rising not having been of any strategic importance, it has been suggested the reason for constructing the castle at Rising was due to the area not being densely populated which made it easy to establish a deer park and the easy access to building materials sourced locally or shipped to the site, as it had good access from the sea at the time.
Once the construction of Castle Rising had began, the settlement of Rising was moved to the north of the castle site and became a planned Norman settlement laid out in a grid-fashion. An early Norman chapel that had been constructed on the site in around 1100, this would now be used as the chapel for the castle with a new church being established in the new settlement for the local populous.
Castle Rising was constructed with massive earthworks, including three baileys. One bailey lies to the east of the castle and measures 82 metres by 59 metres. The eastern bailey was constructed to form a barrier to ingress into the interior of the castle and is connected to the inner bailey via a bridge. A gatehouse into the inner bailey was constructed at the same time of the castle to prevent further progress into the castle.
The inner bailey at Castle Rising measures 73 metres by 60 metres which is encompassed by a massive rampart with ditch. Originally, this rampart wouldn’t have been as large as they are seen at the castle today, being 18 metres high from the bottom of the ditch. It would have been roughly half of this height. There may have been a wooden palisade or other defence on top of this rampart, though a wall was added at a later point.
The western bailey at Rising has been levelled into the form of a platform and is no longer connected to the rest of the castle.
The keep at Rising is what is known as a ‘hall keep’, these are different to tower keeps such as the Tower of London, Hedingham Castle, and Rochester Castle, in that they are oblong and resemble a hall rather than a tower. There are a number of other hall keeps in existence, such as those at Norwich, Chepstow and Falaise, France. It is believed that the keep at Rising is heavily influenced by the design of the keep at Norwich.
Castle Rising keep is constructed from carrstone rubble with ashlar facings, with timbers added to provide extra strength. The main body of the keep is 24 metres by 21 metres wide. The walls of the keep are about 15 metres high with pilaster buttresses and a forebuilding along the east side of the keep. There are four turrets that are formed from clasping buttresses on the keep, along with arcading and decorative stonework that form part of the previously mentioned forebuilding. The castle has a Romanesque style.
During the Anarchy, William d’Albini supported King Stephen against the Empress Matilda’s claim to the throne of England. In 1145 King Stephen granted William permission to open a mint at Castle Rising. Once the conflict had ended and King Stephen had died, the mint was closed on the order of Stephen’s successor, Henry II, Matilda’s son. While William had supported King Stephen in the conflict, he would go on to be a loyal supporter of King Henry, which enabled him to keep his landholdings.
In 1173 there was a major rebellion against King Henry led by his three sons, his wife and numerous other supporters. William supported the king, with a new phase of construction occurring at Castle Rising to bolster its defences. The earth ramparts were increased in height and west bailey was altered significantly.
Castle Rising would remain the property of the d’Albini family until 1243, when Hugh d’Albini died, leaving no children the castle passed to Roger de Montalt. By 1327, the castle had passed to Roger’s brother Robert, he sold the castle at Rising to the crown with a lifetime lease for him and his wife, Emma, to remain in the castle. About the time of this arrangement, some works were undertaken to the castle, including the keep being raised in height at one end with a peaked roof added. Also, a new kitchen was added to the facilities at the castle.
In 1326, Queen Isabella of France, who was Queen of England through her marriage to Edward II led a revolt against her husband with Roger Mortimer. Queen Isabella and Mortimer were successful in seizing the English throne and installing Isabella’s son, also called Edward, as the new king (Edward III). Isabella would rule as regent on her son’s behalf, with the support of Mortimer, for four years. In 1330, Edward III seized power from his mother and Mortimer.
Queen Isabella, was initially held at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire before being released. It is at this time she gained ownership of Castle Rising. Edward granted his mother Castle Rising and Emma de Montalt sold her rights in the castle to Isabella for £400. Isabella would use Castle Rising as her main residence until her death 1358. On gaining ownership of the castle, extensive building works were undertaken to ensure the castle was suitable for a queen. A new residential range was added to accommodate Isabella, a new chapel and other new buildings were added. It is thought that around this time a wall was added around the inner bailey to improve security.
Edward was been recorded as visiting his mother at Rising on at least four occasions. After the death of Isabella in 1358, Castle Rising passed to Edward of Woodstock (also known as the Black Prince). His father, Edward III had decreed in 1337 that after the death of Isabella that Castle Rising would become part of the Duchy of Cornwall. Building works were conducted during this period, and during Edward’s ownership of the castle it seems to have been maintained in good order.
