Hedingham Castle, Essex

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.

Hedingham Castle Keep
Hedingham Castle Keep
Romanesque Arches, Hedingham Castle
Romanesque Arches, Hedingham Castle
Norman Arch, Hedingham Castle
Norman Arch, Hedingham Castle

Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk…

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.

 

 

Oxburgh Hall
Oxburgh Hall
Oxburgh Hall Gatehouse
Oxburgh Hall Gatehouse
Oxburgh Hall Gatehouse
Oxburgh Hall Gatehouse

The Tolhouse, Norfolk…

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.

 

The Tolhouse
The Tolhouse

Longthorpe Tower, Cambridgeshire…

Longthorpe Tower is located in the Longthorpe suburb of Peterborough. Built around 1290 – 1300, the tower was added to a house already in existence on the orders of Robert Thorpe. The buildings consisted of the tower, the cross-wing which was two storeys tall, the great hall, and the service rooms and kitchen.

Built for symbolic and as well for defensive purposes, the tower has three floors, each with their own use. The tower is accessed by a set of wooden stairs and a doorway that would have originally been a window on the first floor. With the original entrance to the tower being blocked up. This first floor also contains one of the finest sets of medieval wall paintings in northern Europe.

Today, the tower is managed by English Heritage, check for opening times.

Longthorpe Tower
Longthorpe Tower
Longthorpe Tower Painting
Longthorpe Tower Painting
Longthorpe Tower Painting
Longthorpe Tower Painting

Eye Castle, Suffolk…

Eye Castle is a motte and bailey castle located in the Suffolk market town of Eye. Constructed on the orders of William Malet and finished by his son, Robert, the castle was constructed between 1066 – 1071 and was the caput (administrative centre) for the estate known as the Honour of Eye. The first castle was constructed out of wood.

In 1102, Robert Malet’s estates were confiscated by Henry I (1100 – 1135) this was due to Robert Malet’s support for Robert Curthouse’s claim to the English throne. Henry I granted the castle to Stephen de Blois who would go on to be crowned King Stephen (1135 – 1154).

The castle was next granted to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II (1154 -1189) in 1156. It is most likely that it was Thomas Becket that was responsible for construction of the stone castle. After Beckets murder in 1170, the castle returned to the control of the crown.

In 1173, the the castle was sacked by the forces Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, who had revolted against the rule of Henry II in cahoots Henry’s son, also called Henry (or Henry the Young King).

The crown would retain ownership of the castle for the rest of the 12th Century, with repairs and improvements being made during this time. Henry III (1216 – 1272) would go on to grant the castle to his younger brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Edmund, Richards son, would go on to inherit the castle.

During the Second Barons War (1264 – 1267), the castle was sacked for a second time. The castle would go on to be granted to the de Uffords, Earls of Suffolk in 1337 and the de la Poles in 1381. By this time the castle was said to have been ‘worthless’.

By the 16th Century, very little of the castle was still standing apart from some walls and a tower. In 1592, a windmill was erected on the top of the motte. A mill was in existence on the motte until 1844.

In 1844, a folly was built on top of the motte known as Kerrison’s Folly. This building resembled a ‘mock keep’. This was damaged in 1965 and 1979 and today is in a state of ruin.

In recent years, a viewing platform has been added to the top of the motte and work has been carried out to renew and revamp the site of the castle.

Today, the castle is open during reasonable daylight hours between Easter and the end of October. During winter the castle is only open at weekends during reasonable daylight hours.

Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle
Eye Castle

Hertford Castle, Hertfordshire…

Hertford Castle is located in the county town of Hertfordshire, Hertford, and is built on the site of earlier Anglo-Saxon ‘burh’ or ‘burgh’. This earlier fortification had been built on the orders of Edward the Elder, Alfred the Great’s son, around the year 911.

The castle itself was constructed on the orders Peter de Valoignes, High Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire. Its design was of the typical motte and Bailey design and was constructed soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 to provide part of a ring of castles the were constructed to defend London.

During the reign of Henry II (1154 – 1189), the castle was, more or less, totally rebuilt in the period period 1170-1174. Curtain walls in stone, gatehouses and other fortifications were all added as well as well as royal apartments.

In 1184, Robert de Valoignes died leaving no heirs, thus the crown took back ownership of the castle. The castle was further strengthened during the reign of Richard I (1189 – 1199) on the orders his regent, William Longchamp.

The castle was claimed by Robert FitzWalter, Robert de Valoignes’s son-in-law and who would go on to be one of the ringleaders of the First Barons War and as a surety of Magna Carta. Robert seized the castle and installed his own troops and tenants.

Robert would go on to lose the castle when it was seized by King John (1199 – 1216), though he would go on to be appointed the castle’s governor.  The castle would go on to be seized back by King John in 1211 as Robert was disloyal to John and fled to France.

During the First Barons War (1215 – 1217) the castle was besieged by the forces of Prince Louis of France, who had invaded England on the invitation the rebel barons. After a month under siege, the castle’s governor, Walter de Godarvil, was forced to surrender the castle and the town of Hertford to the French.

After the war was over and the French had left, the castle’s use as a fortress became secondary and it was used as a royal residence. Edward I (1272 -1307) gave the castle to his second wife, Margaret.

During the reign of Edward II (1307 – 1327), in 1308, six knights Templar were held at the castle as political prisoners. The king would also visit the castle on several occasions during his reign, including in 1310 and 1312.

Edward’s wife and widow, Isabella, would make the castle her main residence between 1337 -1358. During the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) the castle was used to hold important prisoners, those held there included King David of Scotland and his wife Joan between 1346 – 1357 and King John of France in 1359, who was held there for four months.

The next notable occupier of the castle was John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III (1327 – 1377) who was granted the castle in 1360. He ordered the castle to be repaired and improved as he used it as his main residence when he wasn’t overseas.

John died in 1399. Upon his death, Richard II (1377 – 1399) seized all Lacastrian estates, including Hertford Castle, where he installed his new wife, Princess Isabella.

From this point onward, the castle would continue in Royal hands. Henry IV (1399 -1413) would visit the castle at numerous times between 1406 – 1413. Henry V (1413 – 1422) with his wife, Catherine deep Valois, went on to visit the castle in 1421, and it was at Hertford Castle that Catherine would go on to make her home following her husband’s death in 1422. She also raised the future king, Henry VI (1422 -1461) there.

In 1445, Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou, granting her the castle. With the accession of Edward IV (1461 – 1470 and 1471 – 1483) to the throne, he granted his wife Elizabeth Woodville the castle. At this time building works were undertaken at the castle.

During the reign of Richard III (1483 – 1485), the castle was granted to the Duke of Buckingham. Following the accession of Henry VII (1485 – 1509), Henry conferred the castle to his wife, though they spent little time there, visiting the castle twice, once in 1489 and in 1498.

Both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth (later to be Queens Mary and Elizabeth), would go on to stay at the castle during the 1530, and with their father, Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), at the castle in the 1540s. He also spent considerable sums transforming the castle from a fortress to a proper royal residence, including the impressive Tudor gatehouse that stands to this day.

Edward VI (1547 – 1553), granted the castle to his sister, the future Queen Mary. During her reign (1553 -1558) Protestant martyrs were held at the castle. Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) would also stay at the castle during her reign, including once for 16 days in 1561.

From the reign of James I (1603 – 1625), the castle would cease to be a royal residence. During the reign of Charles I (1625 – 1649) the castle was granted to the Cecil family. The cecils leased the castle to multiples of tenants. During this time, the castle’s fabric would deteriorate, though it was repaired on several occasions. Uses for the building included a college and a dispensary.

In 1911, the corporation of Hertford leased the only remaining part of the castle, the gatehouse, to house its offices and the grounds of the castle to became a public park. In the 1930s another wing was added to the gatehouse. Subsequently, what was left of the castle was given to the town by the descendants of the Cecil family.

Today the grounds of the castle are open as a public park and can be visited during any reasonable daylight hour.

 

Hertford Castle Motte
Hertford Castle Motte
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall

Caister Castle, Norfolk…

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.

Check the Web for opening times.

 

Caister Castle Tower
Caister Castle Tower
Caister Castle Tower and Curtain Wall
Caister Castle Tower and Curtain Wall
Caister Castle Curtain Wall and Moat
Caister Castle Curtain Wall and Moat

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex…

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is located near the town of Robertsbridge. The castle was began in 1385 on the orders of Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a knight who had fought in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) in service to Edward III (1327-1377). It is not known when the castle was completed, though it is thought to have been by the early 1390s.

As with many later castles, Bodiam was built to a quadrangular plan, or as it is sometimes known as a courtyard castle, with its various buildings built around a courtyard and having no central keep.

