Tonbridge Castle, Kent


Tonbridge Castle
1930s
“Excel Series”

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A fire in 1088 destroyed the first castle at Tonbridge, and the evocative remains we see today are of a later castle which was considered to be one of the finest examples of a Motte and Bailey Castle in Kent. Little survives of its curtain walls, nor its keep but the splendid gatehouse built in the 13th-century remains remarkably intact, and serves as a stark reminder of 900 years of history involving kings, queens, archbishops, plotters and peacemakers, all of whom have dwelt within the castles once sturdy walls.
Pictures of England

Following the Norman Conquest, Richard Fitz Gilbert was granted land in Kent to guard the crossing of the River Medway. He erected a simple Motte-and-bailey castle on the site. To dig the moat and erect the motte 50,000 tonnes of earth were moved. In 1088, the de Clare family (descendants of Fitz Gilbert) rebelled against King William II. His army besieged the castle. After holding for two days the castle fell and as punishment the king had both the castle and the town of Tonbridge burnt to the ground. Before 1100, the de Clares replaced the wooden castle with a stone shell keep. This was reinforced during the thirteenth century, and in 1295 a stone wall was built around the town. The twin-towered gatehouse was built by Richard de Clare, third Earl of Hertford or his son Gilbert. Construction of the gatehouse took 30 years, being completed in 1260.
Wikipedia

Around 1253 Henry III granted Earl Richard the right to build town walls and crenellate Tonbridge, and the castle as we see it today began to take shape. . . .
The castle was slighted (made unusable) during the Civil War, and during the 18th century stone from the castle was used to build bridges and locks along the River Medway. By 1780 the ruinous castle site was described as ‘an ancient castle and vineyard’. Around 1791 Thomas Hooker built a mansion onto the gatehouse, the best surviving feature of the castle. Part of Hooker’s mansion now houses council offices. Despite the fact that much of the medieval fortress has been lost, there is still quite a lot for visitors to see. The most obvious and impressive feature is the imposing gatehouse, an almost perfect example of a keep-gatehouse, meant to be defensible on its own if the rest of the castle fell to attackers.
Britain Express

Close to the railway station of “Tunbridge Town,” there exists an architectural fragment, which may be often mistaken for an entire Castle, but was merely the entrance gateway to a fortress of very great extent. At the time of the Domesday Survey, lands were held here by Richard de Tonebridge, a Norman follower and uncle of the Conqueror, who created him Earl of Clare, and settled several lordships upon him. De Tonebridge exchanged his lands at Byon, in Normandy, with the Archbishop of Canterbury for a tract of equal extent at Tunbridge, Here he erected a Castle, and assembled his retainers and vassals. These were called into active service soon after the death of William I, for Earl Richard espoused the cause of Robert Curtoise, in opposition to William Rufus, who had seized the crown. The latter immediately marched an army to Tunbridge, to compel obedience and allegiance to his relative ; and the Earl, after a short struggle, was compelled to submit.
. . .
The remains of the Castle are on the northern bank of the Medway, which formerly was made to flow not only around the whole Castle in a broad moat, but also around the base of the keep. The exterior walls enclosed about six acres. Part of the outer walls remain; also the lower portion of the water-tower, the mound of the Keep, and the entrance gatehouse. The latter is flanked by two circular towers, and had a drawbridge in front, of the time of King John or Henry III. This Anglo-Norman fortress, by the side of the railway of our times, is a very suggestive scene.
“Abbeys, castles, and ancient halls of England and Wales”, John Timbs, 1872, p.302

Tonbridge, “The castles of England, their story and structure”, Vol I, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896

At Duke Edward’s death [1520] his lands remained in the hands of the Crown, and in a Survey held at the time the castle of Tonbridge is thus spoken of : “In the Lordship of Tonbridge in Kent is a castle which hath been and yet is a strong fortress, for the three parts thereof ; and the fourth part on the S. side being fortified with a deep running water, was intended to have been made for lodgings, and so resteth on 26 feet height, builded with ashlar, and no more done thereunto. The other three parts of the castle being continued with a great gatehouse, on the first entrys, a dungeon and two towers are substantially builded, with the walls and embattling with good stone, having substantial roots of timber, and lately well covered with lead. And as unto the said gatehouse, it is as strong a fortress as few be in England, standing on the X. side, and having a conveyance (passage) to a fair square tower, called Stafford Tower, and from thence to another fine fair tower, standing upon the water, nigh to the Town Bridge, being builded eight square, and called the Water Tower. This castle was the strongest fortress, and most like unto a castle of any other that the duke had in England or Wales.”
. . .
The remains of this great fortress are now chiefly confined to its gatehouse, standing near the Medway, of Early Decorated style– 1280 to 1300 ; the entrance gateway being flanked by two huge semicircular fronted towers, while two smaller circular towers support the angles in rear. It is tolerably perfect : the entrance vault is perforated in a curious way for defence. Below the ground floor of the guard-rooms in the front towers were vaults and a dungeon, entered only from the rooms above by traps, unlighted, and ventilated only by sloping air flues. On the first floor are two chambers and the portcullis room, and above these is the hall, a state apartment, the whole size of the gatehouse. The curtain wall of the N. front, extending on the W. to the keep, had a low Watergate, by which supplies could be brought in from the river on the S. The curtain wall enclosing the enceinte has already been described ; it was generally lo feet in thickness. At the corner of the wall nearest to the town bridge existed another tower, from which led a wall, built across the mouth of the moat flowing to the gatehouse, to keep the water at a proper level. Between this and the keep was another small tower, containing two rooms. Along the waterside is seen a sallyport, and W. of this are foundations of buildings added after the time of Edward I.

