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Knepp Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cnap; Le Kenape; Cnappe; Kneppe; Knob; Knap; Knep; Knapp'

In the civil parish of Shipley.
In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of West Sussex.
1974 county of West Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex (Rape of Bramber).

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ16352089
Latitude 50.97572° Longitude -0.34397°

Knepp Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


Knepp Castle was possibly built by William de Braose in the 11th century, and fortified in 1214. It was largely demolished in 1726 and material used to make part of the Steyning - Horsham road. It now consists of little more than a mount surrounded by a bank and ditch. Scheduled. (PastScape)

The motte, situated upon the flood plain of the River Adur is modelled out of a natural mound. It measures 80.0 to 100.0m in diameter and is 4.5m in height. The slopes are steep except to the SW, facing the river, where there is a break probably marking the site of the original entrance. Beyond a narrow berm, 2.0 to 7.0m in width, is an encircling ditch, 8.0 to 15.0m in width, up to 1.7m deep on the inner side, enclosed by an outer bank, 5.0 to 9.0m wide, up to 1.5m in height above the floodplain. The ditch is now dry but was formerly waterfilled, being fed through a break on the NW side from a pond contained by a bay, which extends westwards from the outer bank for 72.0m until it reaches high ground. The pondbay is 12.0m in width and up to 1.7m in height. It is cut through for a farmtrack and otherwise mutilated at the E end. Upon the flat-topped motte, stands, to a height of about 11.0m, the N end of the W wall of a tower or keep. The walling, of which a 9.5m length remains, is 2.5m thick and is built of random rubble faced with coursed Horsham stone. A buttress at the N corner is faced with squared sandstone. The masonry has been repaired and restored and is in good condition. The motte and moat are under pasture and are fairly well preserved (Field Investigators Comments–F1 ASP 07-JUL-71). Knepp Castle, like Bramber, belonged to the de Braose family until forfeiture to the Crown in 1208. The castle was fortified by its castellan, Roland Bloet, in 1214, but in May 1215 John ordered its destruction. This was rescinded in October 1215 when he granted the castle to Giles de Braose, Bishop of Hereford, but following the latter's death in November, its destuction by fire was ordered. Early in the following reign it was restored to Reginald de Braose, and remained with the de Braose family thereafter (HKW). Motte built in the 11th century, and fortified with a keep or tower in 1214. The destruction of this tower was ordered in 1215/6 but later rescinded. It was largely demolished in 1726. The motte can still be seen, surmounted by the remains of the keep and enclosed by a moat (Listing Report). (PastScape)

The earthwork remains of Knepp Castle survive well despite the ruined condition of the above-ground walls, and it therefore holds considerable archaeological potential for evidence of the development of the castle. Its diversity of features, such as the approach causeway and the outer bank, illustrates well the adaptability of motte castles to suit the particular setting.
The monument includes the mound and ruins of a motte castle dating from soon after the Norman Conquest, together with its surrounding moat, outer bank and approach causeway. The castle was built by William de Braose as a northern stronghold in his Barony of Bramber. A prominent natural mound in the marshy floodplain of the River Adur was modified into a roughly oval motte 125m north-east/south-west by 80m north- west/south-east and 4.5m high. On the summit of this motte was built a keep originally some 15m square, of which a 9m length of the western wall survives to a height of 12m. Two main periods of building are evident in the surviving walling, of 11th/12th century and then of 13th century date, as well as numerous more recent repairs. The doorway and large window at first floor level indicate the position of the main chamber. The keep was largely dismantled in 1726 and used for road-building stone. Around the motte is a moat 7-11m wide and now silted up, with on its outer edge a low bank 6m wide and 1m high. This outer bank is pierced on the north-east side by an original gap 8m wide and on the western side by a modern drain. The causeway by which the castle is joined to the dry land to the west is 70m long, 8m wide and stands 1.6m high. (Scheduling Report)

Always very much of a hunting lodge and seldom called a castle. (King)

King's comment does show some of the ambiguity of his (and others) military deterministic view of castles. Were it not for royal records which show how this castle was actually used there would be no question of him describing it in a military way as defending a major crossing of the River Adur (The A24 still passes just below the castle).
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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