Sherborne Old Castle

It is so called to distinguish it from the ‘new’ castle, a great mansion first built by Sir Walter Raleigh but much enlarged since. Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury, the most magnificent prelate of his age erected the old castle. He lost his influence and possessions for supporting the Empress Matilda against King Stephen, and despite the protests of subsequent bishops, the castle stayed in royal hands for the next two centuries. In 1592, it was leased to Sir Walter Raleigh, who started to modernize the castle before opting to erect its successor nearby. The abandoned castle was reoccupied on behalf of the King during the Civil War. It was stormed by Sir Thomas Fairfax after a two-week siege …

Saltwood Castle

Saltwood Castle is part ruined and part restored and sits upon a hill above the old Clinque Port of Huthe. Henry de Essex, Constable of England and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, is credited with the construction of the castle, at least in its stone form, at some point during the Anarchy. The inner bailey occupies an oval ring work surrounded by a curtain wall of Norman masonry. Archbishop Courtenay added the two square towers, which project from the south curtain, but three odd Norman towers also remain. They project internally like the interval towers of Roman forts, which seem to confirm a date around the mid twelfth century when there was room for experimentation in such matters. The …

Wolvesey Castle

As the capital of the kings of Wessex, who brought the whole of England under their sway in the tenth century, Winchester enjoyed the status of capital long into the Norman period, though eventually the pull of London proved too strong. It is therefore inevitable that William I should have founded a castle here soon after the Norman Conquest. The castle occupied a curiously elongated site on high ground at the western edge of the walled city. It received stone buildings in the twelfth century but much restoration was necessary following the city’s capture by Dauphin Louis in 1216.The early history of the castle is confused because a royal palace with another Norman keep stood near the cathedral. It existed …

Wingfield Manor

At South Wingfield are the stately ruins of a mansion erected by Sir Ralph Cromwell in the 1440s. Lord Cromwell was High Treasurer of England and builder of the grass brick tower at Tattershall Castle. Unlike Tattershall, Wingfield Manor is all of one period and entirely of stone. It follows the late medieval trend for two courtyards, one containing Cromwell’s residential buildings and the other a base court for retainers. This arrangement is often described as a security measure but here the distinction was purely a social one. Neither courtyard can be described as defensive and both are entered by gatehouses that have side arches for pedestrians in addition to the main arch. The flanking turrets cannot make up for …

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of England’s largest, containing thirteen acres within its walls. It has enjoyed favor as a royal residence from Norman times to the present and is the only royal castle to have made the transition to palace. Most monarchs have contributed in some way to its splendor and every century except the eighteenth has left its mark on the fabric. The result is a magnificent but extremely mutilated stronghold. The castle owes its position to William the Conqueror. He chose the elevated site on a chalk cliff above the Thames in 1067 and his earthworks have since dictated the layout of the castle. Although raised on the grand scale, Windsor is a typical motte and bailey fortress, …

Wigmore Castle

According to the Domesday Book, this was one of the strongholds founded by William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford. Soon after the castle was granted to Ralph de Mortimer. Henry II captured the castle from Hugh de Mortimer in 1155, and it was here that Prince Edward obtained refuge following his escape from Hereford Castle in 1265. The most notorious of the line was Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March, who played a leading part in the deposition and murder of Edward II. In concert with his lover, Queen Isabella, Mortimer ruled England for three years until being overthrown by the young Edward III. He died on the gallows at Tyburn and Wigmore was given to the Earl of Salisbury, …

Walmar Castle

Walmar Castle is the most southerly of the three Henrian coastal forts which protected the Downs, that sheltered strait lying between the coast and the Goodwin Sands. It stands a mile from Deal Castle, to which it was originally connected by earthworks, and was built at the same time. Though resembling Deal in principle, it is simpler in design. It consists of a squat cylindrical tower closely surrounded by a lower curtain, the latter projecting outwards in four semi-circular lobes to form a quatrefoil plan. It was a plan shared by Sandown Castle, the northern member of the group and now almost totally destroyed. Walmer Castle stands in its entirety but, in contrast to Deal and most of the other …

Wallingford Castle

The historic town of Wallingford lies within an earth rampart first thrown up in the reign of Alfred the Great or Edward the Elder, as a precaution against Danish attack. Wallingford was once believed to be a Roman town because the rampart encloses a rectangular area and the streets follow a grid pattern. The rampart can still be followed on the three landward sides but there is no evidence of any man-made defenses facing the river. In the Norman period the rampart was heightened, but the town then fell into economic decline so the timber stockades that lined the summit were never replaced in stone. The northeast quarter of the town enclosure became the site of Wallingford Castle. William the …