The old Norman shell-keep was oval, measuring 86 feet and 76 feet in its two diameters, its thick walls being stayed with strong buttresses ; it stood 100 feet above the river and 70 above the court, and the great mound of it covers an acre. Inside, beyond the modern house, are some fragments of Norman architecture. Along the river front on the S., where the domestic buildings stood, are some remains of a stone staircase, and culverts from the garderobes, still existing ; and on the S.E. is the bastion tower, rebuilt by the Staffords, commanding the town approaches and bridge ; half-way between this and the port was a chapel, in another bastion facing E., but there are no remains of this. At the end of the last century the piers of the drawbridge existed, and a water tower on the S.W. commanding the sluices.
“The castles of England, their story and structure”, Vol I, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896, p. 51-2

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall


Penzance, St Michael’s Mount.
c.1910

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St. Michael’s Mount is an odd mix of house, religious retreat, and fortified castle. It was a pilgrimage centre in the Middle Ages, converted first to a fortress, then to a house after the Civil War by the St. Aubin family.
Britain Express

In the years following the Norman Conquest, St Michael’s Mount was granted to the Benedictine monks of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy – a natural choice given the similarities between the two sites. They established a small religious community on the island and Abbot Bernard le Bec built the first stone church there in 1135. The community was briefly disrupted in 1193 when Henry de La Pomeray took control of the island as part of the attempted coup of Prince John (later King John) against his brother, Richard I. That rebellion was defeated but it was around this time the castle on the island was built; perhaps by Henry but more likely after his suicide when Richard returned. It was a significant structure with square towers, a large gatehouse and a substantial curtain wall. Having been restored the monks also fortified their Priory by adding the church tower and courtyard walls.
. . .
After the events of the fifteenth century, St Michael’s Mount returned to being a quiet religious order until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Its remote location and lack of wealth made it a low priority for Royal officials with the site not being formally suppressed until 1548. But the English Reformation continued apace with a New Prayer Book that banned the Latin Mass. This was hotly contested by the Cornish populace whose Celtic background meant they had a better grasp of Latin than English and in 1549 the mount was temporarily seized by rebels during a general Cornish uprising. St Michael’s Mount remained in Crown ownership until 1599 when Queen Elizabeth sold it to Sir Robert Cecil. His descendants sold it onto Sir Francis Bassett in 1640 who garrisoned it for the King during the Civil War. Following the defeat of the Royalist field armies, Parliamentary forces advanced into the South West and besieged the Mount. After its capture Colonel John St Aubyn was appointed Captain of the Mount and in 1659 he purchased it outright. He was allowed to keep the property after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 with the site being modified into his private home. Upgrades were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (including romanticising the castle).
Castles Forts Battles

“The Cemetery Gate and Entrance Lodge, St. Michael’s Mount”, Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

It’s thought that during classical times, the island formed a trading centre for the tin industry. More than 2,000 years ago, Phoenician ships may have sailed into the Mount’s harbour and exported Cornish tin to the rest of Europe. The island’s population ebbed and flowed, but by the early 1800s, the Mount was thriving commercially and the village was alive with activity, home to over 300 islanders with 53 houses and four streets. Pubs welcomed sailors and fishermen, a school taught the island’s children, a parish policeman kept the peace, the dairy churned butter and the green saw villagers gather to play bowls. It was said that at times you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other stepping over the boats that were moored there. There were net lofts, stables, a pilchard press and even a Victorian change house, where castle residents could wriggle into their swimsuits for a sea dip.
St Michael’s Mount

Little is known about the village before the beginning of the 18th century, save that there were a few fishermen’s cottages and monastic cottages. After improvements to the harbour in 1727, St Michael’s Mount became a flourishing seaport. In 1755 the Lisbon earthquake caused a tsunami to strike the Cornish coast over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away. The sea rose six feet (2 m) in 10 minutes at St Michael’s Mount, ebbed at the same rate, and continued to rise and fall for five hours. The 19th-century French writer Arnold Boscowitz claimed that “great loss of life and property occurred upon the coasts of Cornwall.” By 1811, there were 53 houses and four streets. The pier was extended in 1821[21] and the population peaked in the same year, when the island had 221 people. There were three schools, a Wesleyan chapel, and three public houses, mostly used by visiting sailors. Following major improvements to nearby Penzance harbour, and the extension of the railway to Penzance in 1852, the village went into decline, and many of the houses and other buildings were demolished.
Wikipedia.

This beautiful and romantic spot is situated on the southern coast of Cornwall, immediately opposite the little market town of Marazion, and about three miles and a half from Penzance. The Mount itself 13 about 231 feet above the level of the sea, exclusive of the buildings with which it is crowned. Its magnitude is seen in the most impressive point of view from its base, for when observed from a distance, its form appears trifling, amidst the vast expanse of waters with which it is surrounded. A narrow neck of land, little more than a quarter of a mile in length, connects it with the main land: this natural causeway is passable at low water to foot passengers and carriages, but at high tide is completely covered by the sea.
Abbeys, castles, and ancient halls of England and Wales”, John Timbes, 1872

“The Chapel, from the North Court”, Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

The hill is crowned with an ancient building originally founded by Edward the Confessor as a priory for Benedictine monks, and which in after years was fortified. . . A steep and difficult path leads up to the summit, defended midway by a battery, with another battery at the top. The church crowns the crest of the hill, surrounded by the old monastic buildings. On the centre tower is a turret once used as a beacon for sailors, and on the S.W. angle of this, overhanging the sea, is the famous seat called St. Michael’s Chair. The whole structure has for long been the property of the St. Aubyn family (Lord St. Levan), and has been adapted to form a comfortable modern dwelling. It is a castellated house, retaining much of the monastic masonry, but great alterations were made in it during last century ; the dining-room was the refectory of the convent, and the chapel has been fitted up in the Gothic style.
The castles of England, their story and structure, Vol II”, James Mackenzie, 1896

For seven hundred years the Mount retained its purely ecclesiastical character, but, in 1194, it began a military career un- der the following circumstances :
While Richard 1. was crusading in Palestine, Henry de la Pomeroy, a man of large possessions in Devonshire and Corn- wall, had espoused the cause of the King’s disloyal brother, John, Earl of Cornwall. When Richard came home and heard of Pomeroy’s treason, he sent a serjeant-at-arms to arrest him at his castle of Berry Pomeroy, in Devonshire. Pomeroy, however, stabbed this officer, and then fled with some followers to St. Michael’s Mount, where he had a sister living as a nun. Under pretence of visiting this sister, Pomeroy got admitted with his retinue into the convent, which he promptly seized and fortified.
The King sent a force to reduce the Mount and take Pomeroy, under the command of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In these days we should hardly look upon this as a very fitting selection ; but his Grace justified the King’s confidence in his military talents, and Pomeroy, despairing of a successful resistance, bequeathed some of his lands to the monks to pray for his soul, and bled himself to death. By doing this he assured to his son the inheritance of his property, which would have been forfeited had he been convicted of high treason. The King put a force into ” Pomeroy’s fort,” as it was called, and it continued to be regarded as a fortress and to be occupied by a garrison for nearly five hundred years. It was still, how- ever, a monastery as well as a fort.
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About 1425, one of these chaplains, William Morton, began to build the first harbour of which there is any record, being assisted by Bishop Lacy of Exeter, who granted an indulgence of forty days to all who should contribute to its erection. How- ever, in 1427, the funds for the purpose being still found inade- quate, Morton appealed for help to the King, Henry VI., who granted him certain dues to be levied on ships anchoring near the Mount, and on “foreign boats fishing for hake during the season.”
Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

The buyldinges that are on the topp of this Mount auntient all of freestone verie stronge and permanent wherof muche was erected by Willm Moriton, Nephew to Willm the Conquerour, who had muche lande in this Countrye. It was sometimes a Cell of munckes but since fortefyed for defence. It hath bene muche resorted unto by Pylgrims in deuotion to St Michaell whose chayre is fabled to be in the mount on the south syde of verie Daungerous access. The ascente unto the mounte is steepe curuing narrowe and rockye and that but one waye in the north syde. John Earle of Oxforde surprised this mount by pollicie and kepte it by force againste king Edwarde the 4. but with noe profitable or prayse worthy success for he was violently depryued of it. But some write that he surrendred it upon conditions. It is a place of noe greate importance hauinge small receyte of meanes to keepe and defende it longe At the foote of the mount is a peere of Stones wherin boates are harbored and from Marca-iew there is a causwaye or passage that leadeth to the Mount on foote at a lowe water.
“Speculi Britanniae Pars: A Topographical and Historical Description of Cornwall”, John Norden, 1728 [1626], p.39

Doune Castle, Doune, Stirling


Doune Castle, Baron’s Hall
Publisher: “F W H”

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Doune Castle was rebuilt in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife and son of King Robert II. . . . His new palace consisted of a large square tower-keep with a projecting round tower to one side; through the basement of this building ran the entrance passageway to the courtyard, and above this was the Duke’s inner hall. Adjacent to this four storey building was the block containing the Great Hall, above three vaulted cellars. These two buildings took up the whole of the north front of the castle. Surviving on the western side is the kitchen tower; other buildings took up the rest of the courtyard walls.
The Castle Guy

The magnificent castle of Doune, which is one of the best examples of the quadrangular architecture of the fifteenth century, was built by Murdoch, Duke of Albany, and was, like Falkland, forfeited to the crown in 1424. It had superseded an earlier structure, the seat of the Earls of Menteith, which came into the possession of Robert, the great Duke of Albany, on his marriage to Margaret, Countess of Menteith. In 1431 it was the dwelling-place of James, Duke of Rothesay, the heir to the throne, then six months old, for whose use forty-eight pounds of almonds were sent to it.
“Royal palaces of Scotland”, Helen Douglas-Irvine & Robert S. Rait, 1911

Doune Castle “The baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland, Vol 2”, Robert William Billings, 1845

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Castell Dinas Brân, Wales


The Castle, Llangollen
On the back:
“We have to gain the Victory.
That is our task.”
The Prime Minister
1940s

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Crowning a craggy hilltop high above Llangollen, Castell Dinas Brân – the Crow’s Fortress – is one of the most dramatically-sited and legend-haunted strongholds in the whole of Britain. Set within the corner of an Iron Age hillfort, it is one of the few surviving Welsh-built stone castles, constructed in the 13th Century by Gruffudd ap Madoc, ruler of northern Powys. . . . Surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and steep drops, [the ruins] include the remains of a gatehouse, keep, and characteristic D-shaped ‘Welsh tower’. A closer look reveals traces of features like wall-plaster, fireplaces and even en-suite toilets, demonstrating that this was once a splendid and well-appointed, as well as well-defended, fortress. Dinas Brân’s active life, however, lasted scarcely 20 years. Begun in the 1260s and abandoned and burnt by its Welsh defenders in 1277, it was then only briefly garrisoned by the English – whose commander remarked “there is no stronger castle in all Wales, nor has England a greater.” But it’s inaccessibility ensured that it was soon abandoned again to the crows which gave it its name.
The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB

The remains to be seen are actually the most recent evidence of fortification. The castle stands on what was once a hillfort, one of a series common to the area. Remains of the original earthen rampart are still visible to the south east. Dinas Bran stands in what was once the Kingdom of Powys. There is some fragmentary evidence that Madog ap Gruffudd, the founder of Valle Crucis Abbey ruled from Dinas Bran. If indeed he did so, there is no archaeological evidence of this. Any fortification he had built would probably have been wooden, and the same fragmentary records claim it burnt to the ground.

The castle of the present ruins was probably founded by Gruffydd II ap Madog in the 1260s, in response to his alliance with Llywelyn ap Gruffud Prince of Wales.  .  .  . On Gruffydd’s death in 1269/70, Dinas Bran probably passed to his eldest son, Madoc. The rise to power in England in 1272 of Edward I, the scourge of both the Welsh and Scots led to war between the Welsh and English in 1276. Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln moved into Wales through Oswestry in May 1277 with an army set on capturing Dinas Bran, only to be informed that the castle had been set on fire by the Welsh and abandoned.
Curious Clwyd: The beauty, the history, the folklore of North East Wales

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Brougham Castle, Cumbria


Brougham Castle
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine

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In a picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont in Cumbria, Brougham Castle was founded in the early 13th century. This great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings – including the unusual double gatehouse and impressive “Tower of League”. Both a formidable barrier against Scots invaders and a prestigious residence, the castle welcomed Edward I in 1300. 
English Heritage

Brougham Castle is a medieval building about 2 miles (3.2 km) south-east of Penrith, Cumbria, England. The castle was founded by Robert I de Vieuxpont in the early 13th century. The site, near the confluence of the rivers, Eamont and Lowther, had been chosen by the Romans for a Roman fort called Brocavum. The castle is scheduled as an Ancient Monument, along with the fort, as “Brougham Roman fort and Brougham Castle”. In its earliest form, the castle consisted of a stone keep, with an enclosure protected by an earthen bank and a wooden palisade. When the castle was built, Robert de Vieuxpont was one of the only lords in the region who were loyal to King John. The Vieuxponts were a powerful land-owning family in North West England, who also owned the castles of Appleby and Brough. In 1264, Robert de Vieuxpont’s grandson, also named Robert, was declared a traitor, and his property was confiscated by Henry III. Brougham Castle and the other estates were eventually returned to the Vieuxpont family, and stayed in their possession, until 1269, when the estates passed to the Clifford family through marriage. With the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence, in 1296, Brougham became an important military base for Robert Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. He began refortifying the castle: the wooden outer defences were replaced with stronger, more impressive stone walls, and a large stone gatehouse was added.
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Lady Anne Clifford died at Brougham Castle in 1676 and her grandson, Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet, inherited the Clifford estates. He died in 1679, and over the next five years possession passed through his three younger brothers. Under the youngest, Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet, Brougham Castle suffered particular neglect. In 1714, he decided that Appleby Castle was a sufficient residence and sold the contents of Brougham Castle for £570. Only the Tower of League was left untouched, but in 1723 its contents were also sold, for £40[41] By the 1750s, the castle’s only practical use was as a ready source of building material for the village of Brougham, which prospered due to investment from the Earl of Thanet. In 1794, a record of the dilapidated state of the castle noted that “much of the interior walls have lately been removed, also, for the purposes of building houses for the adjoining farmhold”.
Wikipedia.


PLan of Brougham (“The Castles of England: their story and structure”. James MacKenzie, 1897 p. 284)

This large strong, and magnificent edifice–now in utter ruin–stands at the confluence of the Lowther with the river Eamont, about 1½ miles from Penrith, having been in its day one of the most important of the Border fortresses. The entrance to it is along a series of arches by the river-side. One part of the ruin consists of three square towers, with the remains of their connecting wall stretching for a considerable distance towards the S.W., and terminating in a tower. In the centre of the main group rises the keep, “a lofty square tower, frowning in Gothic strength and gloomy pomp.” The turrets on its summit have disappeared, together with the parapet and galleries. The lowest storey has a vaulted stone roof with eight arches, supported by one centre shaft. It is of Norman origin, but the date of its building is uncertain. On the S. are traces of the Roman camp which stood here on the road from York to Carlisle.
From “The Castles of England: their story and structure”. James MacKenzie, 1897 p. 283 (available here

Durham Castle, Durham, County Durham


Durham Castle, Courtyard
Postmarked 1907
Publisher: Valentine

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The order for the construction of Durham Castle was given in 1072. The new castle would protect the Norman rulers from the rebellious local population and potential invasions from Scotland. Opposition to the Norman rule was a real threat, and even whilst the castle was being constructed, rebellion was close at hand. Waltheof, the Earl of Northumbria who was tasked with building Durham Castle, rebelled and was later executed.

The need to establish and maintain order in the North was crucial. William granted additional powers to the Bishop of Durham, giving them greater authority in return for their loyalty. This was an interesting political tactic that took power away from the local ruling elite and gave it to a representative of the king. They ruled what was effectively a state within a state. Holding the title of Prince Bishop, these powerful leaders could levy taxes, mint their own coins, have their own courts, raise an army and had responsibility for protecting the northern frontier. These were not just men of the church; they were powerful politicians and rulers who were often embroiled with the politics, threats, rebellions and scandals of the day. . . . As Norman rule became more established, the 13th and 14th centuries were relatively calm, allowing the Prince Bishops to enhance their wealth, status and power. The substantial income of the Bishops saw the beginnings of the castle’s evolution into a palatial residence, frequently remodelled to reflect changes in taste and fashion.
Durham Castle (Durham University)

The construction took place under the supervision of the Earl of Northumberland, Waltheof, until he rebelled against William and was executed in 1076. The castle then came under the control of the Bishop of Durham, Walcher, who purchased the earldom and thus became the first of the Prince-Bishops of Durham, a title that was to remain until the 19th century, and was to give Durham a unique status in England. It was under Walcher that many of the Castle’s first buildings were constructed. As was typical of Norman castles, it consisted of a motte (mound) and an inner and outer bailey (fenced or walled area). Whether the motte and inner bailey were built first is unknown. There is also debate about whether or not Durham Castle was originally a stone or a wooden structure. Historic sources mention that its keep (fortified tower) was built of wood, but there is enough archaeological evidence to indicate that even in the late 11th century when it was first built, it had numerous stone buildings.
Durham World Heritage Listing

Durham Cathedral was built between the late 11th and early 12th century to house the bodies of St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD) (the evangeliser of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede (672/3-735 AD). It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. The Cathedral lies within the precinct of Durham Castle, first constructed in the late eleventh century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

The Castle was the stronghold and residence of the Prince-Bishops of Durham, who were given virtual autonomy in return for protecting the northern boundaries of England, and thus held both religious and secular power. Within the Castle precinct are later buildings of the Durham Palatinate, reflecting the Prince-Bishops’ civic responsibilities and privileges. These include the Bishop’s Court (now a library), almshouses, and schools. Palace Green, a large open space connecting the various buildings of the site once provided the Prince Bishops with a venue for processions and gatherings befitting their status, and is now still a forum for public events.
UNESCO World Heritage listing


Plan of Durham Castle, 1892, from Wikimedia Commons

In a volume of the publications of the Surtees Society, Mr. James Raine, the worthy son of a distinguished sire, has given to the archæological world a very curious poem, now first printed, entitled “Dialogi Laurentii Dunelmensis Monachi ac Prioris,” a work of the time, and which records the intrusion of William Cumin into the see of Durham. This was a period of extreme interest in that important see, once including the city of Carlisle and the territory of Teviotdale, and at the date of the poem [c.1149] still holding the Castles of Durham and Norham, fortresses of the first rank, even in a district which contained Bamborough.
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The castle still retains many of the features and some of the buildings described in the poem. The ditch which cut off the fortress from the cathedral is, it is true, filled up, and the pasture ward to the east is built over and obscured, but the south gate, though rebuilt, stands on the old site, and is still the main entrance; and34 the wall on the right on entering still extends towards the keep. The keep itself is a late work; but the mound upon which it stands is a part of the original fortress, and the masonry is laid on the old lines, and in outline the tower no doubt represents pretty clearly the work of Flambard. A strong wall still connects the keep with the lodgings of the castle, and forms the front towards the river. The chapel also remains but little altered, and the walls and arches of the dormitory are original. The well is still seen in the open court, and is, or was recently, in use. Notwithstanding various repairs, rebuildings, and additions, there can be but little doubt that the Castle of Durham resembles in its general aspect the fortress of the Conqueror and of Flambard;

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Queen-like the castle sits sublime, and frowns
O’er all she sees, and deems the whole her own.
Straight from the gate the gloomy wall ascends
The mound, and thus the stately keep attains.
A close-built citadel, piercing the clear air,
Outside and inside strong, well fitted to its use.
Its base, of heaped-up earth three cubits raised,
Solid and firm, the floor does thus support;
On which firm base the supereminent keep
Rises, unrivalled in its glittering sheen.
On twice two timbers stayed, are seen to rest
The buildings there, for each main angle one:
While round each half circumference are wings,
Each ending in a formidable wall.
Springing from these a bridge, by easy steps,
To the high battlements an access forms,
Where the broad wall all round gives ample path,
And thus the summit of the keep is gained.
Stately that keep! a circle in its form,
Splendid and strong by art, and by position fair.
Thence, downward to the castle, leads the bridge,
And offers easy access to and fro;
For broad its path with many a shallow step,
The base attaining by a gradual slope.
Hard by, the wall, thrown backwards from the keep,
Faces the west towards th’ encircling stream,
On whose high bank continued, it enfolds
With a bold sweep an ample pasture there;
From parching northern blasts protected thus,
And so curves round to the stern keep again.
Nor does the space within the wall embraced
Stand without buildings: such there are, and good.
Two porches to two palaces belong,
Of which the work to th’ artist brings no shame.
Here, too, a chapel fair six columns boasts,
Nor large, nor small, but fitted to its needs.
Here beds lie near to beds, and halls to halls,
Each for its province suitably disposed:
Robes here, bright vessels there, here glittering arms,
Here bread, there flesh, and tempting coin concealed,
And corn and wine laid down, and barley beer,
And the clear flour here finds its proper bin.
Thus on one side house joins to house, and hall
To hall. The other too is occupied.
The court alone is free, and there is seen
The well, full deep, with water well supplied.

Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Vol. II (of 2), by George Thomas Clark, 1884

The original church, which was reared over St. Cuthbert’s grave in 999, was standing when the Conqueror ordered the rebuilding, in 1072, of the palace of the Saxon bishops of Durham, which had been burnt down two or three years before. This edifice did not perhaps suit the taste or requirements of the proud and wealthy prelates who came after, and in 1174 Bishop Pudsey rebuilt the whole, with great additions, in the best late Norman style of military architecture.
. . .
It is built on a high rocky hill of horse-shoe shape, round which the river Wear flows, under steep cliffs, 80 or 100 feet below, serving as a moat to the fortress. The line of walls, with their five gates, extended round that side of the hill not occupied by the cathedral, enclosing the courtyard or bailey. The great N. gate, which flanked the keep to the E., and the space leading down to the town commanded the most important approach, and was rebuilt and much strengthened by Bishop Langley in 1417 ; it had double gates towards the bailey, and one towards the city, with portcullis and battlements. The old gate had a postern and a round tower at the end of the ditch, still existing. The second gate, called the King’s Gate, commanded a ford on the river, but has disappeared. Two others stood where are now Queen Street and Duncow Lane ;and the fifth, or water gate, being that of the outer court, stood in its ancient form until of late years. The mount on which the keep stands is 44 feet high, and was vaulted beneath. The tower was an irregular octagon 63J feet across, and four storeys high, with an entrance on the W.; the eight angles were supported by buttresses, and a battlemented parapet ran round the summit. Nothing, however, remains of this edifice but the mount, the vaults, and the outer shell ;it was probably the work of Bishop Hatfield in the middle of the fourteenth century, who also built the great hall.
The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol. II, 1897

Halton Castle, Cheshire


The Ruins Halton
c.1940
Publisher: F Ball?

