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

 

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

Caxton Castle (Caxton Moats), Cambridgeshire…

Caxton Castle in Cambridgeshire is also known locally as ‘The Moats’. This interesting site consists of three moated enclosures that have an uncertain date. Pottery finds recovered from the site include Roman, St Neots (AD 900-1200) and 13th Century wares. Signs of Saxon and Norman occupation of the site have also been found.

It has been suggested that the site at Caxton resembles the construction of Burwell Castle near Cambridge and that it was one of King Stephen’s castles that was constructed during a period of civil war known as ‘the Anarchy’.  The layout of the site at Caxton has been compared to Burwell Castle, also in Cambridgeshire, which is known to have built by King Stephen during the Anarchy.

It has also been suggested that the site was the location of the home of the de Scalers family who were given the manor by William I (the Conqueror).

Out of the three enclosures at Caxton, the most significant in stature is located to the north-west of the others and consists of an island that is roughly 75 metres by 45 metres and is surrounded by a moat. The moat measures roughly 18 metres in width and 2.5 metres in depth. The enclosure is oriented east-west. At either end of the island there is a raised area.

The other moated enclosures lie to the south and the east, as well as other earthworks for fishponds, a rabbit warren and other signs of occupation.

Caxton Castle (The Moats) is on private land but is viewable from a public footpath that runs alongside.

Earthworks at Caxton Moats
Earthworks at Caxton Moats
Earthworks at Caxton Moats
Earthworks at Caxton Moats
Earthworks at Caxton Moats
Earthworks at Caxton Moats

Colchester Castle, Essex..

Colchester Castle is the largest stone keep ever built in Britain and is the largest remaining in Europe. It is built on the site of the earlier Roman temple dedicated to Claudius (AD 54-60).

Construction of the castle was began on the order of William the Conqueror and it was designed by Gundulf, Archbishop of Rochester. Building began between 1069 and 1076 under the supervision of Eudo Dapifer, who was later to become the steward of the castle upon its completion. The castle was completed by around 1100, construction had been delayed due to the threat of Viking invasion.

Over the centuries the castle has been used for many purposes, including as a prison and by grain merchants. The castle is now home to a local museum charting the history of the local area.

Colchester Castle.
Colchester Castle.
Colchester Castle.
Colchester Castle.