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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Middleton Mount, Norfolk…

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.

Middleton Motte
Middleton Motte
Middleton Motte Ditch
Middleton Motte Ditch

Hastings Castle, East Sussex…

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.

The castle is open to the public.

Hastings Castle Motte
Hastings Castle Motte
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary's Chapel, Hastings Castle
St Mary’s Chapel, Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle

St Leonard’s Tower, Kent…

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.

St Leonard's Tower
St Leonard’s Tower

Lewes Castle (Bray Castle), East Sussex…

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.

Lewes Castle Motte and Shell Keep
Lewes Castle Motte and Shell Keep
Lewes Castle Barbican
Lewes Castle Barbican
Lewes Castle Barbican and Norman Gateway
Lewes Castle Barbican and Gateway

Norwich Castle, Norfolk…

Norwich Castle in the city of Norwich was built on the orders of William I (the conqueror). Some 98 Saxon houses are thought to have been demolished in 1067 to make way for the castle. Originally constructed in wood, the castle was surrounded by dry defensive ditches which were very deep.

The castle was held for the king by Earl Ralf of East Anglia. In 1075, Earl Ralph along with two other Earls plotted against the king.  The king learnt of the plot and Earl Ralph fled to Brittany. His wife remained at the castle and after a three month seige, was allowed to join her husband in Brittany and the the garrison were promised they wouldn’t be harmed.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, Norwich Castle is one of the 48 or 49 castles mentioned.

In 1094, work began on constructing the castle in stone on the orders of King William II (William Rufus). William died in 1100 and it then fell to his brother King Henry I to complete the castle. The castle was finally completed in 1121. The castle didn’t take the form of a normal castle, it was intended as a royal palace. No kings ever lived there permanently, Henry I is the only king known to have stayed at the castle at Christmas 1121.

The keep was constructed out of limestone from Caen in Normandy, France. The design of the castle as a palace was later copied in other castles such as nearby Castle Rising, in Norfolk. The castle originally had flint faced walls at ground level with limestone facing on the upper level.

In 1173-1174, Henry II’s sons and wife lead a revolt against his rule. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, one of the local nobility joined Henry’s sons and wife in the revolt. Along with hundreds of his own men and some Flemish soldiers, he captured Norwich Castle. The castle would later be restored to the crown when the conflict was ended when Henry’s children were reconciled to him.

The castle was used as the county gaol from the 14th Century and buildings were erected on the motte for this purpose. It was used for this purpose until the 1790s when a new prison was constructed around the keep, with the old buildings being demolished to make way for the new prison.

The buildings around the keep became quickly outdated and were pulled down between 1822 and 1827. Between 1834 and 1839, the keep was refaced, this refacing was said to be sympathetic to the original architecture of the castle. This refacing was done with Bath stone.

The castle ‘s life as the county gaol would come to an end in 1883, when it it was purchased by the City of Norwich and converted for use as a museum, which opened in 1894.

Today Norwich Castle still operates as a museum and is open to the public.

Norwich Castle Keep
Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep
Architecture, Norwich Castle Keep