Burwell Castle dates to the Anarchy and was built by King Stephen on the site of a former Roman villa in 1143. It formed part of a string of castles that were built by the king to protect the region. Other such castles were erected at Lidgate, Rampton, Swavesey and Caxton.
The castle was never completed but it consisted of a small motte, a rectangular earthwork, a gatehouse a curtain wall and moat. It was constructed out of stone and wood.
During the Anarchy, Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, was dispossessed of his lands and rose up in revolt against King Stephen. The earl based himself at nearby Ely from where he attacked Burwell Castle in 1144. It was during this attack that the earl was hit by a crossbow bolt. The attack was unsuccessful and following the battle, the earl retired to Mildenhall where he later died from his injury.
Following Geoffrey de Mandeville’s death, the castle at Burwell was never finished, though it has been suggested that the site remained occupied until the 15th Century and was then abandoned. Substantial earthworks can be seen to the present day.
The castle is on land owned by Burwell Parish Council and is free to visit.