Edward died in 1376, and Castle Rising returned to the control of the crown. After being returned to the control of the crown, ownership of the castle was passed between several different nobles under King Richard II. After Richard was deposed of the English throne in 1399, Castle Rising was restored to the ownership of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Castle Rising would continue to belong to the Duchy of Cornwall in the 15th and 16th centuries. During this period the castle became more of a retreat for hunting. Minor repairs were made to the castle during but the general condition of the castle declined steadily, with a report in 1482 remarking that the buildings at Castle Rising were no longer watertight. New building work did occur between 1503 and 1506, though by 1542-1543 the castle was said to be in a ruinous condition, with roof of the keep having collapsed. Some repair works were undertaken at this time and changes were made to the function of some of the rooms of the keep.
In 1544, Castle Rising was bequeathed to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk by Henry VIII . Castle Rising continues to be owned by the Howard family to this day.
Burgh Castle just outside of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk is the site of a Roman fort that was later reused as, potentially, a Saxon monastery and then as a motte and bailey castle after the Norman invasion.
Originally built as one of a series of shore forts by the Romans to protect the east and south east of England, Burgh Castle’s walls were built around the year 300 and still stand to virtually to their original height, though some of the wall that did surround the site has now vanished due to erosion on the west side. Bastions were built along the wall and at the corners of the wall to improve its strength.
Between the years 630 and 900 AD it is possible that the site of Burgh Castle could have been used as a Anglo-Saxon monastery. During archaeological excavations in the 1950s and the 1960s, 160 burials and timber buildings were discovered. This monastery has been associated with St Fursey, though it is also possible that the nearby Roman fort at Caister was in fact the site of this monastery.
Following the Norman invasion of 1066 a small wooden castle was built at Burgh Castle making use of the earlier substantial Roman fortifications. In the south-west corner of the fort at Burgh Castle the Normans built a motte upon which a wooden keep or tower would have stood. The Normans also made other alterations to the Roman fort such as cutting a gap into the south wall in order to accommodate a ditch or moat to protect the castle.
There has been some later damage to the motte and fortifications due to modifications in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Access to Burgh Castle is free during any reasonable hour.
Began soon after the Norman conquest by William I de Warenne, Castle Acre Castle is a fine example of a Norman motte and bailey fortress. What makes this castle particularly even more interesting is the neighbouring, still recognisable planned layout of the Norman town and the nearby ruins of the Cluniac priory.
William I de Warenne was one of the Norman barons that fought with William the Conqueror (William I) at the Battle of Hastings. After the conquest, William was rewarded with large landholdings in England for his service to King William. He chose Castle Acre as his administrative centre for his estates in East Anglia as it was fairly central to all of them.
When the castle was originally built, it didn’t conform to the standard motte and bailey configuration. What made it different was that it was a hybrid between a ringwork and a motte and bailey design. In the 1140s it was reconfigured to meet with the classic motte and bailey design.
In 1088, William I de Warenne was made Earl of Surrey for his loyalty to William Rufus (King William II of England). His tenure of Earl of Surrey was short lived, he was killed later in 1088 at the first siege of Pevensey Castle. He was succeeded by his son, William II de Warenne. It was during his earldom that the Cluniac priory at Castle Acre was began.
William II de Warenne was succeeded by his son, William III de Warenne, in 1138 during a period of civil war known as the Anarchy. As a result of the conflict, William III increased the height of the ramparts of the castle, surmounted them with stone walls and altered the design of what had been until then more of domestic hall or house on the motte to a classic Norman tower keep. It has also been suggested it was William III that was responsible for the planned layout for the Norman town and the defences that surrounded it which survive to this very day.
When William III was killed on crusade in 1148, he left no male heir and was succeeded by his daughter Isabel. Her two husbands would go on to be the 4th and 5th Earls of Surrey. Of her two husbands, the second, Hamelin Plantagenet, is particularly notable as he was the half-brother of King Henry II, of whom he was a strong supporter. It is most likely that he was the one that built the towns two gatehouses. It was also during Hamelin’s earldom that the tower keep was completed.
They castle at Castle Acre would continue in the family until 1558 by which time it was reported as being in a ruinous condition. After this the castle passed between several different owners and underwent no serious alterations or repairs.
Castle Acre Castle has a high motte, with two baileys, one large outer bailey to the south of the motte and one small bailey to the east. All of the earthworks are surrounded by ramparts surmounted by stone walls with ditches. The motte contains the remains of the keep which was originally a domestic hall or house.
Castle Acre Castle is now managed by English Heritage and access to the sight is free during reasonable hours.