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Bodiam Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bodeham; Bodiham; Bodyham

In the civil parish of Bodiam.
In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of East Sussex.
1974 county of East Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex (Rape of Hastings).

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ78562562
Latitude 51.00226° Longitude 0.54353°

Bodiam Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Bodiam Castle survives well and contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The survival of the water-filled moat, despite being drained and partially excavated twice in the 20th century, provides conditions for the survival of organic remains. Gardens have been a feature of important houses since at least Roman times, if not earlier, but in the 16th century gardens became larger and more formal. Recurring features were terraces, ponds and canals, and in the design of these there was a continuous interplay between social aspirations, artistic aims and changing fashions. The earthwork remains of such gardens are important archaeological features illustrating their recreational and ornamental function and of course, the scale of investment in time and money. Although somewhat altered by modern dredging, restoration and dumping, the elaborate arrangement of water features and earthworks in which the castle at Bodiam is set, and with which it may be contemporary, survives relatively well and is an unusual and early example of a planned picturesque landscape. This setting was further elaborated by a substantial earthwork platform situated c.250m upslope to the north of the castle, which has been interpreted as a pleasaunce, or ornamental garden and viewing platform for the contrived landscape below. This is the subject of a separate scheduling. The mill pond at Bodiam is sited within the castle grounds and survives comparatively well despite some later alteration. It provides evidence for the associated economic activity necessary for the support of a large castle establishment, and the control exercised by the aristocracy on milling operations during the medieval period. The later medieval croft boundaries and ridge and furrow, and the post-medieval enclosure boundary and cultivation earthworks also derive importance from their location within the earlier castle setting. Their existence illustrates the encroachment of an expanding local settlement and its associated agricultural operations on the landscaped castle grounds and indicates the decline in the importance of the castle in the later medieval period. Pillboxes are small, squat, defensive buildings built to provide protection for armed defensive troops in vulnerable areas threatened by German invasion during World War II. The pillbox 100m south of Bodiam Castle formed part of the defences along the Channel coast and adjacent river valleys. It is of an unusual form and survives particularly well. The presence of the much later pillbox close to the earlier, medieval castle, illustrates the continued vulnerability of the area to invasion into the 20th century.
The monument is situated on a gently rising, sandstone spur 250m north of the River Rother and includes Bodiam Castle, a Grade I Listed Building, an associated millpond, medieval crofts and cultivation earthworks and a World War II pillbox. Bodiam Castle forms the main focus of the site. This was built for Sir Edward Dalyngrigge on his return from a successful career in the Hundred Years' War with France. Dalyngrigge acquired the manor of Bodiam by marriage by 1378, and cited the defence of the area against French raids to justify the castle's construction. He received royal licence to begin work in 1385, and the castle was probably completed by around 1390. The castle rises from the edges of an artificial island and is square in plan, built of sandstone ashlar quarried at Wadhurst, around 15km to the north west. The outer curtain walls fully enclose the inner courtyard and are of two storeys. They survive almost to their full height, with crenellations on the northern and part of the southern faces. The interior is entered through the main gatehouse which is situated in the centre of the northern range. This is on three levels, also has a basement, and has a recessed, central entrance passage flanked by projecting rectangular towers, topped by a corbelled, machicolated and crenellated parapet. The walls are pierced by simple lancet windows, with gunloops at ground level. The medieval outer portcullis, made of iron-clad oak, also survives. A further, subsidiary entrance is provided by the postern gate, situated beneath the square, three-storeyed postern tower in the centre of the southern range. The curtain walls link four circular corner towers and two further square towers set centrally against the western and eastern walls. The walls of the towers, and much of their stone-built newel staircases, survive intact. The towers provided sleeping accommodation and are lit by single-light lancet windows. In the basement of the south western corner tower is a restored stone-lined well c.2.75m in diameter and around 2.5m deep, originally fed by a spring. Most of the fabric of the exterior is original, although some restoration and repair was carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries. In contrast to the castle exterior, most of the interior is in a ruined state. The domestic buildings which ranged around the central courtyard were largely dismantled during the Civil War in the 1640s, by which time the castle had ceased to be used as a residence. The arrangement of doors, windows and fireplaces evident on the inner face of the curtain wall suggests