Ely Castle (Cherry Hill), Cambridgeshire…

Ely Castle, otherwise known as Cherry Hill, is a motte and bailey castle believed to be constructed on the orders of William I (1066 – 1087) in order to suppress the resistance led by Hereward the Wake in about 1070.

Once the resistance had been suppressed, Ely Castle was abandoned. During the Anarchy, the castle was refortified by Bishop Nigel, though it was soon captured by King Stephen. In 1143, the castle at Ely was captured by Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex (1140 – 1144) on the behalf of the Empress Matilda.

During the First Barons War (1215-1217), the castle at Ely is believed to have been captured and destroyed in 1216 by Falkes de Breaute, a Anglo-Norman soldier in the employ of King John. Ely with its fortifications was also captured in 1267 during the Second Barons War (1264 – 1267) . Soon after this, it is believed all the fortifications and castle were slighted.

Today, the earthworks of Ely Castle are located in Cherry Hill park. The motte is on private land but can be seen from the park during any reasonable daylight hour.


Ely Cherry Hill, The Motte

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

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

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

Cambridge Castle, Cambridgeshire…

Cambridge Castle in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire was began soon after the Norman conquest on the orders of William I (the Conqueror).  Picot of Cambridge, the Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, undertook the works on William’s orders. It is recorded in the Domesday Book that 27 houses were demolished to make way for the castle.

After his campaign to put down a rebellion in the city of York in 1068, William decided to build the castle in Cambridge to ensure his control of the strategically important old Roman route from London to York, which ran through Cambridge, and to prevent a rebellion by the local populace.

The castle was constructed to a traditional motte and bailey design out of wood. The motte of the castle can still be seen to this day, with the bailey now having disappeared under under nearby buildings. At some point in the 12 Century the castle was rebuilt in stone.

The castle would continue to be held by the crown until 1143, when during the Anarchy, it was attacked by Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was a leading figure in a revolt against the rule of King Stephen. Geoffrey raided Cambridge and temporarily captured the castle. King Stephen launched a counteroffensive and recaptured the castle. As a result, King Stephen constructed a chain of castle to protect Cambridge and control the local area. These castles include Burwell Castle, Lidgate Castle, Rampton Castle, Swavesey Castle and Caxton Castle.

After the Anarchy, Henry II implemented a castleguard system at the castle where nobles were granted lands around the castle in exchange for providing forces to man it. During this period the castle was well maintained. Building works at the castle were undertaken prior to the First Barons War (1215-1217), though these changes didn’t improve the fortifications themselves and instead focused on developing residential buildings.

During the war, the castle at Cambridge fell under the control of the rebel barons, supported by the forces of Prince Louis of France in 1216. The castle at Cambridge was returned to the control of the crown after the war had ended as part of the Treaty of Lambeth between Prince Louis and Henry III.

During the period between the First Baron’s War and the Second Barons War, the castle was maintained to a basic standard. Cambridge Castle came under siege in 1266, during the Second Barons War (1264-1267). The castle successfully held out and was relieved by King Henry’s forces.

After Henry II’s death in 1272, Edward I acceded to the English throne. In 1283, Edward ordered the castle at Cambridge to be rebuilt. It is during this period that extensive building works at Cambridge Castle were undertaken. The layout and orientation of the bailey were altered, with the bailey remodelled to be roughly rectangular in shape and oriented north-south. Other works that were completed during this time include the construction of a curtain wall with towers, a gatehouse with barbican, a great hall, a chapel and a round tower keep on the motte. Though some of the works that were planned were never completed.

From about 1327 onward, the castle steadily began to deteriorate with little monies being spent on its upkeep. By 1441, the castle was in a bad state of repair. Over the next hundred or so years, stone from the castle was removed and used to construct some of the colleges and a chapel in Cambridge. Other stone was taken to build a manor house in a nearby village.

By 1604, the castle was in a poor state with only the gatehouse remaining as the only building occupied.  During the English Civil War in 1643 the castle was refortified by Parliament, with major works being undertaken to strengthen and repair the bailey defences. Bastions and earthworks were constructed, with 15 houses being cleared and a barracks building being constructed on the site of the old great hall. These new defences were slighted in 1647 to put them beyond use.

Over the following centuries, what remained of the castle steadily deteriorated, with some of the structure and earthworks being removed in the late 18th and early in the 19th centuries. The only remaining building was the gatehouse, though this too would be removed too in the the early 1842, having been used as the county goal for much of its life.

Today, only the remnants of some of the earthworks and the motte remain. The motte is on land owned by Cambridgeshire County Council and is open to the public.

Cambridge Castle Motte
Cambridge Castle Motte