Upnor Castle

Upnor Castle belongs to the genre of Henrician cosastal forts but is an Elizabethan addition to the chain. It was begun in 1599 to guard the approach to the new dockyard at Chatham, lying two miles away near the estuary of the River Medway. Sir Richard Lee interrupted his work on the fortifications at Berwick-on-Tweed, to come and design this fort, but construction dragged on for eight years. In 1599-1601, Upnor was enlarged but it had to wait until 1667 to face enemy action. In that year, the Dutch, under Admiral de Ruyter, sailed into the Medway and set fire to much of the English fleet. The castle was unable to offer any effective resistance and in the following year …

Trematon Castle

Trematon Castle stands on an eminence rising steeply above the River Lynher, two miles southwest of Saltash and the Tamar estuary. Robert, Count of Mortain and Earl of Cornwall probably founded the castle. It is referred to as his in the Domesday Book. At that time Trematon was a place of some importance whereas now it is scarcely a village. The castle saw action in the Civil War and, earlier, in the course of Kilter’s Insurrection which broke out in Cornwall in 1594. The rebels laid siege to the castle and managed to lure out and capture its defender, Sir Richard Grenville. Trematon is a fine example of a motte and bailey castle. It is even more notable for the …

Tower of London

The Tower of London and Dover Castle were the strongest castles of medieval England. There are those who would put Dover first and London second, but this is a matter of preference. Both castle retain their majesty in spite of extensive later mutilation. It must be admitted that Dover makes the most of its glorious position; whereas the Tower derives no advantages from its site. Squatting on the north bank of the Thames, and now overshadowed by the glass skyscrapers of the City, the grandeur of the complex is not immediately apparent. Nevertheless, its sheer size-eighteen acres-cannot fail to impress and the majestic keep and concentric curtains are visible from all directions. The prime role of the Tower was to …

Tonbridge Castle

Guarding a crossing over the River Medway, the important castle of Tonbridge was founded by Richard Fitz Gilbert. It existed by 1088, when Rufus stormed the castle with the help of a native English army raised to quell the rebellion of Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Despite his involvement in this revolt, Fitz Gilbert retained possession. The castle is an impressive example of a Norman motte and bailey – a layout curiously rare in Kent. On top of the great motte are the lower courses of a round shell keep. The bailey curtain dates from thirteenth century, probably from the time of the earlier Gilbert de Clare or his son, Richard. Owing to later stone robbing, it is now very ruinous …

Tiverton Castle

According to tradition, Richard de Redvers, Earl of Devon, first raised a castle here around 1106, but if so nothing remains of it. Hugh Courtenay built the present stronghold soon after 1300, and the quadrangular plan is very typical of that era but would be unlikely in a Norman castle. We may compare Hugh’s reconstruction of Okehampton Castle, where his work was conditioned by the old motte and bailey layout. Tiverton’s quadrangle was surrounded by a curtain wall, which remains on three sides. There were towers at the corners but only the two southern ones remain. The southeast tower is circular and rather picturesque with its later conical roof; the larger southwest tower is square and ruinous. Windows piercing the …

Tintagel Castle

The legend of King Arthur has made Tintagel a hallowed place. Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing about the time when the castle was in fact founded, chose it as the setting for Arthur’s conception. That is his only link with Tintagel, but it has lasted in the popular imagination. The beauty of the site is no doubt the reason why. This rocky, sea-battered headland is an unusual setting for a medieval castle but a very likely one in which to find an ancient hill fort. It comes as a surprise to discover that no evidence has been found of any fortification before the Norman period. Instead. The headland first became the retreat of Dark Age monks who were drawn to such …

Thornbury Castle

The Thornbury Castle has been described as the last genuine castle, or rather private house with defensive features, ever raised in England. This is probably true if we ignore Scottish border territory. It is testimony to the ambition of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who began building here in 1511. Ten years later, Henry VIII had him executed on a charge of treason. It was alleged that the duke had raised a private army in the Welsh Marches, in defiance of the Tudor laws against such practices, and Thornbury Castle may have been another factor weighing against him. The castle follows the standard quadrangular layout of later medieval times, and is provided with an outer courtyard large enough to house …

Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle posses one of the most splendid of later medieval tower houses. It has justly been described as the finest piece of medieval brickwork in England. Ralph, Lord Cromwell, erected this tower in the years 1434046. Rising over a hundred feet to the top of its corner turrets, with a view stretching from Lincoln Cathedral to Boston Stump, it dominates the surrounding fenland, all the more so because the rest of the castle has perished. There had, in fact, been a castle here since 1231m when Robert de Tattershall obtained a license to crenellate. Weir moats enclose an inner bailey and a concentric platform, which is divided into two outer baileys. Unfortunately, the thirteenth century curtain has been totally …