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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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, …

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 …

Deal Castle

Henry VIII built three forts -Deal, Walmer and Sandown-along a two-mile stretch of shore to hamper any attacks. An earth rampart, with intermittent bastions, linked them but that has since perished. The whole scheme was finished by the fall of 1540. Deal Castle, the central fort of the three, was the largest of all Henry VIII’s forts. Here the characteristic geometrical layout of the series attains its most elaborate form. The result, whether by accident or design, is a sexfoil plan reminiscent of a Tudor rose. At the center is a squat, round tower with six semi-circular bastions projecting from its circumference, and surrounding that is a massive curtain arranged into six projecting lobes. There is thus a return to …

Cooling Castle

Cooling Castle, a mile east of Cliffe, was built for Sir John de Cobham, a license to crenellate being granted in 1381. Two years before, French raiders had caused devastation on the Hoo peninsula, so Cooling was built at least partly with coastal defense in mind. Ironically, but not uncommonly where English coastal fortifications are concerned, the castle saw no action against foreign invaders but became embroiled in civil strife. In 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt sought the aid of Lord Cobham in the rebellion that he was organizing to prevent Queen Mary marrying Philip of Spain. When Lord Cobham refused, Wyatt marched upon Cooling Castle and breached its walls by cannon fire in the space of a few hours. After …

Canterbury Castle

Considering the level of bombing sustained by the city in 1942, it is a miracle that so much of medieval Canterbury survives. Among the many attractions are the ruined castle keep and a large part of the city wall. Indeed, though incomplete, the wall of Canterbury ranks among the foremost in England. The shape of the defenses was determined in the third century AD. The Roman wall enclosed an oval area nearly two miles in circumference, and the medieval wall follows exactly the same line. However, very little Roman masonry survives because the wall was rebuilt from the 1370s, when a French invasion seemed imminent. More than half the circuit is preserved, extending from the site of the North Gate …

Hever Castle

Hever Castle, beside the River Eden, two miles east of Edenbridge, is set within a wet moat between beautiful gardens and what appears to be a Tudor village. Gardens, “village” and the splendid interior of the castle are all the creation of a rich American, William Waldorf Astor. He purchased the castle in 1903 and immediately set about its transformation, which thus went on at the same time as Lord Conway was restoring Allington Castle. To his credit, Viscount Astor did not interfere with the exterior, which remains largely authentic. There is some doubt as to the original builder. William de Hever obtained a license to crenellate in 1340 and Sir John de Cobham obtained another in 1384. The latter …