Bodiam Castle

 Bodiam Castle

Location: Nr Robertsbridge, East Sussex Map

Constructed: 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge
Tel. 01580 830196
Open: mid Feb- Oct: daily
Nov- 23 Dec: Wed- Sun
27 Dec- mid Feb: Sat, Sun
Closed: 24- 26 Dec
Entrance Fee: Adult £6.80
Child £3.40
Family £18
Family (1 adult) £11.20


Haunting in Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle is an ancient castle dating back to the 14th century located near Robertsbridge, a small village in East Sussex (England). It is known above all for its characteristic position, in the center of a moat completely filled with water. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, with the permission of Richard II, probably to defend the area against possible French invasions during the Hundred Years War. With a quadrangular plan, the castle has no dungeon and its various rooms are built along the external defensive walls and in the internal courtyards. Its corners and entrance are marked by towers and surmounted by battlements. Its structure, details and position in an artificial aquatic landscape indicate a particular attention to the aesthetic aspect during the design, equal to that dedicated to the defensive purpose. It was the home of the Dalyngrigge family and the center of the Bodiam Manor.

Possession of Bodiam Castle passed through several generations of Dalyngrigge, until their line died out and the castle was acquired by marriage by the Lewknor family. During the Wars of the Roses Thomas Lewknor supported the House of Lancaster, therefore, when Richard III of the House of York became king in 1483, an army was sent to besiege Bodiam Castle. There is no information on the length of the siege, however Bodiam is thought to have been surrendered without putting up much resistance. The castle was confiscated, but reverted to the Lewknors when Henry VII Tudor became king in 1485. Descendants of the Lewknors held possession of the castle until at least the 16th century.

At the beginning of the English Civil War, in 1641, Bodiam Castle was owned by Lord Thanet: he supported the Royalist cause and sold the castle in order to be able to pay the fines imposed on it by Parliament. The castle was subsequently broken up and was left as a picturesque ruin, until its purchase by John Fuller in 1829. Under him the castle was partially restored, before being sold to George Cubitt, 1st Baron Ashcombe, and later to lord Curzon, both of whom undertook further restoration work. The castle is protected as a Grade I listed monument and a Scheduled Monument. In 1925 Lord Curzon bequeathed the castle to the National Trust, which opened it to public visits.



Map of Bodiam Castle

A. Household apartments, B. Chapel, C. Chamber, D. Great chamber, E. Lord's hall, F. Buttery, G. Pantry, H. Kitchen, I. Retainer's hall, J. Retainer's kitchen, K. Possible Ante room (on some plans K, L1 and L2 are shown as one room, on some two and others three), L1. Possible service rooms, L2. Possible stables, M. North-east tower, N. East tower, O. South-east tower, P. Postern tower, Q. South-west tower, R. West tower, S. North-west tower (and prison), T. Gatehouse (with guard rooms to left and right), U. Inner causeway, V. Outer Barbican, W. Outer causeway

Bodiam Castle  Bodiam Castle


Edward Dalyngrigge, being a younger son, had inherited no property from his father in accordance with the practice of primogeniture, so he must have been the sole architect of his own fortune. By the time Bodiam Castle was built, the Hundred Years War had already begun for almost fifty years: Edward III of England (1327-1377) had made his claims to the French throne and at that stage controlled the territories of 'Aquitaine and Calais. In his youth Dalyngrigge was one of many English men who had gone to France to seek their fortune in the companies of mercenaries who fought for the highest bidder: he left for France in 1367 and traveled with Lionel, Duke of Clarence, son of Edward III. After fighting under the command of the Earl of Arundel he joined the company of Sir Robert Knolles, a mercenary commander reputed to have earned 100,000 gold crowns by plundering and raiding; working in these organisations, Dalyngrigge raised the money to later build Bodiam Castle. He returned to England in 1377 and by 1378 owned the manor of Bodiam, acquired by marriage to an heiress of a landowning family. He was also a knight of the county of Sussex from 1379 to 1388, and one of the most influential people in the whole county. In those years he applied to the king in order to obtain a license to build a castle.

The Treaty of Bruges (1375) ensured peace for two years between England and France, but when it expired the conflict resumed. In 1377 Edward III was succeeded by Richard II. During the war, England and France fought for control of the English Channel, with raids on both coasts; with renewed hostility, the English Parliament voted to invest money in the defense and fortification of the south coast of England: defenses were therefore erected in Kent, in anticipation of a French invasion. In addition to external threats, England also faced internal unrest, in the suppression of which Dalyngrigge was involved, notably helping to put down the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. A charter of 1383 granted the manor of Bodiam permission for the holding of a weekly market and an annual fair. In 1385 a French fleet of 1,200 cogs, barges and galleys assembled across the Channel at Sluis in Flanders, causing the population of southern England to panic. Later that year, Edward Dalyngrigge obtained a license for the fortification of his manor.


Construction and use

«... Know that by our special grace we have given and granted license on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, to our beloved and faithful knight Edward Dalyngrigge, who may buttress with a wall of stone and mortar and build and transform into a castle his manor of Bodiam, by the sea, in the county of Sussex, for the defense of the adjoining country and resistance against our enemies ... in faith. The King at Westminster, October 20th.”
(Extract from the building permit which enabled Edward Dalyngrigge to build a castle, from the Patent Rolls of 1385-1389.)

The license of Dalyngrigge, granted by Richard II, allowed him to strengthen the existing manor, but the knight instead chose a new site to build a new castle from scratch. The construction was completed in one phase and most of the castle was built in the same architectural style: from this the archaeologist David Thackray has deduced that Bodiam Castle was built rapidly, perhaps due to the French threat, while usually the stone castles took a long time to build and were expensive, costing thousands of pounds. Dalyngrigge was captain of the port of Brest, France from 1386 to 1387 and probably because of this he was absent for the first few years of the castle's construction. The castle replaced the old manor house as Dalyngrigge's principal residence and as the administrative center of the manor. The date Bodiam Castle was completed is not given, however Thackray suggests it was before 1392; Dalyngrigge was not able to spend much time in the completed castle, as he died in 1395.

His estates, including the castle, were inherited by his son John Dalyngrigge. As his father he too enjoyed the favor of the king and was described as "knight of the king"; in 1400 he was granted an annual allowance of one hundred marks by the sovereign; died 27 September 1408, in his will his estate passed to his widow, Alice. John and Alice were childless so, on Alice's death in 1443, the castle and all the estates were inherited by Richard Dalyngrigge, John's cousin. Richard in turn died childless and, in accordance with John's will, in 1470 it all passed to Richard's sister Philippa, who was married to Sir Thomas Lewknor, a member of a prominent Sussex family who owned land in the whole country.

Thomas Lewknor supported the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses which began in 1455. When Richard of the Yorks ascended the throne as Richard III in 1483, Lewknor was accused of treason and raising men-at-arms in southeast England. In November 1483 Lewknor's uncle and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, were allowed to round up the men and lay siege to Bodiam Castle, in which Lewknor had taken refuge. There is no record of whether or not the siege continued: Thackray suggests that Lewknor surrendered without much resistance. The property was forfeited and Nicholas Rigby was made constable of the castle but, with the accession of Henry VII to the English throne, the forfeiture order was lifted and the castle reverted to Lewknor; however not all of the surrounding land was returned to the family until 1542. Possession of Bodiam Castle passed through several generations of the Lewknor family; although the castle's legacy can be traced through the 16th and 17th centuries, not much is known about how it was used during this period or whether the family spent much time there.

