Fotheringhay Castle, Northants…

Fotheringhay Castle in the Northamptonshire village of Fotheringhay is large motte and Bailey castle thought to have been built on the orders of Simon de Senlis, 1st Earl of Northampton, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon in around 1100.

Simon de Senlis died in 1113, leaving his wife Maud free to marry. Henry I (1100-1035), arranged for Maud to marry Prince David of Scotland. As part of this marriage, Prince David, who would later become King David I of Scotland (1124 – 1153), gained control of Fotheringhay Castle as well as other estates in Huntingdonshire.

The ownership of the castle descended through the Scottish royal family until the 12th Century when it was confiscated by King John 1199 – 1216) from Prince David of Scotland, not to be confused with David I.

In 1215, the castle was returned to the control of the Scottish royal family. Shortly after this David of Scotland rebelled against the king, the castle was confiscated by the king. William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke was granted the castle.

In 1218, William Marshal was ordered to return the castle to the control of Prince David. David would go on to die in 1219, and by this time, the castle at Fotheringhay hadn’t been returned to his control.

Alexander II, King of Scotland had a claim to the castle through his family ties with the now deceased Prince David. Henry III’s (1216 – 1272) sister, Joan, was now to marry the king of Scots, and the castle would form part of the dowry for this. In December 1219, Marshal finally handed control of the castle to Henry III.

William II de Forz,  3rd Earl of Albemarle rebelled against the king in 1220. In January 1221, his forces attacked and seized Fotheringhay Castle. Henry III’s forces would go on to seize the castle back for the crown.

Later in 1221, Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent was given custody of the castle on his marriage to king of Scotland’s sister. During the Second Barons War (1264 – 1267), Fotheringhay Castle was taken and held by Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derbyshire between 1264 -1265. Edward II (1307 – 1327), granted the castle to John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond. John would go on to die in 1334. On his death, his grand daughter, Mary de St Pol, the widowed Countess of Pembroke would go on to inherit the castle.

Mary de St Pol died in 1377. King Edward III (1327 – 1377) gave her property to his son, Edmund Langley. In 1385 he was made Duke of York, with Fotheringhay Castle becoming his principal seat or  caput. Around this time a great deal of money was spent in improving the castle.

Edmund Langley died in 1402. Upon his death his estates, including Fotheringhay Castle, passed to his son Edward of Norwich, his eldest son. Edward would go on to be killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Edward didn’t have any children, so his estates passed to his nephew, Richard of York.

Richard of York became 3rd Duke of York, a powerful position and he was married to Cecily Neville of the House of Neville. a powerful family from the north of England. Richard fathered two future kings: Edward IV (1461 – 1470, 1471 – 1483) and Richard III (1483 – 1485). Richard III was also born at Fotheringhay Castle.

In March 1454, Richard of York was made ‘protector and defender of the realm’ whilst Henry VI (1422 -1461, 1470 – 1471) was mentally ill. He held this position until February 1455.

During the Wars of the Roses (1455 – 1485), Richard of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. The castle remained a favourite residence to the family, with Cecily nee Neville entertaining guests there including Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen.

Mary, Queen of Scots spent her final days at Fotheringhay, having been imprisoned at other castles for the last 18 years of her life. Mary was tried and convicted of treason at the castle. Mary was beheaded at the castle on 8th February 1587.

By the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603), the castle was in was in a state of disrepair. By 1635, it was in a ruinous state and was demolished soon afterwards.

Today, the castle’s earthwork and masonry remains are on private land but can be seen from a public footpath that runs nearby during  reasonable daylight hours.


Fotheringhay Castle Motte
Fotheringhay Castle Motte
Fotheringhay Castle Moat
Fotheringhay Castle Moat

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

Booth’s Hill, Cambridgeshire…

Booth’s Hill in the fen-land market town of Ramsey is a small motte and bailey castle that is believed to have been constructed on the orders of Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex during the Anarchy, probably between 1140-1144. During this period Geoffrey took possession of the abbey and billited his soldiers there.

Situated south of Ramsey Abbey, the bailey of the castle measures 95 metres long by 37 metres wide but has now in part been built on. The motte rises five metres above the bottom of its moat. Though, this may not be the original height of the motte as it has been adapted to contain an ice house in later centuries.

In 1144, Geoffrey de Mandeville died from injuries sustained during an attack on Burwell Castle. After his death, Geoffrey’s forces retreated from Booth’s Hill and established a new base of operations at nearby Woodwalton Castle, led by Geoffrey’s illegitimate son, Ernald de Mandeville.

Today, Booth’s Hill is on private land but can be seen from the public footpath that runs alongside.
Booth's Hill, Ramsey

Booth’s Hill, Ramsey

Flitwick Castle, Bedfordshire…

Flitwick Castle in the Bedfordshire town of Flitwick is a motte and bailey castle that was constructed toward the end of the 11th Century. It is thought that the castle was constructed on the orders of William Lovet, who held the manor of Flitwick after the Norman Conquest.

The castle is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and was constructed out of timber, as were many early Norman castles.

Today, earthwork remains are all that are left of this castle. These earthwork remains are located in a public open space know as Temple Hill or Mount Hill.

The remains of the castle can be visited during any reasonable daylight hour.

Flitwick Castle Motte
Flitwick Castle Motte
Flitwick Castle Moat
Flitwick Castle Moat






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

Toot Hill, Hertfordshire…

Toot Hill in the Hertfordshire village of Pirton is a motte and bailey castle thought to have been constructed during the 12th Century, most likely during the Anarchy. Toot Hill’s name is derived from Old English and means look out post.

It has also been suggested that Toot Hill could have been built in the 11th Century on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon complex. Whenever it was built, it was likely to have been one of the de Limesi family who built the castle as they held the manor of Pirton after the Norman conquest of 1066 through to the end of the 12th Century.

As with many other castles of the period, Pirton is likely to have been constructed out of wood and may have had more than one bailey.

Next to Toot Hill, lies the medieval settlement of Pirton. This consists of earthwork remains of enclosures and buildings. The shrunken medieval village is called The Bury. It may have been constructed either before or after the castle was constructed.

Today, the medieval village of Pirton can be viewed from a public footpath across the site during reasonable daylight hours. Toot Hill can also be visited during reasonable daylight hours.

Pirton Toot Hill
Pirton Toot Hill
Pirton Earthworks
Pirton Earthworks

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



Rye Castle (Ypres Tower), East Sussex…

Rye Castle, or Ypres Tower as it is also known, is located in the East Sussex town of Rye. It is not entirely clear when the castle was built. Though it may have been constructed in 1249 as part of the town’s defences against French raids, which were common place at the time as England was at War with France. The castle has also been known as Baddings Tower.

It is thought Peter de Savoy who was granted permission by Henry III to construct a castle at Rye may be behind the construction of the castle. Though it has also been suggested that the castle in fact dates from the 14th Century and was constructed as part of the town’s new defences which were built at that time.

During the medieval period, Rye was an atient town of the cinque ports on the south coast of England who were responsible for providing ships to the king in order to defend the country. In return the towns received many freedoms of self government. During the 14th Century, Edward III granted permission for the defences of Rye to be upgraded. A new curtain wall for the town was built, and Rye Castle formed part of these new defences, and the castle may alternatively date from this period as mentioned. Once these new defences were complete Rye became a full cinque port rather than an antient town.

Rye was attacked during the period on many occasions, but by the end of the 14th Century the castle was no longer used to defend the town. Over the course of about 60 years until 1430, the castle was used as a prison and as the town hall. In 1430, the castle was sold to Jean de Ypres, which is where the castle gets its alternative name from – Ypres Tower.

In the early 16th Century, the local council purchased the tower back and used it as a prison. Over the next 500 or so years, the defences at Rye were improved or decommissioned depending on the threat from the continent. The castle was also continually used as a prison until 1865, when it was decided it should only be used for short-term confinement. This use was discontinued in 1891.

The castle was also partially used as a soup kitchen from 1870 until 1895, it also functioned as the town mortuary with this use continuing until 1959 (the mortuary was based in the castle basement)..

In 1954, the castle opened to the public as a museum with exhibits on the ground and first floors.

Today, the castle still houses part of the museum and is open to the public.

Rye Castle
Rye Castle

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