Eye Castle, Suffolk…

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.

Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle
Eye Castle

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

 

 

 

 

 

Pevensey Castle, East Sussex…

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.

Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, North Tower and Gatehouse
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle, Roman Outer Bailey Wall
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle Keep Remnants
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey Curtain Wall and Towers
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey
Pevensey Castle, Inner Bailey

 

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

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

Farnham Castle, Surrey…

Farnham Castle in the Surrey town of Farnham was built in 1138 on the orders of Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. The castle would be the home of the Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years.

The original castle consisted of a great tower or keep with a motte and bailey (fortified enclosure). This keep had walls some three meters thick, the base of which can be seen at the castle to this day as well as an associated well.

The castle motte was constructed around the base of the keep, with it being formed out of chalk and clay. The likely reason the keep was constructed in this way with the motte being added later may be to provide defence against mining and attacks from battering rams. The keep was probably three to four storeys in height above ground.

At the same time that Farnham was built, Henry also had castles constructed at Downton, Merdon, Waltham and Taunton, though it has been suggested construction on these castles started earlier.

After the Anarchy (1134-1154), a period of civil war where the English throne was under dispute between Bishop Henry’s brother, King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, Henry II, Matilda’s son who had inherited the crown after Stephen’s death in 1154, ordered a large number of castles to be destroyed. It is thought that the first keep at Farnham is one of the castle’s he ordered destroyed.

Sometime after the keep was destroyed, work was started on a new shell keep, which can be seen at the castle to this day. The exact date that construction of this new keep started isn’t known, however, it was definitely in existence by the time Bishop Peter de Roches (1205-1230) started his accounts in 1208.

The shell keep is unusual in that it was constructed around the base of the motte and not on top of the motte such as at other castle like Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.  The keep also had five towers around its base circumference, with only the gatehouse retaining its original height. Though it was altered on several occasions. There are also remains of a drawbridge pit and other remnants of castle defences.

In the 13th Century, the keep contained minimal buildings, with buildings for the garrison, including weapons stores, lodgings and a well. Over the coming centuries building work took place, with buildings being added to the castle.

The castle was the official residence of Henry Beaufort who was Bishop of Winchester in the 15th Century (1404-1447). Henry is famous as he was the one to have oversaw the trial of Joan of Arc, the heroine of France, in 1414.

During the English Civil War (1642-1651), the castle was of some strategic importance. For most of the Civil War it was held by Parliamentary forces,  except on brief period in November 1642. It was later retaken by Parliamentary forces, and one if the keeps towers was destroyed to put the keep beyond use. It was further slighted in 1648 to make its defence even more impractical.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the castle was the base of the of an army unit that dealt with developing means of camouflage and deception.

Today, the castle is open to the public daily.

Farnham Castle Shell Keep
Farnham Castle Shell Keep
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Interior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Interior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Exterior
Farnham Castle, Gatehouse Exterior
Farnham Castle, Inside Shell Keep
Farnham Castle, Inside Shell Keep

Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire…

Scarborough Castle in the seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire sits on a headland that overlooks both the South Bay and North Bay of the town. It has a position in the town that gives it unparalleled views that demonstrate its strategic importance.

The occupation of the site the castle sits on dates back to the Iron Age having been the site of a hill fort. It was later the site of a Roman signal station in around 370AD, the foundations of which can be seen to this day. The signal station encompassed a square tower which sat in a courtyard that was square protected by a curtain wall. This enclosure was surrounded by a ditch. There were several of these stations built along the coast of Yorkshire in order to protect the country from Anglo-Saxon raids. They were abandoned in 410AD when the Romans withdrew from Britain.

The next occupation of the castle site would be during, possibly, the Anglo-Saxon period. During this time it is thought a settlement was built. Though the next definite period of occupation is during the Viking period from where the founding of the modern town traces its history. In 966/967 AD two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak lead a raid on Ireland, Wales and England. It was during this raid that Thorgils and Kormak founded what would become the modern town of Scarborough. It is thought the town’s name is derived from Thorgils nickname of ‘Hair Lip’ or ‘Skarthi’ in Viking and the Viking word ‘borg’ which means ‘stronghold’. So stronghold of Thorgils. The history of Scarborough and the Vikings is a mixed one, with Harold Hardrada going on to raid the town in the months prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It should be noted at this point, it has also been suggested in recent years that the roots of modern day Scarborough actually traces its history back to the Anglo-Saxon period.

Scarborough Castle itself was founded in about 1130 by William le Gros, Count of Aumale. William was created Earl of York by King Stephen in 1138. He then set about establishing his control of the region. The first castle was constructed out of wood, as were many castles of the period. William is recorded as enclosing the headland that the castle occupies with a wall and erecting a great tower where the remains of the keep stands today.

In 1154, King Henry II aceeded to the throne. He set about regaining control of all royal castles. Scarborough Castle was built in a royal manor and thus fell into such a category. He took control control of the castle and on his orders in 1159 the reconstruction of the castle in stone began and took about 10 years.

