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 …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

St. Mawes Castle

St. Mawes Castle guards the eastern entrance to the estuary known as Carrick Roads. It is the companion of Pendennis and exactly contemporary. These two Henrician coastal forts offer some interesting contrasts. In each a squat round tower is the chief feature, but instead of having a square residential block slapped on in front of it, the St. Mawes tower is elaborated by three attached semi-circular bastions with parapets at a lower level. A distinctive stair turret caps the tower. St. Mawes is unlike Pendennis but like the majority of Henry VIII’s forts in being low lying and thus able to challenge enemy shipping at close quarters. Both castles share Henry’s other fortifications, the rounded merlons designed to deflect cannon …

Southampton Castle

One of the chief ports of medieval England, Southampton preserves a wealth of medieval domestic architecture. Its flourishing Dark Age predecessor was abandoned in favor of the present site in the tenth century, and excavations have shown that this new town had earth and timber defenses from the beginning, no doubt as a defense against the Danes. Over a mile in length, the walled circuit enclosed a roughly rectangular area. It had numerous bastions, mostly semi-circular, and larger towers ar the angles. Today, only the wall survives, along with parts of the north wall and a length near the southeast corner of the circuit. A tour of the wall may conveniently begin at the Bargate, the northern entrance to the …

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle rises serenely from the waters of its urrounding lake. The lake is an artificial one created by damming the River Len. The castle existed in 1139 because, in that year, King Stephen wrested it from Matilda’s supporters. The two islands on which suggest a motte and bailey origin, and the lake itself existed by 1272. In terms of masonry, however, the castle is essentially the work of Edward I, with additions by Henry VIII and much nineteenth century beautification. Around the entrance, the lake decreases to a narrow moat. On the near side of the moat are the ruins of a peculiar barbican, which had three gateways because three roads converged here. The gatehouse is a squat tower, …

Kirby Muxloe Castle

Kirby Muxloe Castle, four miles west of Leicester, is the companion of Ashby Castle, being the work of William, Lord Hastings. Although a license to crenellate was granted in 1474, construction did not commence until October 1480, by which time Ashby was nearing completion. The building accounts, which survive in full, give a total expenditure of 1088 pounds on the incomplete castle. An older manor house occupied the site and some of its foundations are visible in the courtyard. Unlike Ashby, where Lord Hastings utilized existing buildings, Kirby Muxloe was completely rebuilt on quadrangular lines. It is oblong rather than square in plan. Kirby also differs from Ashby in the choice of brick as the main building material, stone being …

Hurst Castle

Its nucleus is one of the coastal forts of Henry VIII, expanded as a result of another invasion scare in Victorian times. The original castle was built in 1539-44 and the master mason, Thomas Bertie, later became captain of the garrison here, a curious but not uncommon reward for a castle builder. Like Calshot, it lies at the end of a spit of shingle, well over a mile long and projecting into the middle of the Solent. The Isle of Wight is little more than a mile away and, along with its counterpart at Yarmouth, the castle’s guns could effectively command the western entrance to the Solent. Hurst was garrisoned almost continuously until the Second World War. Its situation also …

Rochester Castle

Castle and cathedral stand close together beside the River Medway. For once, it is the castle, which dominates, the squat cathedral tower seeming insignificant alongside the magnificent keep. This is the tallest of the Norman keeps, rising 115 feet to the top of its corner turrets. Archbishop Corbeil’s keep is intact save for the loss of its roof and floors. A relatively small floor area accentuates the height; small that is when compared with an immense cuboid such as Dover. The keep is five stages high, including the double story, which contained the hall and solar. Originally, the only entrance was at first floor level via a fore building. The fore building is a tall and narrow projection, higher than …