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Halton Castle itself was built circa-1070 by either Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester or his tenant, Nigel of Contentin, probably in the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The castle occupied a high promontory that offered a naturally strong defensive position. The only vulnerable approach, on the north-west side, was protected by a deep ditch cut from the rock. The intent behind the castle was invariably to secure control of the important crossing over the estuary (which from circa-1178 was served by a ferry) and to exploit the valuable riverine resources which included an abundant supply of Salmon. . . . It was rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth/early thirteenth centuries with the bailey being enclosed by a substantial stone curtain wall. Towers, a square one on the west side and a later round one to the north, were added in the subsequent years. A substantial Great Hall was built within the castle’s grounds perhaps enhancing a structure that had stood since the fortification was first erected. Foundations of a circular structure may be indicative of a shell keep.
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The South View of Halton Castle in the County of Chester (from Wikimedia Commons).

The present castle dates from the 13th century but it is clear from excavations that it supercedes a motte and bailey castle which occupied the north western side of the site. This form of castle was introduced by the Normans and consisted of a mound of earth capped by a timber fortification. A ditch was cut into the bedrock on the east side and the attached bailey occupied the rest of the crown of the hill. The ruins of the castle at Halton survive well despite the later insertion of a courthouse on the site of the gatehouse and the creation of a folly garden within the ruins. It has within the western half of the interior the buried remains of an extensive range of late medieval domestic buildings as well as the remains of six lock-ups from the 18th century refurbishment of the site as a courthouse and prison.
Historic England

The importance of Halton was recognised at the opening of the Civil War, when a garrison was placed there for the king by Earl Rivers in June 1643, but a year after the post was reduced and taken possession of for the Parliament by the force under Sir William Brereton. Shortly afterwards the castle was dismantled and turned into a ruin. An ancient print reproduced by the Historic Society of Cheshire  shows the old fortress standing on a cliff over the river, with the town below it;the enclosure of high embattled walls is of circular form, holding nine large square mural towers, at intervals,the lower gatehouse being flanked by two of them. On the opposite side of the enceinte is shown a similar gateway, leading probably to an inner ward not seen. Ormerod too gives a sketch of the ruins as they may have been at the beginning of the present century. This view shows half-octagonal flanking towers to the entrance gateway, with the lofty Edwardian windows of John of Gaunt’s period.
The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol II” James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p.175

Leeds Castle, Kent


Leeds Castle | near Maidstone
1900s

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The Royal Manor was originally built in 857AD and owned by a Saxon royal family. After the Norman Conquest, work began on building the first stone castle on the site. In 1278 the Castle became a royal palace for Edward I and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile. Major improvements were made to the castle during the reign of Edward I. The Barbican, constructed during this time, is unique in that it is made up of three parts, each having its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway and portcullis. The medieval Keep, incorporating the Great Hall, is called the Gloriette, in honour of Queen Eleanor.

In 1321, King Edward II gave the castle to his Royal Steward. When Edwards’ Queen Isabella arrived at the Castle seeking shelter however, she was refused admission and even fired upon by archers. Edward II was not amused and successfully lay siege to the castle. Six years later Edward was murdered but Queen Isabella kept the castle until she died in 1358.
Historic UK

Her grandson was King Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty, and it was his son, King Henry VIII who ordered major alteration to the castle between 1517 and 1523. The castle was hereby transformed from a fortified stronghold to a magnificent royal palace. In 1552, after nearly 30 years of Royal ownership, Leeds Castle was granted to Sir Anthony St Leger for a yearly rental of £10, in recompense for his services to King Henry VIII in subjugating the uprising in Ireland. During the next two centuries, the castle changed its ownership numerous times. Unlike many other castles, Leeds was left relatively undamaged during the Civil War. It suffered however, major damages during the 1660s, as it was used as a place of detention for French and Dutch prisoners of war, who at one point set fire to the Gloriette, causing destruction which was only repaired in 1822.
Castles Today

After the 7th Lord Fairfax’s death in 1793, the castle was passed onto various distant relatives until in 1821 Fiennes Wykeham Martin inherited and commissioned architect William Baskett to survey the castle. The report was devastating. The mill and barbican were in ruins, the gatehouse and inner gatehouse in disrepair, the Maiden’s Tower was in imminent danger of collapse, the main Jacobean house was decaying and the Gloriette was more or less a ruin. Wykeham Martin decided to demolish the main house and replace it with one in the Tudor style. The resulting New Castle, externally changed little today, was finished by 1823, an extraordinarily swift process. The gaping hole that had disfigured the Gloriette since 1665 was repaired and the internal walls rebuilt in stone and the moat was cleared and cleaned. Unfortunately the cost of the rebuild caused Wykeham Martin financial difficulties and he was forced to sell the contents of the Castle at auction.
Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is a very peculiar structure. It stands upon three rocky knolls, of which two are islands in a lake of 15 acres, and the third occupies the central part of the artificial bank by which, as at Kenilworth and Caerphilly, and in some degree at Framlingham and Ragland, the waters are or were retained. . . . The domestic buildings occupied the north end of the two wards, and are replaced by a modern house, excepting only a vaulted cellar, which may be late Norman, and is certainly the oldest known masonry in the place, and a bracket which supported the ancient oven, and is placed near what is described as “Una coquina juxta pedem pontis de la Gloriet,” which kitchen was not long since removed. In this ward also, or rather partly in this and partly in the outer ward, near a building of the age of Henry VIII., is a very remarkable bath,—“balnea domini regis apud Ledes,” as it is designated, which was constructed for the use of Edward I. in 1291–2. This is now used as a boathouse.
Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Vol. II, George Thomas Clark, 1884


The Castles of England: their story and structure, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896-7, pp.24

The Leeds Castle which Horace Walpole visited in 1752 is not altogether the place we see now, with its towers and walls rising so splendidly from the lake, which water Walpole, in his misleading way, calls “the only handsom object;” for in 1822, in place of the sixteenth century mansion erected on the central island by Sir Richard Smith, the existing buildings were constructed in the Tudor style, a great part of the inner bailey and of the keep having been the work of Henry YIII. The Len stream flowing through the property afforded the one great element of defence on which our ancestors chiefly relied ; here some twenty acres surrounding the castle might by means of sluices be turned into a lake if occasion required.