A new town was established beneath the castle. A sum of £650 is recorded as being spent on the castle, this was mostly spent on the construction of the keep. It has been suggested the keep or `great tower` was constructed as a status symbol. No major works next occurred at the castle until the reign of King John. It is known that King John visited the castle and during his reign he spent quite a large sum improving its fortifications as he saw it as a key strategic stronghold in the north. Construction during John’s reign included a new curtain wall and a new hall. An inner bailey was created at this time,  In total, John spent over £2,000 on the castle. More money was spent on Scarborough Castle during John’s reign than any other castle.

After John’s death in 1216, his son Henry III continued to invest in the castle. Henry added a barbican between 1242-1250. The barbican was completed in 1343. The barbican that can be seen at the castle has been much modified since then. Henry never visited the castle and it seems to entered a period of decline toward the end of his reign (1216-1272).

It is recorded that the governors of the castle during this period often acted with imputiny, imposing tolls, seizing goods and generally causing issues for the local population.

In 1265, the castle was put under the stewardship of Prince Edward who would go on to become Edward I. Edward’s reign lasted from 1272 to 1307, during this time he held court at Scarborough Castle on several occasions. Hostages from his campaigns in both Wales and Scotland were imprisoned at the castle..

In 1308, Henry Percy, Baron Percy was occupying the castle. During his tenure at the castle a new brewhouse, bakehouse and and kitchen in the inner bailey were added. Edward II (1307-1327), made Isabella de Vesci the governor of both Bamburgh and Scarborough castles in 1312. During that year, Piers Gaveston the king’s favourite sought sanctuary at the castle when pursued by the Barons who imposed the ordinances of 1311, which sought to restrict the powers of the king (Edward II). The Barons saw Gaveston as the king’s favourite as a threat to their interests. In 1312, he was made governor of the castle by the king. Though his time in the role of governor was short, he was seized at the castle following a short seige. He would later be executed. King Edward responded by revoking the royal status of the town in return for not supporting Gaveston.

The next significant period in the castle’s history was during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).  Scarborough was raided on several occasions, with John Mercer of Scotland leading a raid in 1378. In 1393, with the threat of French invasion growing, a survey was undertaken of the castle’s defences. Henry VI ordered major repairs between 1424 and 1429.

Richard III (1483-1485) was the last monarch to stay at Scarborough Castle in 1484. He was there to prepare a fleet in order to repel a possible invasion by Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. Richard would die the following year.

The next major conflicts at Scarborough occur in the early 16th Century, when both French and Scottish forces attacked the castle. In 1536, a revolt broke out against Henry VIII’s (reigned 1509-1547) religious reforms. The revolt was known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Robert Aske the leader of the rebellion lead an assault in the castle which was unsuccessful. Renovation work was undertaken at the castle in 1537. The governor at the castle was Sir Ralph Eure. He reported that some of its walls had fallen down at this time.

In 1557, the castle was attacked by forces lead by forces loyal to Thomas Wyatt the Younger who lead a rebellion against Mary I. Thomas Stafford lead the attack on the castle, his forces held the castle for three days. Stafford would later be executed for treason.

The next period of major events to effect the castle was during the English Civil War. When the war broke out in 1642, the castle was held by Parliamentary forces under the leadership of Sir Hugh Cholmley. Sir Hugh and his forces would latterly switch sides to the Royalist cause. The fortifications of the castle were enhanced, with a new new gun battery being added.

With Scarborough Castle and the town in the hands of the royalists, Parliament saw Scarborough as a valuable asset that wasn’t under their control.

In 1645, Parliamentary forces attacked the town of Scarborough. It took them three weeks to capture it. Sir Hugh and his forces retreated to the castle where they held out for five months.

The castle came under heavy and sustained bombardment. The bombardment was so intense that half of the keep collapsed as can be evidenced today. The seige was one of the most bloody of the civil war, there was large amounts of hand-to-hand fighting. The leader of the attacking Parliamentary forces, Sir John Meldrum, was killed in heavy fighting near the castle barbican.

On 25th July 1645, with the conditions in the castle having become dire with scurvy being rife, lack of supplies and able men, the castle garrison surrendered. After the seige, the castle was refortified by Parliament. In 1648, the castle garrison under the leadership of Matthew Beyton declared their support for the king as Parliament had failed to pay them. The castle then suffered a second seige during which Parliament regained control of the castle. In total, the castle changed hands seven times during the war. The castle would later be used as a prison during and after the Commonwealth years. The castle was returned to the control of the crown when the monarchy was restored.

One of the most famous people to be imprisoned at the castle was George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). He was held at the castle from April 1665 to September 1666. During the Glorious Revolution that ousted James II (1685-1688) from the throne, the castle was captured by forces loyal to William of Orange. The castle had been in decline prior to its capture and hadn’t been garrisoned.

In 1745, during the Jacobite Rebellion which aimed to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the throne, the castle was refortified. A barracks building was constructed in the walls of King John’s Chamber and new gun batteries added by 1745. In 1748, the Master Gunner’s House was constructed.

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the castle was garrisoned and but saw no action. This garrison remained in place until the middle of the 19th Century.

During the First World War,  on the morning of 16 December 1914, two German warships bombarded the town and castle. The two German ships was also go on to attack Whitby and Hartlepool. During the bombardment, seventeen people were killed with 80 seriously wounded. The castle itself sustained heavy damage with the barracks, keep and curtain wall being badly affected.

The castle became the responsibility of the state in 1920 when the barrack block which had been damaged during the bombardment was demolished.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep