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.
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.
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.
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.
Pevensey Castle in the village of Pevensey in East Sussex began life as a Roman shore fort. The shore fort was constructed in the late 3rd Century to help protect Roman Britain from Anglo-Saxon raids. The fort formed part of a series of forts the Romans built in Britain around this time. The roman name for the fort was Anderitum.
The fort was abandoned in about 410 when the Romans left Britain. From then on until the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, the fort seems to have fallen into decline, with it being used by the local populas as a settlement. The walls of the Roman fort would go on to be used as the walls of the outer bailey of the later castle and can still be seen at the castle to this day.
In September 1066, it was at Pevensey that William, Duke of Normandy, later William I, King of England, landed with his forces to conquer England. It was also at Pevensey that William constructed his first castle in England. The first castle was constructed out of wood, and was built within the much earlier walls of the Roman shore fort. It was from Pevensey that William left to confront King Harold II, who reigned January to October 1066, at the Battle of Hastings.
After William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings, he granted Pevensey to his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain. Robert had fought with William at the Battle of Hastings and was granted many manors in England due to his loyal service. It is thought that it was Robert who started the refortitification of Pevensey. Robert built several other castles in England including Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire and Tremanton in Cornwall.
At this time, the Roman walls that would form the walls of the outer castle bailey were repaired. The earlier fortification that William had constructed was made permanent, with it becoming the inner bailey of the new castle.
In 1087, William I died leaving the throne to his son William II (also known as William Rufus – 1087-1100). During the rebellion of 1088, Pevensey Castle was attacked by William’s forces as it was held by Robert of Mortain who supported William’s brother’s, Robert Curthose who had been left the duchy of Normandy by his father, claim to the English throne.
After a six week seige, the castle garrison surrendered as they were running short of provisions. Robert, Count of Mortain was allowed to keep the castle by the king, though he had to pledge an oath to William.
After Robert’s death in 1090, the castle passed to his son William, who became Count of Mortain and took possession of Pevensey. In 1104, the castle was taken back by the crown, with as well as other lands William owned in England. Henry I (1100-1135) was now the king, and granted Pevensey Castle to the de L’Aigle family who held the castle until the Anarchy.
In the 1140s Pevensey Castle was granted by King Stephen to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. In 1147, King Stephen besieged the castle after Gilbert had declared his support for the Empress Matilda. King Stephen’s forces weren’t able to take the castle by force. Instead, it took the garrison running out of supplies to bring the castle to submission.
After the seige, the ownership of the castle was taken on by the crown. It was held by King Stephen’s son, Eustace, until his death in 1153. After King Stephen’s death in 1154, Henry II (1154-1189), returned control of the castle to the de L’Aigle family.
During this period of ownership, substantial rebuilding of the castle in stone was undertaken. It is thought that the keep may date from this time, though no exact date for the construction of it is known. The keep may in fact date from an earlier period.
In the first half of of the 13th Century, the ownership of the castle would pass between the crown and several different families.
During the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John (1199-1216), had the castle slighted in order to ensure that the castle didn’t fall into the hands of the forces of Prince Louis of France who had invaded on the invitation of the said barons to claim the English throne.
In 1246, the Henry III (1216-1272), granted Pevensey to Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle. It is most likely that during Peter’s tenure at the castle that much of the inner bailey that can be seen today at the site was constructed. This inner bailey takes the form of an enclosure castle.
Duing the Second Barons War (1264-1267), the castle provided shelter to the forces of the king in who had been defeated at the Battle of Lewes in May 1264. Simon de Montfort’s (the Earl of Leicester) forces besieged the the castle but were not able to take it.
After the seige, the castle would remain in the hands of the crown for most of the following century. In 1372, the castle was granted to John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III of England (1327-1377).
In 1399, the constable of the castle was Sir John Pelham. He was a supporter of Henry Bolingbroke (John of Gaunts son), later to become Henry IV (1399-1413). Due to his support for Henry, Richard II’s (1377-1399) forces besieged the castle.