After Sir Roger Lewknor's death in 1543, his estates were divided among his descendants and the castle was separated from the manor; John Levett of Salehurst bought the former in 1588. In 1623 most of the Bodiam grounds were bought by Sir Nicholas Tufton, later Earl of Thanet; his son John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet inherited the estates on his father's death in 1631 and combined ownership of the castle and manor when he bought Bodiam Castle in 1639. Tufton championed the Royalist cause during the English Civil War, led a attack on Lewes and was involved in the Royalist defeat at Haywards Heath. Parliament confiscated some of his lands in 1643 and others in 1644, and fined him £9,000 (equivalent to £1.4m in 2008): in order to pay the fine, Tufton sold Bodiam Castle for £6,000. pounds (900,000 in 2008) in March 1644 to Nathaniel Powell, a roundhead.


Picturesque ruin

After the Civil War, Powell was knighted by Charles II of England, and while it is not recorded when the castle was partially demolished, it is likely to have been after Powell's purchase. During and after the civil war many castles were dismantled to prevent their re-use; however, not all of them were completely torn down and the perimeter walls were spared. At Bodiam it was deemed sufficient to dismantle the barbican, bridges and buildings within the castle. When Nathaniel Powell died, in 1674 or 1675, Bodiam Castle passed to his son, also called Nathaniel; after the second Nathaniel, the castle passed to Elizabeth Clitherow, his daughter-in-law.

In 1722 Sir Thomas Webster bought the castle and for over a century it and its lands remained in the hands of the Webster family. It was at this time that the site became popular as something of an early tourist attraction, due to its strong appeal to the medieval period. The earliest images of Bodiam Castle date from the mid-18th century, when it was depicted as an ivy-covered ruin. Medieval ruins and buildings such as Bodiam Castle served as inspiration for the revival of Gothic architecture and the renovation of old structures.

The third Sir Godfrey Webster began looking for buyers for the castle in 1815 and managed to sell it in 1829, together with 24 acres (10 hectares or 97 124 m²) of surrounding land, to John "Mad Jack" Fuller, for £3,000 ( equivalent to £230,000 in 2008). Fuller repaired one of the towers, added new gates to the site and removed the cottage which had been built within the castle in the 18th century; moreover, it is thought that he bought the castle to prevent the Webster family from dismantling it and reusing the materials. George Cubitt, later Baron Ashcombe, bought the castle and its 24 acres from Fuller's nephew in 1849, for over £5,000 (2008:450,000). Cubitt continued the renovation begun by Fuller, commissioned the first detailed survey of the castle in 1864, and undertook repairs to the tower in the southwest corner, which had almost entirely collapsed; the fashion being then widespread for ivy-covered ruins the vegetation was not removed, notwithstanding its adverse effect on the masonry, and even the trees which had sprung up in the courtyard were left.

Lord Curzon took an interest in Bodiam Castle and decided that "so rare a treasure should neither be lost in our country nor desecrated by irreverent hands". Curzon looked into the possibility of buying the castle but Cubitt had no intention of selling it; however, after Cubitt's death, Curzon managed to come to an agreement with his son, buying Bodiam Castle and its lands in 1916. Curzon began a large program of works in 1919 and using the intervention of the architect William Weir restored different parts of the castle. The ditch, with an average depth of 1.50 meters and a maximum of 2.10 meters in the southeast corner, was drained and 90 centimeters of mud and silt were removed; during the excavations the original foundations of the castle bridges were discovered. Nearby hedges and fences were removed to provide a better view of the castle, the interior was also excavated, and a shaft was found in the basement of the south-west tower. Wild vegetation was removed, stones repaired and the original floor restored throughout the castle. A cottage was built to be used as a museum in which to show the finds from the excavations and a house for the caretaker was also built. Curzon, on his death in 1925, bequeathed Bodiam Castle to the National Trust.

The National Trust continued the restoration work and added new roofs for the towers and gatehouse. Excavation was resumed in 1970 and the ditch was emptied once more. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments of England carried out an investigation into the earthworks in the vicinity of Bodiam Castle in 1990. In the nineties the manor was at the center of a debate regarding the studies concerning the balance between militaristic and social interpretations of these sites: the arguments focused on elements such as the apparent strength of the defenses (such as the imposing moat) and the aesthetic elements . It has been suggested that the moat could have been drained in a day since the surrounding earthwork was relatively modest, and for this reason would not have been a serious obstacle to any besiegers; furthermore, the large windows to the castle's exterior were weaknesses from a defensive point of view. The castle is a Scheduled Monument, meaning it is a listed building and archaeological site of 'national significance', protected from unauthorized modification. It is also a Grade I listed building, recognized as a structure of international significance. Since being owned by the National Trust, the castle has been open to the public and according to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, over 170 000 people visited it in 2010. According to historian Charles Coulson, Bodiam " represents the popular ideal of a medieval castle."



Location and landscape
The castle's location was apparently chosen to protect the English south coast from French attack, however a landscape survey by the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments concluded that, if this were true, then Bodiam Castle would be unusually sited, as it is located away from the medieval coastline.

The area around the castle was embellished during the works to increase its aesthetic appeal. Archaeologists Oliver Creighton and Robert Higham described Bodiam as one of the best examples of landscaping to highlight a castle. The water elements were originally very extensive, however only the moat has survived, together with the earthworks left over from its construction. The moat, roughly rectangular in shape, is supplied by several natural springs, some of which are located within it, which made drainage difficult during the excavations in the 1930s. A moat can prevent attackers from gaining access to the base of a castle wall, but in the case of Bodiam it also has the effect of making the castle appear larger and more impressive, isolating it in its landscape: the moat is therefore treated as a more ornamental than defensive. Entry into the castle via the moat and attached ponds was indirect, giving visitors time to view the castle in its full glory. Military historian Cathcart King describes the access as formidable and considers it on a par with Edward I's 13th-century castles in Wales, such as Caerphilly Castle.

The castle is located roughly in the center of the moat. The postern would have been connected to the south bank of the moat by a drawbridge and a long wooden bridge. The main entrance on the north side of the castle was later connected to the north bank by another wooden bridge, however the original route would have included two bridges: one from the main entrance to an island in the moat and another connecting the island on the western shore. For the most part the latter bridge was static, except for the portion closest to the west bank which would have been a drawbridge. The island in the moat is called the Octagon; excavations in the Octagon have uncovered a cloakroom (toilet), suggesting that there may have been a guardhouse on the island, although it is unclear to what extent this was fortified. The Octagon was connected to a barbican by a bridge, probably a drawbridge. The castle's twenty-eight toilets connected directly to the moat which, according to archaeologist Matthew Johnson, would have effectively been an "open sewer."


Exterior and entrance

Bodiam is a quadrangular castle, roughly square in shape; this type of castle, with a central courtyard and buildings arranged along the curtain wall, was typical of 14th-century castle architecture. Bodiam has been described by military historian Cathcart King as the most complete surviving example of a quadrangular-based castle. There are round towers at each of the four corners, with central square towers along the south, east and west walls, while the main entrance is a twin-towered gatehouse in the north face of the castle. There is a second entrance to the south, with a passage through the square tower located in the center of the southern walls. The towers are three stories high, taller than the continuous walls and castle buildings structured on two floors.

The barbican, originally two stories but of which only part of the western wall survives, was located between the Octagon and the main entrance in the northern walls. The surviving architecture includes a groove for a portcullis for the north door of the barbican, although there are no hinges for the doors. The base of a cloakroom shows that the second floor would have provided space for a living quarters, probably a guard room. Late 18th-century drawings show the ground floor of the barbican still standing, including details such as the vaulting within the corridor.

The gatehouse in the north wall of the castle is three stories high and can be reached by a fixed bridge, whereas originally it was to be joined to the barbican by a drawbridge. The upper part of the gatehouse is equipped with machicolations and the access is dominated by loopholes positioned in the towers of the gatehouse; the gatehouse is the only part of the castle with loopholes, while the continuous walls and towers are dotted with windows with more domestic than military purposes. On the ground floor there are rooms reserved for the guards and below these there is a basement; the passage should originally have been equipped with three wooden shutters. The ceiling of the passage through the gatehouse is vaulted and is filled with killer holes. The holes were probably used to drop objects on those attacking the castle, with a similar function to loopholes, or to pour water to put out fires.

Just above the door are three coats of arms carved in bas-relief: from left to right, there are the coats of arms of the Wardeaux, Dalyngrigge and Radynden families. Edward Dalyngrigge's wife belonged to the Wardeaux family while the Radyndens were relatives of the Dalyngrigge. Above the coats of arms is a sculpture representing the head of a unicorn above a helmet, a symbol of nobility. Three coats of arms also decorate the rear gate: the central coat of arms is of Sir Robert Knolles, in whose service Edward Dalyngrigge had fought in the Hundred Years War, but those on the sides are empty.



Although the exterior of Bodiam Castle has mostly survived the interior has not had the same fate, however the remains are sufficient to be able to trace the floor plan of the castle. The domestic buildings within the castle are aligned with the curtain walls and the structure was divided into separate areas for the lord and his family, high-ranking guests, garrisons and servants. The southern area of the castle was provided with a large hall, kitchens and annexed rooms. The great hall, east of the central postern, was 7.30 by 12.20 meters wide and must have been as high as the walls; to the west of the great hall were the pantry and wine cellar, connected to the great hall by a screened passageway. Three arches allowed access to the various rooms: the pantry, the cellar and the kitchen, the latter located at the western end of the southern area. This arrangement was typical of large medieval houses; the great hall was at the center of sociality in the castle and was the place where the lord entertained his guests. The cellar and the pantry occupied the lower floor and above there was a room whose purpose is unknown. The cellar was equipped with a cellar and was used to store beer and wine, while the kitchen supplies were located in the pantry. To prevent the heat from the kitchen fires from becoming unbearable, the kitchen was as high as the walls, to give it a large enough space to better absorb the heat. In the southwest tower there was a well, from which water for domestic use would have been drawn.

Along the eastern wall are a chapel, a hall and an antechamber; to accommodate the chapel, the walls near the north-east corner project 2.70 meters further into the moat than the rest of the wall along the east side. Immediately to the south of the chapel was the main lodgings of the lord and his family. The buildings were two stories high and incorporated a cellar, however it is still difficult to determine the exact layout of the rooms.

Along the western walls there was an extra hall and a kitchen, but it is not certain what they were used for, although it is probable that they were intended for domestic servants. The so-called "servants' hall" lacks windows on its western side and should have been relatively dark in comparison with the great hall; furthermore, while this had a large fireplace, the "servants' room" did not have one. The hall adjoined the servants' kitchen, to which it was directly connected, with no hidden passages to join them. Above the "servants' room", which was limited to the ground floor, there was a room without a fireplace whose purpose remains unknown.

To the east of the main gatehouse was a two-story building with a basement, which may have been used as a storeroom, while the upper two floors were used for living quarters. The purpose of the buildings along the western end of the northern area is uncertain: due to the sparse arrangement, with little availability of light, it has been suggested that these buildings may have been used as stables, however there are usually no sewers connected to these structures. The tower in the northwest corner of the castle had a cloakroom and fireplace on each of the three floors above the ground floor and also had a basement.


The castle in mass culture

Bodiam Castle was used as a filming location for the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which it was called Swarp Castle in the "Tale of Sir Lancelot" sequence, and The King's Archer.
In 1915, the short silent film Bodiam Castle was released.
The video clip of the single The Celts by the Irish singer Enya was shot in the castle.
In 1818 the poem Bodiam Castle was published. A poem, in six cantos, dedicated to the castle.