Castles of kent

LEEDS CASTLE
The loveliest castle in the world, with its superb furnishing and glorious settings, offers a memorable day out for all the family. Set within 500 acres of parkland you'll find an aviary, maze and grotto, a vineyard, greenhouses, duckery and charming woodland walks.

HEVER CASTLE
Romantic, double moated castle, once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII). Award winning gardens including Italian, Rose and Tudor gardens with yew maze, water maze and lake.

ARUNDEL CASTLE
This great castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Norfolk. Dates from the Norman Conquest containing a very fine collection of furniture dating from the 16th Century and paintings by Van Dyck, Reynolds, Gainsborough etc.

BODIAM CASTLE
Bodiam is a fairy tale moated castle with working drawbridge, the best example of a Norman castle in the United Kingdom. This castle was built 1385 and is set on the banks of the river Rother.

WALMER CASTLE
Delight in Walmer Castle and Gardens, the elegant Tudor residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports and still used by HM Queen Mother today.

SCOTNEY CASTLE
One of the most romantic gardens in England, designed in the picturesque style around the ruins of a 14th Century moated castle.

DOVER CASTLE
Visit Dover Castle and witness castle life as it prepares for a visit from King Henry VIII, in the new colourful recreation of Tudor life in the Keep. Experience a dramatic sight and sound presentation of life during the 1216 siege of the Castle. Discover the Secret Wartime Tunnels and journey back through sight, sounds and smells to the drama of World War II. Follow a wounded pilot through the underground hospital and explore the maze of tunnels where Winston Churchill masterminded the Dunkirk evacuation.

PEVENSEY CASTLE
Visit the site where William the Conqueror landed in 1066. Then explore the Norman keep, built to mark the occasion. Take the free audio tour and hear how the castle began its life as a 4th Century Roman fort. Learn the key role that Pevensey Castle played in history from Roman times right up to World War II.

DEAL CASTLE
Why was it built like a rose? Experience breathtaking sea views from the mighty battlements. Henry VIII himself created Deal castle's extraordinary design, based on the Tudor Rose. You'll discover other fascinating facts, including its turbulent history during the English Civil War on our free audio tour - and get to the heart of the castles history in its amazing tunnels. Plus visit the interactive exhibition.

LYMPNE CASTLE
Strategically located as a former coastal defence, Lympne is a relatively small, medieval castle that has been extensively remodelled since it was first built in the 12th century. There are indications that suggest the original castle would have been much larger, but what we see today dates mainly from c1360. However, materials used in the construction of the castle include stones found from the ruins of a Roman Fortress that previously occupied the site.

Lympne Castle is an imposing, two-storey castellated mansion, formerly the home of the Archdeacon of Canterbury, and features a Great Chamber at either end of the building with a Great Hall situated between them. The Vaulted Chamber, located in the Square Tower, would probably have been occupied by the Bailiff, and the Crown Post Chamber used by the Archdeacon. Particularly impressive is the Great Hall, with part-panelled walls, wooden roof beams, Gothic arched windows and doors, and a fireplace built in Tudor Times to replace the central hearth.

Built on rock foundations at the edge of an escarpment along Romney Marshes gave Lympne the benefit of the numerous springs that ran down from the rocks - one right through the wall of the castle. A section of the ramparts wall was built up to form a high parapet wall (Chemise) that provided protection for the windows in the Great Hall. Defence became less of a priority as time passed, and the castle was gradually altered in keeping with the emphasis on providing more comfortable accommodation.

For many years, Lympne Castle was managed as a farm, and it was only upon the death of Archdeacon Croft in 1860 that Lympne was no longer in the ownership of the Archdeaconry - the first time since the Norman Conquest. By the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was near to ruins, but in 1905 Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to restore the property. Many of the old features were preserved and incorporated in the rebuilding of this hall-house castle.

Lympne Castle has experienced a chequered and, perhaps, uncertain past with a variety of interesting conflicts. From persistent struggles between the excise and the notorious smugglers along the Kent Coast, to an important role in the Second World War when a concrete observation post was built atop the East Tower. Although incongruous with a medieval building, the views it allows of Romney Marshes, the Military Canal and even the French coast on a clear day, influenced the decision that it should remain.