The situation of this fortress was a most suitable one in the days of water defence : it occupies two natural rock islands in the lake, a third artificial one being formed at the land end by the bank and sluices which controlled the water, and on which were placed the barbicans and the castle mill. The whole of the centre island was reveted with an outer or curtain wall, 15 feet high, rising from the waters, liaving four rounded bastion towers, and drawbridges at each end, admitting at the S. end from the barbican island, and giving passage at the N. point to the furthermost island, called the Old Castle or ” Gloriette,” which was the keep of the fortress. . . . The domestic buildings, which occupied the N. end of this island, are now replaced by a fine modern mansion, having vaulted Norman cellarage. On the E. side is the Maidens’ Tower of Henry VIII., before alluded to, and also the interesting bathhouse built by Edward I. in 1292, and now used as a boathouse. Baths were an innovation at the close of the thirteenth century, which Edward may have brought in from the East.

Entering the citadel from the modern mansion, one passes by the entrance through the Curfew Tower, which contains an ancient bell, that has sounded the eight o’clock curfew for four and a hall centuries and does so still . . . The bridge had formeiy two openings, with lifting bridges operated on by a central tower of two storeys ; it was called the Pons Glorietta. On the left, in entering the keep, is the chapel, built by Edward I. in 1380, having good Early English windows. The walls of these buildings rise out of the water to a considerable height, and are placed round a small central court. Much of the work is of the fourteenth century. This part was severely injured by a fire during its occupation by Evelyn’s Dutch sailors, so that a good deal is modern. There is, however, the great dining-hall of Henry VlII.’s castle, now converted into the kitchen, while the ancient kitchen has become a larder. Overhead is the Queen’s bed-chamber, with a line mantel- piece and an immense bed.
The Castles of England: their story and structure, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896-7, pp.27-8

Pickering Castle, North Yorkshire


Pickering Castle | Devils Tower & Inner Moat
1950s
Publisher: Ministry of Works

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Pickering Castle is an 11th century earthwork motte and bailey fortress, founded by William the Conqueror. In the late 12th to early 13th century, King Henry II founded the stone castle, when crowning the motte with a shell keep and encasing the inner bailey with a curtain wall, flanked by the Coleman Tower. The restored chantry chapel of 1227 and the foundations of the early to mid 12th century Old Hall, also stand in the inner bailey. In 1324-26 King Edward II replaced the timber palisade which encased the outer bailey with a curtain wall. The wall is flanked by a gatehouse and three rectangular towers, one having a small postern gate at its base, with its own drawbridge to cross the outer ditch.
CastleUK.net

Pickering Castle was originally a timber and earth motte and bailey castle. It was developed into a stone motte and bailey castle which had a stone shell keep. The current inner ward was originally the bailey, and was built between 1180 and 1187. The keep was developed into a stone shell keep sometime during the years 1216 to 1236 along with the chapel – there is a reconstruction of the chapel at the site. Between the years 1323 and 1326 there was an outer ward and curtain wall built, along with three towers. There were also two ditches, one situated outside of the curtain wall and one in the outer ward. After this a gatehouse, ovens, hall and the storehouses were built. The castle is situated in the Vale of Pickering and has a considerably steep cliff on the west side which would have been a great defensive attribute.

The original structure was built by the Normans under William the Conqueror in 1069–1070. This early building included the large, central mound (the motte), the outer palisades (enclosing the bailey) and internal buildings, notably the keep on top of the motte. Ditches were also dug to make assault on the walls difficult. The main purpose of the castle at this time was to maintain control of the area after the Harrying of the North.
Wikipedia.

The use of the castle was in decline by the late fifteenth century although it served periodically as accommodation for royalty who used the adjacent forest for hunting deer and wild boar. However, the defences were neglected and it took no part in the Wars of the Roses. By the Tudor period it was being plundered for its materials and quickly descended into ruin. Although in no fit state to be garrisoned during the seventeenth century Civil War, it was seized by Parliament after the conflict along with the rest of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was returned to Charles II upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 but the castle was never rebuilt and, with the exception of the chapel, it remained an abandoned ruin until taken into the care of the Office of Works in 1926.
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“Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Vol. II”, George Thomas Clark, 1884

The four mural towers already mentioned are all in the southern ward. They are, Mill Tower, Rosamond’s, the Devil’s Tower, and the Gate Tower. Devil’s Tower contains a postern. . . . The Devil’s, or Postern Tower, that north-east of the keep, is rectangular and of ashlar, and has exterior projection only. It is 22 feet broad by 27 feet deep. The basement is vaulted, and pierced by a postern passage. The inner door, pointed, opens in the bottom of the ditch of the cross curtain; it is now nearly buried. The outer door is walled up. It is pointed, of 3 feet 6 inches opening, and placed in a square-headed recess, 6 inches deep, 5 feet broad by 10 feet high, intended to lodge the bridge when up. At the foot of this door, outside, in two large stones, are two holes, 6 inches diameter and 18 inches deep, which contained the wooden axle of the drawbridge. Above is a central chain-hole for working the bridge.
. . .
No doubt the earthworks were taken possession of and walled, either late in the eleventh or early in the twelfth century, in the Norman period, and the mass of the curtains, with the keep and the Norman door, are probably remains of this work. But the whole fortress was rebuilt in the Decorated period, the mural towers added, the curtains raised, and the place rendered stronger. It is difficult to decide on the age of the gateways. They may be Norman or they may be of the time of Richard II., probably the former. The domestic buildings are said to have been of timber. They are gone. There is no known well. The castle mill was upon the river a little below the castle. The ditch along the south and west has been nearly filled up; beyond it is a hollow way leading down to the river, which may be old, and intended as a second line of defence.
“Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Vol. II”, George Thomas Clark, 1884

The castle stands at the N. of the town, on the brow of the hill; the walls of it and the towers being continued round the hill side; in the words of Leland :
“In the first Court of it be 4 toures, of the which one is called Rosamonde’s Toure. In the ynner Court be also 4 toures, whereof the kepe is one. The Castelle waulles and the toures be neatly welle. The loggins that be yn the ynner Court that be of timber, be in mine.” The cross walls divide the area into three courts, and where they meet is the keep, which is multangular, and stood on a circular mound surrounded by a deep ditch. The Mill Tower, on the left of the entrance, and the Devil’s Tower, on the outer wall, close to the moat of the keep, and the Rosamond Tower (so called because Fair Rosamond is said to have been imprisoned there), in the outer court, three storeys high, are tolerably perfect, and are of Edwardian architecture, but there are some remains of earlier Norman work. There is a sallyport in the Devil’s Tower giving to the outer ditch. The chapel is poor. Lovely views are seen from various parts of this castle over the well-wooded country around.
“The castles of England, their story and structure, Vol. II”, James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p. 240

Corfe Castle, Dorset


Corfe Castle
Postmarked 1907
Publisher: The Pictorial Stationery Co. Ltd, London

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The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son. It was designed to be impressive – and it certainly was. Standing 21m tall and on the top of a 55m high hill, this gleaming tower of Purbeck limestone could be seen from miles around. In the 17th century, as the Civil War raged around it, the castle stood firm. The Bankes family supported King Charles I (Cavaliers) against Oliver Cromwell (Roundheads). Lady Bankes defended it bravely during not just one, but two sieges, until finally she was betrayed by one of her own soldiers. After six centuries of keeping enemies at bay, an Act of Parliament was passed at Wareham to destroy the castle. Captain Hughes of Lulworth was given the job of demolishing it. His sappers dug deep holes packed with gunpowder to bring the towers and ramparts crashing down, resulting in the yawning gaps and crazy angles we see today.
National Trust

It may have been a defensive site even in Roman times and Corfe Castle certainly has had a colourful history. The first castle buildings would have been built of wood. In 979 King Edward was reputedly murdered by his step-mother so that her own son Ethelred the Unready could become King of England. In the latter half of the 11th Century the Castle was rebuilt in stone by William the Conqueror and for the next six hundred years was a royal fortress used by the monarchs of England and latterly their constables.
Corfe Castle


Martyr’s Gate, Corfe Castle. (Edward murdered here A.D. 979)
c.1930
Publisher: Radermacher, Aldous & Co/The R.A (Postcards) Ltd, London

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The story is this : Edward, after hunting in the neighbour hood of Wareham, thought he would turn in here and visit his stepmother and his brother Ethelred ; so, riding to her door, he was kissed by Eifrida, and given some wine ; but while drinking it, he was, by Elfrida’s order, stabbed in the back by one of her people. Edward, feeling the wound, started away, and soon after fell out of the saddle in a swoon when, his foot catching in the stirrup, he was dragged face downward for a long distance, and was at last picked up dead and greatly disfigured.
“The castles of England, their story and structure, Vol. I”, James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p. 241


Corfe Castle, Dorset
1900s
Publisher: Landor’s Studios

Notwithstanding the high likelihood of an earlier settlement, the first known high-status residence on the site was a Saxon hall. Archaeological evidence has placed this within the west bailey of the later castle and it had been established no later than the tenth century AD. With nearby Wareham, a Saxon burh (fortified town), providing the defensive facility against the Danes, the prime purpose of Corfe was to serve as a hunting lodge as by this time the Isle of Purbeck had been designated a Royal forest.  .  .  . Corfe Castle itself was founded by William I who procured the land from the nunnery at Shaftsbury. When initially raised it consisted of east and west wards. The former occupied the summit of the chalk hill ,which doubled as a natural motte, and was surrounded by a stone wall constructed from Purbeck limestone. The western ward was the bailey and was enclosed by a timber stockade hosting what is now known as the Old Hall – a two storey building consisting of a large chamber on the first floor and storage below. The distinctive herring-bone masonry of this structure suggests Saxon labour was utilised. Henry I started work on the Great Keep no later than 1105. This structure stood 22 metres tall whilst its position on the summit of the hill elevated it a further 55 metres above sea level. At the time of its construction it was one of the largest buildings in England and incorporated a Great Hall, King’s Chambers and a Chapel.
. . .
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Corfe Castle was owned by Sir John Bankes, Lord Chief Justice. The castle was garrisoned for the King but most of Dorset supported Parliament and by early 1643 Corfe was an isolated outpost under the control of Lady Mary Banks. It was besieged on 23 June 1643 by a 600 strong Parliamentary army drawn from the Poole garrison and under the command of Sir Walter Erle. A determined resistance meant that after six weeks no progress had been made and, faced with the approach of a Royalist relief force, Erle withdrew on 4 August 1643. By late 1645 Royalist fortunes were in decline after destruction of the King’s armies at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). With Parliament now having a free hand, Corfe Castle was under siege again by October 1645. Lady Banks put up a determined resistance but one of her officers, Colonel Pitman, was less enthusiastic. In February 1646 he made a deal with the Parliamentarians and helped their troops to penetrate the defences. The Royalist garrison was overwhelmed. Corfe Castle had proven a formidable challenge for the Parliamentarian forces and accordingly was one of the first fortifications to be ordered to be destroyed to prevent any further military use. Parliament passed the decree in March 1646 and Captain Hughs was tasked with the work. He brought a team of sappers to undermine the walls and towers leaving the structure in ruins. When the Bankes family were allowed to recover the site, they found a structure beyond economical repair and the family built a new manor at Kingston Lacey to serve as their home. Corfe Castle was gifted to the National Trust in 1982.
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