Sir John had gone to fight with Henry and had left the castle under the control of his wife, Joan. Ultimately, the seige was unsuccessful and Henry Bolingbroke seized the English throne. For his loyal service to Henry, Sir John was granted estates in Sussex as well as Pevensey Castle.
In 1415, King James I of Scotland (1406-1437) was held at the castle on the orders of Henry V (1413-1422). James had been captured by pirates while travelling to France in 1406. Out of his 18 years of captivity, he was held at Pevensey for one year.
Over the next century, the castle declined so that by about 1500 it had become ruinous and it was abandoned.
During the Tudor periodin a gun emplacement was built at the castle, though no major structural changes were made to it.
Over the next centuries the castle passed between the ownership of various different families. In 1925, the Duke of Devonshire gifted the castle to the state. The ruins were consolidated at this time.
During the Second World War (1939-1945), the castle was used as a command and control centre and a radio direction centre. It was used by the British, Canadians and the Americans. There were modifications made at this time, including the addition of pillboxes, machine gun emplacents and others types fortification.
At the end of the war, the castle was returned to use as a tourist attraction and today is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Middleton Mount, also known as Middleton Castle, is a motte and bailey castle located in the Norfolk village of Middleton, close to Kings Lynn.
The castle is thought to date from either the 11th or 12th centuries. It is thought that the castle may have been founded by William d’Ecouis who had accompanied William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087) during the Norman invasion of England. Alternatively, it may have been constructed during the Anarchy.
It is thought likely that the site of the castle may have been occupied during the Anglo-Saxon period as a manorial centre.
As with many other castles of the period, Middleton Castle would have been constructed out of wood. Today, the earthwork remains of the castle include the large mound or motte, surrounded by a ditch. The remnants of the bailey of the castle lies, including part of its ditch, to the east of the motte.
The castle is open to the public and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.
Hastings Castle is located in the East Sussex town of Hastings in East Sussex. It sits high on a rocky promontory, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area and offering clear strategic advantages. This promontory had been used during the Iron Age as a hillfort, with some of its earthworks being reutilised in the later castle.
Built soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 began (before the Battle of Hastings) on the orders of William I (the Conqueror – 1066-1087), the castle was one of the three fortifications that William first ordered to be constructed. With the others being at Pevensey and Dover.
The castle at Hastings was initially constructed out of wood and conformed to a traditional motte and bailey design. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William entrusted the castle to Humphrey de Tilleul. Humphrey returned to Normandy in 1069 and William granted the castle to Robert, Count of Eu.
In 1070, William ordered the castle to be rebuilt in stone. It is during this rebuilding period that Robert founded the collegiate Church of St Mary’s within the castle walls, though there may have been ecclesiastical uses of the site during the Anglo-Saxon period.
During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), further improvements were made to the castle, including the construction of a stone tower keep.
However, during the First Barons War (1215-1217), King John ordered the castle to be slighted in order to prevent Prince Louis of France, who had invaded England on invitation of the barons in order to seize the English throne from King John, from capturing the castle.
During the reign of John’s son, Henry III (1216-1272), Hastings Castle was refortified. Work began in 1220 to this end.
Over the course of the next couple of hundred years, the headland the castle sat on suffered greatly from erosion due to severe storms. The castle was also attacked on several occasions by the French.
These environmental effects saw much of the castle fall into the sea, and coupled with the castle being attacked , the castle gradually declined. In the 16th Century, the final death knell came to the castle when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The collegiate chapel closed and the land seized by the crown.
The land was sold to local landowners and used for farming. The ruins of the castle gradually became overgrown and lost until 1824 when it was rediscovered, excavated and some sections of wall rebuilt. The castle would henceforth function as a tourist attraction for the town.
During World War II, the castle was damaged by bombing. In 1951, the castle was purchased by the local council and continues to this day to be a tourist attraction.
St Leonard’s Tower is located in the Kent town of West Malling and takes its name from a chapel that stood nearby.
