Woodwalton Castle, Cambridgeshire…

Woodwalton Castle is a small motte and bailey castle in Cambridgeshire. There have been various suggestions as to when the castle was constructed and to whom it can be attributed. Some have suggested that the castle was began by Ernald de Mandeville, the illegitimate son of Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1144.

Geoffrey de Mandeville had rebelled against King Stephen during a period of civil war known as the Anarchy. On his father’s death in 1144, Ernald was forced to retreat from his base at Ramsey Abbey by King Stephen. He thus needed a new base of operations. It has been suggested that the castle at Woodwalton is the site of this new base.

It also also been suggested that the castle was in fact constructed on the order of the de Bolbec family that held the manor of Woodwalton between 1086 and 1134, or on the order of Ramsey Abbey who having been granted the manor of Woodwalton in 1134 by Walter de Bolbec decided to fortify it. It could also have been constructed on the order of either of the sons of Aubrey de Senlis. Though it seems most likely the castle was constructed during the Anarchy like other castles in the region such as the castles at Burwell, Rampton, Therfield, Walden, etc.

The defences at Woodwalton Castle were carved out of a natural hillock. Originally, the castle would have had low motte at it centre surrounded by a ditch. A roughly circular bailey then surrounded this and this too was encompassed by a second ditch. The construction of the castle would have been of wood and wooden palisades would no doubt have been part of the defences of the castle.

It seems likely that the construction of the castle at Woodwalton was never completed.

Today, the remains of the somewhat denuded earthworks of the castle can be seen at Church End in Woodwalton, about  a quarter of a mile north of the village church. The castle itself is on private land but the earthworks can be observed from a public footpath nearby.

Earthwork Remains, Woodwalton Castle
Earthwork Remains, Woodwalton Castle

Castle Camps Castle, Cambridgeshire..

After the Norman Conquest, William I (William the Conqueror) divided the lands of England up amongst his followers. Aubrey de Vere was given an estate that covered Castle Camps and Nosterfield and several other parishes in Cambridgeshire including Abingdon and Hildersham.

He chose the site at Castle Camps for his castle to function as the administrative centre of his Cambridgeshire estate as it lay half way between Cambridge and his caput (major centre) at Castle Hedingham. The castle would continue to be held by the de Vere family for over 500 years, apart from a couple of brief periods when it was confiscated by the Crown.

The castle was begun about the year 1100 and was of a motte and bailey design built of wood. The motte covers about two acres and is surrounded by a wet moat. Originally there was a small bailey to the north-west of the motte (in which the church now sits). It has been suggested a larger bailey was added to the castle in the late 13th Century.

The estate around the castle consisted of a deer park, fishery and windmill.

It seems around the year 1500 the castle no longer existed on the site in its original form and a house with a large brick tower was recorded as occupying the site of the castle. Several houses would later be built on the motte during different periods.

The castle motte has now been much lowered and is occupied by a farm. You can view the motte, moat and earthworks from a public footpath.

Castle Camps Castle Motte and Moat
Castle Camps Castle Motte and Moat