Baconsthorpe Castle in Norfolk was built in the 15th Century by the Heydon family. Not so much a castle but a fortified manor house, it reflects the style of the period where fortification was becoming less important for defence but critical as a status symbol.
The castle was started in about 1460 and was completed by about 1486 on the orders of John Heydon and later Sir Henry Heydon. The history of Baconsthorpe Castle very much mirrors that of its owners, being improved as their wealth increased and then gradually falling into a ruinous state as their fortunes declined.
The inner castle was comprised of two courts, the service court which contained servant accommodation, a brewhouse, stables and a bakehouse, all of which serviced the second court which was the main house. The service court was located on the eastern side of the inner castle and the main house on the western side.
Initially the Heydons had derived much of their wealth from the legal profession but they then successfully diversified into the wool industry from which they accumulated serious wealth. An outer gatehouse and a park were added in about 1561. Some of the buildings in the eastern service range were converted to accommodate a wool processing factory. The Heydons would also later add a mere.
The Heydon were not very good at managing their financial affairs and by about 1650 had accumulated large debts. In order to pay some of these debts off, the Heydons pulled down much of Baconsthorpe Castle and sold the material.
The outer gatehouse of the castle was lucky to survive this destruction and was converted into a private home. The gatehouse was given the name of Baconsthorpe Hall and was occupied until 1920.
Baconsthorpe Castle is managed by English Heritage and access to the site is free.