For visitors like ourselves who also have an appreciation for the great medieval Cathedrals of England, Lympne houses a permanent collection of superbly detailed models.

SALTWOOD CASTLE
The first castle was built in 488, probably on a Roman site, but was replaced by a 12th century Norman structure which was extended throughout the next 2 centuries. It was rendered uninhabitable in 1580 by an earthquake but was restored in the 19th century, since when the tall gatehouse has been used as a residence.

Private, but can be seen from bridlepath.

CAMBER CASTLE
Across the flat rural landscape, between the town of Rye and the coastline, the site of sheep grazing on the short, marshy grass is commonplace. But a substantial stone castle suddenly springing out of this quiet and gentle scene is a real surprise. Of course, when it was first conceived almost 500 years ago, Camber Castle would not have looked so much at odds with its environment.

When the first defensive tower was built in 1512, it was located at the harbour entrance and, during the threats from Catholic powers in Europe, Henry VIII decided to reinforce this position in his programme of coastal fortifications. The original cylindrical tower was enclosed by an octagonal stone curtain in 1539, and gun platforms were sited in alternate corners of the wall. At the entrance was a U-shaped bastion, and a series of corridors ran in the thickness of the walls linking the gun positions to an inner corridor around the central tower. By 1544 Camber Castle had developed even further, taking on a more geometrical appearance, similar to that of Deal Castle in Kent but on a much smaller scale. Each of the earlier gun platforms was replaced by a semi-circular bastion, and the central tower was heightened.

This great Henrician fort was in use for less than 100 years. At the beginning of the 17th century, the natural harbour that Camber Castle was built to protect had silted over, the sea retreated and the castle left stranded without a useful purpose. In 1637 it was officially decommissioned, and Charles I eventually authorised the demolition of this redundant artillery fort. For whatever reason this order was never carried out, and Camber Castle has stood virtually untouched since that time.

An easy 20 minute walk across the fields will enable the visitor to inspect the extensive remains of this original 16th century castle more closely. On a pleasant day it makes for an interesting trek, with an opportunity to observe the wildlife that the nature reserve has to offer en route. Camber Castle may once have been an intimidating stronghold but the inquisitive sheep that regularly brush past its massive curtain walls seem indifferent to its historic origins.

SISSINGHURST CASTLE
Situated in the Weald of Kent is Sissinghurst Castle, once a grand Elizabethan Manor House, now sadly only a fraction of its former size, but still surrounded by beautiful countryside. As Kent is so often referred to as 'the Garden of England, Sissinghurst is as equally renowed for its splendid gardens. The history of Sissinghurst has always been very closely linked to the soil, and it was originally a medieval manor-farm.

Originally the land was owned by the De Saxingherstes, but by the middle of the 13th century the family line had come to an end. However, the Manor had established itself as being of local importance. Formerly moated - although only three sides still exist, two containing water and one side having been slightly raised to provide a grass walk - the house was sufficiently large and comfortable enough for King Edward I to stay during the 14th century, probably with the De Berham family. They owned Sissinghurst for more than 200 years, until Henry de Berham decided to move to another manor, and sold his home to Thomas Baker.

It was Sir John Baker, one of Thomas's sons, who was responsible for the first major developments and, with his increasing wealth and power, he was able to demolish the medieval manor house, and replace it with a grand Tudor courtyard house. At a later date, he added the imposing archway and Gatehouse. A self-made man, he held positions of importance, and was to entertain Queen Mary at Sissinghurst in 1557, just a year before he died. It has been suggested that Sir John was responsible for building the magnificent new Elizabethan mansion, but architectural considerations, and the fact that he was nearing the end of his life, make it much more likely to have been his son, Sir Richard Baker. He kept the western entrance range and added the tower, which survives almost intact today. In 1573, Queen Elizabeth I spent three nights at Sissinghurst, and knighted Richard shortly afterwards.

