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.
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.
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.
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.
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.