Bodiam Castle was constructed during a time of war, and it is thought it may have been intended to form part of the south coast’s defences against French raids. It has also been suggested, that Bodiam’s design and construction are a reflection of a period where castles are becoming more about providing a home for their owners, rather than about defence.

After the death of Sir Edward in 1393, the castle would pass dwon through several generations of the Dalyngrigge. In 1470, the castle passed to the Lewknor family. Sir Thomas Lewknor supported the Lancastrian cause during the War of the Roses (1455-1487).

Due to his support for the Lancastrian cause, Bodiam was confiscated on the orders of Richard III in 1483, who acceded the thrown earlier that year.  The castle at Bodiam would later be restored to the Lewknor family, after Richard’s death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry Tudor (Henry VII – 1485-1509) acceeding the throne of England.

After the castle was returned to the Lewknor family, over the next forty or so years the castle would pass down several generations of the family before being sold.

By the time of the English Civil War (1642-1651), the castle was in the ownership of John Tufton, Earl of Thanet. The castle would see no action during the civil war. After the War, John sold the castle to Nathaniel Powell.

As with many castle during and after the civil war, Bodiam was ordered to be slighted. Bodiam escaped the fate of many other castles of being put beyond use at this time, instead, several of the defence features were removed instead.

The castle would pass down through several generations of the Powell family, again, before being sold. The castle would pass between the ownership of several different families. By 1829, Jack Fuller was the owner of the castle. During his ownership repairs to the castle were began. The castle was later sold to Lord Ashcombe and then Lord Curzon, both of whom undertook repairs to the castle.

In 1925, Lord Curzon bequeathed Bodiam Castle to the National Trust. After the trust took ownership, it continued the restoration of the castle.

Today, the castle is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle

 

 

Pevensey Castle, East Sussex…

Pevensey Castle in the village of Pevensey in East Sussex began life as a Roman shore fort. The shore fort was constructed in the late 3rd Century to help protect Roman Britain from Anglo-Saxon raids. The fort formed part of a series of forts the Romans built in Britain around this time. The roman name for the fort was Anderitum.

The fort was abandoned in about 410 when the Romans left Britain. From then on until the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, the fort seems to have fallen into decline, with it being used by the local populas as a settlement. The walls of the Roman fort would go on to be used as the walls of the outer bailey of the later castle and can still be seen at the castle to this day.

In September 1066, it was at Pevensey that William, Duke of Normandy, later William I, King of England, landed with his forces to conquer England. It was also at Pevensey that William constructed his first castle in England. The first castle was constructed out of wood, and was built within the much earlier walls of the Roman shore fort. It was from Pevensey that William left to confront King Harold II, who reigned January to October 1066, at the Battle of Hastings.

After William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings, he granted Pevensey to his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain. Robert had fought with William at the Battle of Hastings and was granted many manors in England due to his loyal service. It is thought that it was Robert who started the refortitification of Pevensey. Robert built several other castles in England including Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire and Tremanton in Cornwall.

At this time, the Roman walls that would form the walls of the outer castle bailey were repaired. The earlier fortification that William had constructed was made permanent, with it becoming the inner bailey of the new castle.

In 1087, William I died leaving the throne to his son William II (also known as William Rufus – 1087-1100). During the rebellion of 1088, Pevensey Castle was attacked by William’s forces as it was held by Robert of Mortain who supported William’s brother’s, Robert Curthose who had been left the duchy of Normandy by his father, claim to the English throne.

After a six week seige, the castle garrison surrendered as they were running short of provisions. Robert, Count of Mortain was allowed to keep the castle by the king, though he had to pledge an oath to William.

After Robert’s death in 1090, the castle passed to his son William, who became Count of Mortain and took possession of Pevensey. In 1104, the castle was taken back by the crown, with as well as other lands William owned in England. Henry I (1100-1135) was now the king, and granted Pevensey Castle to the de L’Aigle family who held the castle until the Anarchy.

In the 1140s Pevensey Castle was granted by King Stephen to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. In 1147, King Stephen besieged the castle after Gilbert had declared his support for the Empress Matilda. King Stephen’s forces weren’t able to take the castle by force. Instead, it took the garrison running out of supplies to bring the castle to submission.

After the seige, the ownership of the castle was taken on by the crown. It was held by King Stephen’s son, Eustace, until his death in 1153. After King Stephen’s death in 1154, Henry II (1154-1189), returned control of the castle to the de L’Aigle family.