By 1661 Sissinghurst was neglected, and would remain so for the next hundred years. During 1756, it was leased to the government for use as a prison during the Seven Years War. Captured French seamen were housed in the now dilapidated buildings of Sissinghurst, where conditions were absolutely terrible for both prisoners and guards alike. In fact, the reputation of Sissinghurst was so bad that discipline was maintained in other prisons by threatening to move any unruly inmates to this cruel, cold and overcrowded place. It was only during this period that the title of Castle became linked to the estate. Only 15 years later, with much of the house and furniture destroyed by the Frenchmen for firewood, Sissinghurst and its future looked bleak. An earlier suggestion to turn it into a spa, so attracting London visitors, had failed and it was then used as a workhouse from 1794. A few years later much of the building was demolished, with the exception of the entrance range, the tower and a few of the outbuildings.

After the large Victorian farmhouse was built in 1855, Sissinghurst Castle once again went up for sale in 1928. It was to stay on the market for two years before Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicholson, bought it for their home. She re-opened the entrance archway, now no longer needing to be blocked as a prison, but made few changes to the remaining buildings, other than carrying out some careful restoration. Both V.Sackville-West and her husband, however, completely transformed the grounds and, when they both died, they were content in the knowledge that they had succeeded in creating at Sissinghurst probably the most famous gardens in England.

HERSTMONCEUX CASTLE
Herstmonceux is renowned for its magnificent moated castle, set in beautiful parkland and superb Elizabethan gardens. Built originally as a country home in the mid- 15th - century, Herstmonceux Castle embodies the history of Medieval England and the romance of Renaissance Europe.

Set among carefully maintained Elizabethan gardens and parkland, your enchantment begins with your first sight of the castle as it breaks into view.

Herstmonceux was a significant place long before the Castle was built. There is evidence of Roman remains, and in the 12th century a saxon lady, Idonea de Herst married a Norman nobleman, Ingelram de Monceux, to give the place it's name. The name of the owners changed through marriage to Fiennes, and the family increased in wealth and power. James Fiennes distinguished himself fighting for King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt and later became sheriff of Surrey and Sussex.

It was his elder brother, Sir Roger Fiennes, Treasurer of the Household of Henry V1, who started building the castle in 1441. This is one of the first major brick buildings (today it is the oldest brick building of any note still standing in England) and was years ahead of it's time in other respects, with concentration more on grandeur and comfort than on defence.

The family fortunes are interesting and varied,but by 1700 the last Lord Dacre, Earl of Sussex, was forced to sell Herstmonceux Castle. By the end of this century the owner, Robert Hare had demolished most of it and used the bricks to refashion Herstmonceux Place, further up the hill.

It had deteriorated into a ruin until 1911 when it was bought by Lt. col. Claude Lowther who used Local craftsman to carry out the building work, and by 1912 most of the South front was rebuilt.

Col Lowther was responsible for much of the present design and for installing a number of pieces of fine woodwork and panelling purchased from other great historic houses in England.


After his death in 1929, Sir Paul Latham contributed very greatly to the construction of the castle both internally and externally. In 1946 he sold it to the Admiralty who bought the estate for the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and it became an important scientific institution for the next 40 years.

In 1993 Herstmonceux Castle was acquired by Queen's University of Canada through the generosity of Drs Alfred and Isabel Bader, and is now an International Study Centre attracting students from around the world.

It was during a visit to their Sussex home that Drs Alfred and Isabel Bader chanced on an advertisement offering Herstmonceux Castle for sale, and their vision and support for the potential of the Castle taking on a new guise as an International Study Centre, bringing students from all over the world to study in the beauty and tranquillity of East Sussex countryside

WINCHELSEA CASTLE
= Camber Castle

CHIDDINGSTON CASTLE
Situated in the beautiful Weald of Kent, Chiddingstone Castle was originally a medieval manor, but at the beginning of the 18th century, it was rebuilt as a Carolean mansion. Owned by Squire Henry Streatfield, the new mansion was designed in the style of a castle, with towers, arched windows and a gatehouse structure. Unfortunately, only the north and south wings had been completed when building work ceased, probably as a result of the enormous expense incurred in the planned renovations. During the 1930's the whole estate was sold off and from this time the castle suffered quite severely from a general lack of maintenance and sheer neglect. Moreover, it was occupied by the Army during World War II, and some later used as a school for a number of years.

The building continued to deteriorate until 1955 when Denys Eyre Bower bought the castle, and gave it a new lease of life. Eyre Bower was a passionate collector, and decided that he would display his numerous possessions in the castle and open it up to the public, so that visitors could also take pleasure in his works of art in the comfortable surroundings of a private home.

It is these works of art that the castle is now renowned for, and they include:

- The Egyptian collection, which extends from Pre-Dynastic to Ptolemaic times, and contains statuettes or shabti and models;
- The Japanese collection, to be found in the north Gothic Hall and other rooms, and comprising swords, lacquer work and fine art; and
- The Stuart collection, which consists of several mementoes and paintings displayed in rooms styled from that period.

The castle also houses a substantial Buddhist collection, emanating from Eyre Bowers particular interest in Japanese culture and the influence this form of religion had in their society. The formal gardens, also landscaped in keeping with the castle 'style', take the form of a park with woodland areas, as well as open heathland, a lake, the ruined Orangery, and the octagonal Gothic Tower of the old well-house. These gardens are now Grade II listed.

This charming spot, deep in the Kent countryside, gives pleasure to all kinds of visitors throughout the year. There are those who come to marvel at the Oriental antiquities in the house, others who come to explore the grounds and enjoy a sunny family picnic, and some, like us, who arrive with a battery of fishing tackle to try our luck in the splendid, lily clad lake. Whatever your interests, Chiddingstone Castle is simply a delight, and the village has a lovely church and several fascinating buildings.

EYNSFORD CASTLE
Dating back to the 11th century, the remains of one of the earliest stone castles in England can be seen in the picturesque little village of Eynsford. The man-made site had been in use during Saxon times, but work on the castle did not begin until 1088 when William de Eynsford inherited the manor from his father.

Simple in plan, the original castle consisted of a stone structure located within a bailey, and fully enclosed by a flint curtain wall. Various 12th century buildings were contained in the bailey, but the most important comprised the living accommodation, with a private solar, and a large hall situated on the first floor. The hall was gutted by a fire in the early part of the 13th century, and a major re-building of the castle took place soon after. Much of the debris from the fire fell through the floor of the undercroft and, when this was reconstructed, the builders simply raised the floor level to contain the waste material. Today, only the massive walls of the undercroft remain. At the same time that these building works were being carried out, a main gatehouse was added. Only fragments now exist and it has been difficult to determine the exact appearance from the evidence, but it has been suggested that it was a rectangular, single storey building.

Despite an obviously busy period of re-building, Eynsford Castle had become deserted less than one hundred years later following deliberate destruction of the living accommodation. The estate was sold to the Harts of nearby Lullingstone Castle in the early 16th century, and it was their descendants who converted the ruins of Eynsford Castle for use as stables and hunting kennels in the mid 18th century. By the end of the 19th century preservation work had begun but, unfortunately, the castle ruins were largely unrecognisable through natural decay and neglect.

Vast craggy sections of the curtain wall have survived, some standing to a height of 30ft, and evidence of the latrines can be found along them. The stone gate tower to the south of the building dates from the early 12th century, but all other fragmentary remains date from the 13th century 'new building'. Yet among these long-abandoned, rugged stone structures, Eynsford Castle manages to cling onto an air of romanticism.

Perhaps this is due to the idyllic, and unlikely, setting in the middle of a peaceful Kentish village, or maybe the undiscovered secrets held within its ancient walls give the site an enchanting atmosphere.

RICHBOROUGH CASTLE
The Roman invasion of Britain in AD43 was led by a Senator Autus Plautius, with an army of some 50,000 men. Archaeological evidence suggests that Richborough was the bridge head for the invasion, and the pair of parallel ditches that can be seen running almost alongside the much later western stone walls of the site, were dug as part of the original fortifications in AD43. As the conquest of Britain rapidly advanced Richborough soon became an important naval supply base, as evidenced by the laying of new roads, and the erection of several timber buildings believed to be storehouses.

By AD85 the site was to undergo a substantial change. The central timber buildings were demolished, and a monumental four-way arch was constructed, the walkways beneath which formed the shape of a large cross that can still be clearly seen today. The main masonry structure would have stood in the corner spaces flanking the roadways and, judging by the extent of the foundations (some 88 x 48 or 26.5 x 14.5m), the arch would have been very substantial indeed, probably reaching a height of some 85 (25m). Bronze and white marble fragments found at the site indicate that the archway would also have been quite ornate, and would have probably symbolised the entry into the province of Britain through what had now become its main sea port.

As Richboroughs status grew, so did the settlement around it. However, towards the middle of the 3rd century, military considerations had again come to the fore. A large percentage of the central buildings were demolished and the central monument was ringed with a series of triple ditches, suggesting that this had become a useful lookout tower. These excavated triple ditches are a striking feature of the site today. By the end of the 3rd century the earth fortifications were dismantled and the ditches backfilled to prepare for the construction of a much more substantial fortification enclosed by a stone perimeter. These massive walls with their corner towers, which were up to 11 (3.5m) thick in places, surrounded by a double ditch, are the most impressive part of the ruins as seen today.

Little is known of the internal buildings, as these were most likely to have been constructed of timber. The changes are believed to have been completed by AD286. By the end of the 4th century Richborough had ceased to be garrisoned by regular Roman troops, but the site retained its status until approx. AD402. Coins found on the site confirm this, as does the discovery of a small Christian church. The hexagonal tiled basin that lies near the north perimeter wall would have been the baptismal font. The date of construction for the church is not known but it must have been in the late 4th century early 5th century and was probably still in use after the fort was abandoned.

ROCHESTER CASTLE
Situated along the River Medway, Rochester Castle was one of the first English castles to be rebuilt in stone, and this early stone work was carried out by Gundolf, Bishop of Rochester during the late 11th century. Renowned as a very able builder of stone structures, Gundolf was responsible for the old Rochester Cathedral, as well as the Tower of London.

In 1127, custody of the castle was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and remained under the same authority for the next 90 years. During this time, the huge, square keep was built from Kentish ragstone. Still standing in substantially good condition, this great tower, some 113 ft high, consists of a basement and three floors, the second floor rising through two storeys.

The basement, a dark room used for storing goods, is lit only through small ventilation holes. On the first floor, although with the emphasis very much on defence, the evidence of fireplaces and garderobes indicate that this was an important area for conducting the business of the castle. A much grander and more open aspect is apparent on the second floor of the keep, where the Great Hall was situated, with the Great Chamber beyond - formerly believed to have been the state apartment of the archbishop. Some of the richly carved detail still exists around the fireplaces, doors and windows to give an idea of how elaborately decorated this floor would have been. Surrounding the upper part of the Great Hall is a mural gallery, with large window openings. Up again to the third floor, which consisted of another fine room giving wonderful views across the river.

Access to the keep was, traditionally, through a first floor forebuilding, an additional defence measure to protect the main part of the keep. On the second floor, above the castle entrance was the chapel, and some measure of it's original splendour is still apparent in the surviving vaulting and the beautifully decorated windows.

In the early 13th century, Rochester Castle was besieged by King John, causing such damage to the south corner of the keep that it subsequently collapsed. Shortly afterwards, the castle was given the status of a major royal stronghold, and the shattered corner of the keep was reconstructed in a cylindrical style, and further protected by the addition of a drum tower. Further destruction was suffered in 1264, but repairs were not carried out for more than 100 years. During this time of neglect, coupled with being subjected to the elements, Rochester Castle began to deteriorate into ruins. However, Edward III undertook a major rebuilding and restoration programme and by 1400 the castle was, once again, a viable fortress.

By the 17th century, the castle had become neglected, the keep had been burned out, and the site was being used as a local quarry for building materials. In 1870 the castle grounds were leased to the City of Rochester, who turned them into a public park and eventually, in the 20th century, responsibility for this imposing old structure was taken over by English Heritage.

Today, the castle stands as a proud reminder of the history surrounding the old town of Rochester, along with the cathedral, the cobbled streets and the Dickensian reflections.

TONBRIDGE CASTLE
Considered to be one of the finest examples of a motte and bailey castle in Kent, Tonbridge has little more than a few fragmentary ruins of its shell keep and curtain walls surviving as a modern-day reminder of the turbulent past it suffered. But Tonbridge Castle's great 13th century gatehouse remains remarkably complete.

Following the Norman Conquest, William granted land at Tonbridge to Richard de Clare (or Fitzgilbert). A timber castle was soon erected on the site and this became the de Clare family home for the next 250 years. Seated high up on top of the impressive mound, the original wooden construction was replaced by a stone shell keep before the end of the 11th century, and was further reinforced during the 13th century, at the same time as the town walls were sanctioned. When the gatehouse was built a few years after Edward I had been lavishly entertained at Tonbridge Castle, his influence was apparent in the layout (which is almost identical to his mighty castle at Caerphilly).

The end of the Civil War effectively signalled the demise of the castle. Orders were given for it to be dismantled, and the ensuing years saw most of it disappear through use as a local quarry. Amazingly the twin-towered gatehouse stood the test of time. This massive stronghold, four storeys high, and faced with ashlar, was defended by a series of portcullises, murder holes, and guardrooms at ground level. Above this were the domestic chambers, and on the next level the main hall once sumptuously decorated and lit by a row of fine traceried windows. When the estate was purchased in 1790, the owner built a Georgian mansion against the east wall of the gatehouse. For the next hundred years Tonbridge Castle passed through the hands of several owners and tenants, it was used as a military academy and as a boys school. The site was finally purchased by the local council in 1900, using the mansion as offices, and opening the grounds as a public park.

Throughout a thousand years of history, Tonbridge Castle has been the subject of much incident, both political and military, and several owners were prone to losing their lives unnaturally. The de Clares were well-known warriors, fighting in many battles during the medieval period. The first Richard was killed during a seige in Normandy, his grandson in Wales, and the last of the heirs died at the Battle of Bannockburn. Then the castle passed to the Stafford family, whose reign ended when Henry was executed by Richard III and his son was executed by Henry VIII in 1520. Meanwhile, the castle had been changing hands between the Crown and it's owners.

Resting in peace at last beside the River Medway, the remains of the old castle are scattered throughout the park, and the gatehouse is open to visitors to investigate the troubled times that Tonbridge has experienced.

UPNOR CASTLE
This Tudor castle, built in the 16th century, was designed by Sir Richard Lee in order to protect warships that anchored in the River Medway. Being of a military naval capacity, it is not surprising that the plan of Upnor Castle does not conform to traditional castle ideals.

Upnor Castle stands on the banks of the Medway and comprises a triangular water bastion, fronting a rectangular structure that housed the castles living quarters. At either end of the castle wall, facing the Medway, are the North and South Towers.

The landward gatehouse and moat were added towards the end of the 16th century. At the same time the towers and walls were altered,and the timber palisade was constructed at the front of the water bastion. Most of Sir Richard Lee's work lies in the main building directly behind the bastion, with the original Tudor openings onto the riverfront being easily identified by their typical four-centred heads.

With the later addition of the moat, gunports from the lower parts of the two towers and the gatehouse were inserted for further protection. Although dating from the later building of the 16th century, the gatehouse was altered during the 17th century and this can be seen in the change of brickwork part way up the walls. Once through the gateway, a wide entrance passage leads into the castle, where foundations of various buildings can be made out.

During the 17th century the importance of Upnor Castle declined, and it was subsequently converted from service as a military fortress into use as a naval magazine. This functional change meant that many alterations had to be made to the existing buildings, including removal of gun platforms, heightening of the North and South Towers, and further modifications to the main building.

Upnor Castle retained its naval connections, serving as a magazine until the 19th century, and still boasts a remarkable state of preservation when looked upon from any angle, but is particularly impressive when viewed from the Medway.

LEEDS CASTLE
HEVER CASTLE
ARUNDEL CASTLE
BODIAM CASTLE
WALMER CASTLE
SCOTNEY CASTLE
DOVER CASTLE
PEVENSEY CASTLE
DEAL CASTLE
LYMPNE CASTLE
SALTWOOD CASTLE
CAMBER CASTLE
SISSINGHURST CASTLE
HERSTMONCEUX CASTLE
WINCHELSEA CASTLE
CHIDDINGSTON CASTLE
EYNSFORD CASTLE
RICHBOROUGH CASTLE
ROCHESTER CASTLE
TONBRIDGE CASTLE
UPNOR CASTLE

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