Guildford Castle, Surrey…

Guildford Castle in Surrey is thought to have been built on the orders of William I (the Conqueror), sometime shortly after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

The early castle would have been constructed out of wood, with a great tower erected on the motte, and a surrounding enclosure or bailey with a wooden palisade and ditch to protect it. The bailey may have been divided into two, with an inner and outer bailey.

Early in the 12th Century, a shell keep was erected on the motte, replacing the earlier wooden structure. In about 1130, the shell keep was partially built over with a great tower being added. Both of these structures were constructed out of Bargate sandstone. It is thought the tower was built to provide accommodation for the king.

Rooms on the first floor included a chapel, a main chamber, a latrine and a wardrobe chamber. Not long afterwards, a second floor was added. New apartments for the king were added to the castle later in the 12th Century in the bailey. Other buildings were also constructed, including a chapel.

The castle was significantly improved during the reign of Henry III. Accommodation for the queen was improved, with a large new windows being added and marble columns. Work continued on improving the castle during Henry’s reign, with new accommodation being added for his son, Edward.

Guildford Castle was mainly a royal residence, but did play part in the several conflicts as a fortress. Most notably during the First Barons War (1215-1217), when the castle was taken without a fight by the forces of the rebel Barons in 1216. It was also used as a point for Edward I to assemble his forces for his foreign campaigns.

During the Second Barons War (1264-1267), there was also no fighting at the castle.

Toward the end of the 14th Century, Guildford Castle had fallen into a state of disrepair. Royalty instead frequented a nearby hunting lodge that was under development from the 1360s. The castle was instead used as the county gaol. This use continued until early in the 16th Century.

Over the next several hundred years, some alterations were made to the castle, though it would eventually become unroofed, some of its grounds used for farming and other uses until 1885 when the Guildford Council purchased the castle.

In 1888, the castle grounds were opened to the public as a park, with the walls and the keep having undergone restoration. Major works were also conducted in 2003-2004 to conserve the keep. It was re-roofed and a new floor was added at first-floor level.

Today, the castle keep is owned by Guildford Borough Council and is open to the public regularly. The castle grounds are open all year.

Guildford Castle Keep
Guildford Castle Keep
Guildford Castle Keep
Guildford Castle Keep
Guildford Castle Keep
Guildford 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