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 …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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, …

Launceston Castle

The keep of Launceston Castle dominates the town and surrounding countryside. Most Saxon burghs had castles forced upon them within a few years of the Norman Conquest, and the castle of “Dunhevet” is recorded in the Domesday Book. At that time it was held by William the Conqueror’s half-brother Robert. Initially the castle passed through a variety of hands, and the only Norman masonry is the shell keep on the motte. In 1227 Henry III granted the Earldom of Cornwall to his brother Richard, and he must have been responsible for most of the existing masonry. Eventually, the castle fell into the common rut of being used as a courthouse and gaol for the duchy, and the defenses decayed. By …

Peveril Castle

Peveril Castle crowns a steep hill overlooking Castleton in the Peak District. This area was a center of medieval lead mining and William the Conqueror appointed William Peveril (supposedly his illegitimate son) as bailiff of the royal lands here. The ruined castle that bears his name was usually called the Castle of the Peak in medieval times. It existed by the time the Domesday survey and comprises a triangular enclosure sloping upwards to a sheer drop at the rear. The very ruinous curtain is probably William Peveril’s, since I displays herringbone masonry typical of early Norman work and stone was easy to come by here. It is of some interest as an early stone enclosure with neither keep nor gatehouse …

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle crowns a headland a mile east of Falmouth. The name suggests a Dark Age hillfort but any remains are buried beneath the later rampart. What now stands is an Elizabethan artillery fortress surrounding one of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. Erected in 1540-45, when the Reformation had made England a target for invasion, the castle protected the entrance to Carrick Roades, the large inlet pf the sea which could have offered a sheltered landing place to the fleet of the Catholic powers. St. Mawes Castle was placed on the opposite shore and the guns of the two forts commanded the mile-long sheet of water between them. Pendennis is unusual among the Henrician coastal forts in having such an elevated …

Norwich Castle

Norwich and York were the biggest towns of medieval England after London, and Norwich was saddled with a royal castle within a year of the Norman Conquest. The site, at the heart of the old city, is a natural hillock that was scraped into a formidable motte -though a motte large enough to be regarded as an inner bailey. A car park occupies the site of the outer bailey. The strength of this earth and timber fortification is attested in 1075 during the rebellion of some disaffected barons. On the failure of this revolt, the Earl of Norfolk fled abroad, leaving his wife to hold the castle against William I’s supporters, which she commendably did for a siege lasting three …

Lincoln Castle

Castle and cathedral have faced each other across the hilltop since Norman times. Lincoln Castle was raised over the southwest quarter of the citadel by order of William the Conqueror in 1068. The site had previously been densely occupied – Domesday Book tells us that 166 houses were destroyed to make way for the castle. Its stonewall is mentioned as early as 1115 and Henry I is regarded as the likely builder. The high curtain, still intact though frequently patched up in later centuries, preserves portions of herringbone masonry confirming its early Norman date. It stands on top of an earth rampart surrounding a large, roughly square bailey. A rare feature is the presence of not one but two mottes, …

A visit to Ronda, Malaga and Nerja, Spain

Malaga Malaga is the capital city of the Costa del Sol, it is also one of the provinces of Andalusia, a port city and also the location for the international airport which is the largest airport in Spain. The population of Malaga and the surrounding area is estimated at over 1,000,000 and this number swells in the summer with the influx of visitors. Malaga is surrounded by mountains and there are two rivers, the Guadalhorce and the Guadalmedina which flow past the city into the Mediterranean. Malaga has a wealth of history going back over 3,000 years. It was founded by the Phoenicians and named ‘Malaka’, meaning salt, probably because of the fish which was salted by the harbour. In …

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle, midway between Wareham and Swanage, is one of the most dramatic of English ruins. It stands on an isolated hill which forms part of the Purbeck range, towering over the picturesque village of the same name. The late Saxon kings had a palace here and it was outside the gates that Edward the Martyr was murdered in a family coup that put Ethelred the Unready on the throne. The site allowed for two baileys of unequal size flanking a steep-sided summit, which forms a natural motte. The ring work known as The Rings, a quarter mile to the southwest is probably the siege fort of Matilda. Edward II was held captive here for a while between his abdication …

Colchester Castle

Colchester reached the peak of its importance before the Romans came. A city for veterans of the Roman army was established here, dominated by a temple of the deified Emperor Claudius. Queen Boudicca razed it to the ground in AD 61 but a new city soon rose from the ashes. Colchester Castle, near the center of the walled town, has by far the largest ground area of any keep in England, measuring 150 by 110 feet. William the Conqueror founded a castle here soon after the Norman Conquest and the keep may have been started following a Danish raid on the town in 1071. The masonry is certainly early Norman – note for example the herringbone work in the fireplaces. …

Castle Rising

The village, four miles northeast of King’s Kynnm takes its name from the Norman castle which dominates it. William d’Albini, Earl of Sussex, started building here about 1139. One of the foremost barons of his time, he was loyal to King Stephen but consolidated his own power during the Anarchy. Castle Rising’s earthworks are prodigious, comprising an oval ring work and a smaller bailey in front. Such is the height of the ring work bank that is almost conceals the splendid keep within. This keep is the sole building of any substance left, though there was once a well-appointed group of residential buildings alongside. The only other masonry remains are the truncated gate tower and the ruin of an early …

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle is an extensive fortress situated on a hill about a mile southwest of Newport, virtually in the center of the Isle of Wight. As a fortification, it has a very long history, because the Norman castle is raised on the site of a Roman fort and is surrounded in turn by Elizabethan defenses designed to withstand artillery. The Elizabethan rampart surrounds the two baileys of the Norman castle in concentric fashion. This low, artillery-proof earthwork is encased in stone. There are arrowhead bastions at the corners and a fifth one on the west, commanding the entrance. Beyond the simple gateway through the rampart, one is confronted with the main gatehouse. It began as a thirteenth century gate tower …