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 …

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 …

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 …

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle stands in beautiful gardens to the south east of Winchcombe. A castle here was besieged during the Anarchy but the present structure is an amalgam of a late medieval castle and an Elizabethan mansion. Ralph Boteler, commander of the English fleet in Henry VI’s reign, built it reputedly with the ransom of a captured French admiral. In 1458, Boteler received a pardon for crenellating Sudeley without a license, but he did not find favor with the ne Yorkist regime. He was compelled to sell the castle to Edward IV, who granted it to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucestoer, later Richard III. Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow, lived here as the wife of Thomas Seymour. She is buried …

St. Briavels Castle

St, Briavels Castle occupies an elevated site overlooking the Wye Valley and the Welsh Border. Niles Fitz Walter, Earl of Gloucester, first built the castle during the Anarchy, but Henry II took possession in 1160 and it remained a royal stronghold thereafter. Kings, especially John, came here to hunt in the Forest of Dean. It between times, it served as the administrative center of the forest, which was important for iron forges, and the castle became a stone house for the innumerable crossbow bolts made there. A massive gate house dominates the castle, Built by Edward I in 1292, it must have been a good example of the keep gate house theme and a worthy counterpart to the gatehouses of …

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 …

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle and its distinguished neighbor, the priory church, crown the summit of a hill overlooking the River Lune. A Roman fort occupied the site. Following the arrival of the Normans, Lancaster became part of the vast estate granted to Roger de Poitou and the first castle is very likely to have been his foundation. In 1265, the castle became the chief seat of the powerful lords who followed, including Thomas, ring leader of the baronial opposition to Edward II; Henry, the first palatine duke; and john of Gaunt, who married his way into the duchy. After John of Gaunt’s son seized the throne as Henry IV in 1399, and the consequent union of the Duchy of Lancaster with the …

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 …