It is not clear who built the tower, it is thought that it was either constructed by Bishop Gundulf between 1077 and 1108, or by Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Odo was the half brother of William I (the Conqueror) and held lands in West Malling. Odo was also Earl of Kent between 1067 and 1088.
Thought to have been constructed as a tower keep, the exact function of the building has also attracted some debate. It has been suggested that the tower is in fact the tower of the former St Leonard’s chapel that stood nearby.
St Leonard’s Tower is thought to stand to very nearly its original height to this very day. The tower originally had three floors, with two floors above the basement and the original entrance being on the first floor would have been accessed via a wooden staircase, as was common with tower keeps of the period. A later entrance was added at basement level.
Today St Leonard’s Tower is managed by English Heritage and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.
Great Yarmouth Castle was constructed sometime during the medieval period, probably during the 12th Century. It was constructed out of stone and had four turrets and was likely a tower keep.
From the mid 16th Century, the castle was given to the town and was used as a gaol. During this period, it is thought it underwent some repairs on several occasions. By 1620 the castle was being dismantled. First the upper storey was removed, the stone was used in enclosing a gun platform, known as the Mount. In 1621, the rest of the castle was dismantled.
Great Yarmouth Castle is likely to have had a close association with the town’s wall. Though the castle is likely to have predated the construction of the town wall by over a century, the two would have no doubt been crucial had the town ever been attacked.
The town was granted permission in 1261 by Henry III to construct the town wall, though construction didn’t begin until 1284, during the reign of Edward I. It took until the end of the following century for the wall to be completed.
The town wall enclosed an area between the river rivers Bure and Yare. Constructed out of flint, brick, basal stone, and Caen stone from France, the wall enclosed an area of 538,232 square metres. A moat was also dug around the wall to offer an extra level of protection. The wall had 10 gates and 16 towers.
During the 16th Century, in the reign of Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk was instructed by the king to put the town’s defences into order. At this time the wall was improved, a rampart was constructed against the internal side of the wall and was continually improved during the mid-to-late 16th Century, ultimately being completed in 1587. Gun placements were also added at this time.
During the Civil War (1642-1651), the town was refortified. At this time, the moat was re-excavated. During the conflict, Yarmouth had declared for Parliament and the towers and gatehouses along the wall were used to house prisoners.
By the late 18th Century, the wall had ceased any defensive use. The moat had also been filled in.
Today, nothing of Great Yarmouth Castle can be evidenced, though large stone foundations and a floor were found during building work in the mid 1960s which are thought to be associated with the castle.
Large sections of Great Yarmouth Town Wall and 11 of its towers survive to this day and can be seen in the town.
Lewes Castle in the East Sussex town of Lewes was began in 1069 on the orders of William de Warenne I, Earl of Surrey. William de Warenne also held other estates such as at Castle Acre in Norfolk, where he also built a castle (Castle Acre Castle), in Surrey and in Yorkshire.
The first castle at Lewes is thought to have been constructed out of wood, as were many other castles during the period and it followed a traditional motte and bailey design. The first motte at to be built at Lewes is called Brack Mount and can be observed across the bailey from a second higher that was added some 30 years later. Having two mottes makes Lewes Castle fairly unique, the only other castle in the England to have two mottes is Lincoln Castle in Lincolnshire.
Once the second motte had been constructed, a shell keep was constructed on top of it built out of flint and the bailey between the two mottes was enclosed by a curtain wall also constructed out of flint and a gatehouse was added. A dry motte was also constructed around the castle bailey.
In the 13th and 14th Centuries, the castle’s defences were improved. Some new towers and a barbican were added at the castle. In 1264, during the Second Barons War (1264-1267), some of the king’s knights stayed at the castle the night before the Battle of Lewes at the castle. The Battle of Lewes was one of the major battles during the War, and during it both the king, Henry III, and his son, Edward, were captured by the barons.
In 1347, the last of the Earls de Warenne died, the castle then passed by marriage to Richard Fitalan, Earl of Arundel.
Lewes Castle was also attacked during the Peasants Revolt of 1381.
Today, the castle is owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society and is open to the public.