During this period of ownership, substantial rebuilding of the castle in stone was undertaken. It is thought that the keep may date from this time, though no exact date for the construction of it is known. The keep may in fact date from an earlier period.

In the first half of of the 13th Century, the ownership of the castle would pass between the crown and several different families.

During the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John (1199-1216), had the castle slighted in order to ensure that the castle didn’t fall into the hands of the forces of Prince Louis of France who had invaded on the invitation of the said barons to claim the English throne.

In 1246, the Henry III (1216-1272), granted Pevensey to Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle. It is most likely that during Peter’s tenure at the castle that much of the inner bailey that can be seen today at the site was constructed. This inner bailey takes the form of an enclosure castle.

Duing the Second Barons War (1264-1267), the castle provided shelter to the forces of the king in who had been defeated at the Battle of Lewes in May 1264. Simon de Montfort’s (the Earl of Leicester) forces besieged the the castle but were not able to take it. 

After the seige, the castle would remain in the hands of the crown for most of the following century. In 1372, the castle was granted to John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III of England (1327-1377).

In 1399, the constable of the castle was Sir John Pelham. He was a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke (John of Gaunts son), later to become Henry IV (1399-1413). Due to his support for Henry, Richard II’s (1377-1399) forces besieged the castle.

Sir John had gone to fight with Henry and had left the castle under the control of his wife, Joan. Ultimately, the seige was unsuccessful and Henry Bolingbroke seized the English throne. For his loyal service to Henry, Sir John was granted estates in Sussex as well as Pevensey Castle.

In 1415, King James I of Scotland (1406-1437) was held at the castle on the orders of Henry V (1413-1422). James had been captured by pirates while travelling to France in 1406. Out of his 18 years of captivity, he was held at Pevensey for one year.

Over the next century, the castle declined so that by about 1500 it had become ruinous and it was abandoned.

During the Tudor periodin a gun emplacement was built at the castle, though no major structural changes were made to it.

Over the next centuries the castle passed between the ownership of various different families. In 1925, the Duke of Devonshire gifted the castle to the state. The ruins were consolidated at this time.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the castle was used as a command and control centre and a radio direction centre. It was used by the British, Canadians and the Americans. There were modifications made at this time, including the addition of pillboxes, machine gun emplacents and others types fortification.

At the end of the war, the castle was returned to use as a tourist attraction and today is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey

 

Hastings Castle, East Sussex…

Hastings Castle is located in the East Sussex town of Hastings in East Sussex. It sits high on a rocky promontory, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area and offering clear strategic advantages. This promontory had been used during the Iron Age as a hillfort, with some of its earthworks being reutilised in the later castle.

Built soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 began (before the Battle of Hastings) on the orders of William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087), the castle was one of the three fortifications that William first ordered to be constructed. With the others being at Pevensey and Dover.

The castle at Hastings was initially constructed out of wood and conformed to a traditional motte and bailey design. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William entrusted the castle to Humphrey de Tilleul. Humphrey returned to Normandy in 1069 and William granted the castle to Robert, Count of Eu.

In 1070, William ordered the castle to be rebuilt in stone. It is during this rebuilding period that Robert founded the collegiate Church of St Mary’s within the castle walls, though there may have been ecclesiastical uses of the site during the Anglo-Saxon period.

During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), further improvements were made to the castle, including the construction of a stone tower keep.

However, during the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John ordered the castle to be slighted in order to prevent Prince Louis of France, who had invaded England on invitation of the barons in order to seize the English throne from King John, from capturing the castle.

During the reign of John’s son, Henry III (1216-1272), Hastings Castle was refortified. Work began in 1220 to this end.

Over the course of the next couple of hundred years, the headland the castle sat on suffered greatly from erosion due to severe storms. The castle was also attacked on several occasions by the French.

These environmental effects saw much of the castle fall into the sea, and coupled with the castle being attacked , the castle gradually declined. In the 16th Century, the final death knell came to the castle when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The collegiate chapel closed and the land seized by the crown.

The land was sold to local landowners and used for farming. The ruins of the castle gradually became overgrown and lost until 1824 when it was rediscovered, excavated and some sections of wall rebuilt. The castle would henceforth function as a tourist attraction for the town.

During World War II, the castle was damaged by bombing. In 1951, the castle was purchased by the local council and continues to this day to be a tourist attraction.

The castle is open to the public.

Hastings Castle Motte
Hastings Castle Motte
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle