Bodiam Castle (Sussex, England)
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Bodiam Castle is possibly the most recognisable and picturesque castle in England, and it was about time I managed to actually visit it!
A relatively late built in terms of castles (much like my absolute favourite #Raglan Castle), Bodiam was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, who received a licence from Richard II in 1385 to ‘strengthen and crenellate his manor house of Bodyham’. He took this as an opportunity to build a whole new structure on a fresh site. Ostensibly to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years' War, Bodiam Castle was more a triumph of castle architecture and a symbol of Sir Edward’s wealth and aspirations than an actual fortress.
Bodiam Castle passed through several generations of Dalyngrigges until their line became extinct, whereupon the castle passed by marriage to the Lewknor family in 1470.
During the Wars of the Roses Sir Thomas Lewknor supported the losing-side House of Lancaster, and when Richard III became king in 1483 a force was despatched to besiege the castle. It is not recorded whether the proposed siege went ahead, but it is likely that Bodiam was surrendered without much resistance and therefore suffered minimal damage. The castle was confiscated, but later returned to the Lewknors in 1485. Descendants of the family owned the castle until at least the 16th century.
By the start of the English Civil War in 1641, Bodiam Castle was in the possession of Lord Thanet. He supported the Royalist cause, and sold the castle to help pay fines levied against him by Parliament. The castle was subsequently dismantled, and was left as a picturesque ruin until its purchase by John Fuller in 1829. Under his care the castle was partially restored before being sold to George Cubitt, 1st Baron Ashcombe, and later to Lord Curzon (former Viceroy of India), both of whom undertook further restoration work.
The castle is protected as a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Monument. It has been owned by The National Trust since 1925, donated by Lord Curzon on his death, and is open to the public.
Bodiam Castle has no keep and consists of a quadrangular structure with corners marked by round towers and entrances protected by square towers all topped with crenelations. The entire castle is surrounded by a wide moat and accessed in the present day via a bridge and walkway. In medieval period the castle had two entry-ways – a straight wooden bridge to the south entrance and a wooden bridge from the west bank of the moat to the stone walkway (which no longer exists and is replaced by the north bridge). The stone walkway had two drawbridges as an added defence.
Within the castle walls there were various chambers and rooms. At the bottom of one round tower was (and still is) a well containing water for the household. The south range contained the main hall in the east, connected via 3 doorways in a cross wall to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen on the west. The family apartments lay in the east range, in the north-east corner was the chapel and other chambers, with general household apartments to the north. In the centre was a courtyard.
Site visited February 2019
Photos © Completely Castles 2019