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.
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.
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.
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.
Upnor Castle is an artillery fort located in the village of Upnor in Kent. Constructed between 1559 – 1567, it was constructed to a design by Sir Richard Lee to defend the Royal Navy dockyard at Chatham and ships anchored in the Medway. The castle was constructed on the orders of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) and consisted of a main block, water bastion and river frontage.
In 1599 – 1601, the castle was remodelled. Two riverside towers were rebuilt, a gatehouse, moat and curtain wall were added. The castle is constructed of ragstone faced with course ashlar blocks. Some red bricks were also used.
In June 1667, a Dutch squadron under the command of Michiel de Ruyter mounted a raid on the Medway, capturing two ships and burning others at anchor at Chatham. This defeat, was one of the worst in Royal Navy history and showed how inadequate the Medway defences were, including Upnor Castle. Though it should be noted that Upnor Castle had been neglected of investment, but acquitted itself better than some of the other Medway defences.
After the Dutch attack, the castle was retired from service as new and more advanced forts were built to protect the dockyard. Instead the castle was was used as a store and magazine. Works to the castle to make it fit for this purpose were undertaken, including the main building of the castle which had to be heightened and its floors reinforced.
In 1827, the castle ceased being used as a store and magazine, instead it was used as a ordnance laboratory. Later, in 1891, the castle came under the control of the Admiralty, ending the relationship where the Admiralty had managed the site and the War Office had funded it.
After the First World War (1914 – 1918), the castle became a Royal Naval armaments depot. During this time, weapons and explosives were tested at the castle. From the 1920s onward, the castle was a museum, though during the Second World War (1939 – 1945) the castle was still in use as part of the Magazine Establishment, with the castle being bombed in 1941.
After the war in 1945, the castle was opened to the public as a departmental museum by the Admiralty. The castle was restored at this time.
Today, the castle is managed by Medway Council and is open to the public.
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.
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.