the original layout. Most of the buildings survive mainly as footings or buried features, although the walls of the kitchen, pantry and buttery, situated on the western side of the southern range, and part of the western range, survive as standing features. A large mullioned and transomed window, with two pointed lights, near the eastern end of the southern curtain wall, indicates the position of the great hall. The eastern range contained the principal living-rooms and the chapel. The large east window of the chapel is situated in the curtain wall in a projecting bay on the northern side of the central tower. It has three, plain, pointed lights, partially restored in the 19th century. The northern range is thought to have contained stables, a storeroom and a further hall on two storeys, and the western range accommodation and service rooms for castle retainers. The castle island is surrounded by a broad, sub-rectangular, north-south orientated moat measuring 155m by 115m and around 2m deep, fed by natural springs. Projecting halfway into the broadest, northern arm of the moat from the main castle gateway is a stone-built causeway containing the remains of an outer barbican and ending in an octagonal plinth which originally carried further defences. Excavations in 1919-20 and 1970 revealed foundations which carried the original, main bridge from the octagonal plinth to a surviving abutment at the northern end of the western, outer edge of the moat. The excavations also revealed the footings of a further bridge, since dismantled, which spanned the southern arm of the moat from a central abutment, giving access to the postern gate. Surrounding the castle is a group of water management features and ornamental earthworks connected with the construction of the moat, designed to add to the defences and to provide an attractive, elaborate approach and landscaped setting for the castle. The form of many of the ponds has been altered by later drainage and dumping and they are now mostly dry. The moat overflows through sluices on the southern side, near the south eastern corner, and on the eastern side into an adjoining rectangular pond. To the north west is a string of ponds which helped feed the moat, and, along with the overflow pond to the east, guard and ornament the northern side of the castle. Traces of terracing, possibly a carriageway, and ornamental earthworks survive on the northern and southern sides of the ponds. To the south is a substantial, west- east orientated, disused mill pond 160m long and around 65m wide which originally helped to power a 14th century watermill which formed part of the castle complex. A slight herringbone drainage pattern in the bottom of the pond is the result of a former owner, Lord Curzon's, attempt, in the 1920s, to turn the hollow into a cricket ground. To the east of the mill pond are the remains of a further, smaller pond. Bodiam Castle passed to the Lewknor family in 1470 and was sold to Sir Nicholas Tufton in 1623. In 1644, the castle was bought by the Parliamentarian Nathaniel Powell, and was partially dismantled around this time. The castle began to attract interest in the 18th century, when it was admired as a Romantic ruin. In 1829 the Websters of Battle Abbey sold the castle to John Fuller of Brightling in 1829, who began the repair and restoration work continued by two later owners, Lord Ashcombe and Lord Curzon. The latter left the castle and its grounds to The National Trust, to whom it passed after his death in 1925. On the spur to the west of the castle are the earthwork remains of formerly enclosed fields, the boundaries of east-west orientated medieval crofts, long, narrow strips of cultivated land attached to smallholdings, and traces of ridge and furrow. The croft boundaries survive as parallel banks up to 1m high, and date from the late medieval period, when the castle's domination of the surrounding area was in decline. Around 100m to the south of the castle moat, between the castle and the river, is a sub-rectangular, brick built World War II pillbox with concrete foundations and lintels. The pillbox orientated north west-south east, measures c.10m by 5m and has concrete steps leading down to the interior on the north eastern side. The south eastern end is boat-shaped and faces downstream. (Scheduling Report)

This building is an example of the latest period of military architecture of the Middle Ages. It was built by Sir Edward Dalingridge in the years following 1385, when he was given a licence to crenellate. The castle is built of sandstone ashlar quarried at Wadhurst. It takes the form of a hollow court-yard set in a wide moat. It is of 2 storeys with a castellated parapet over. At the four corners are round towers of 3 storeys similarly embattled-and with vices containing the stairways. In the centre of the south, east and west sides are projecting square towers similarly embattled, the south one with machicolation below the parapet. This tower contained the postern gate which had a drawbridge across the moat. In the centre of the north side are two similarly projecting square towers with a recessed portion between and on each side, and-machicolation over the whole. Four centred archway with portcullis. This was the main entrance of the- castle and drawbridge across the moat. Loop windows, some with pointed heads. The hall and kitchen were on the south side of the internal court-yard, the living rooms on the east side, but most of the buildings behind the outer walls are now ruinous. The castle passed by marriage to the Lewknor family in 1470. It was partly dismantled during the Civil War. It was bought by Lord Curzon in 1917, restored in 1919 and bequeathed by him to the National Trust in 1925. (Listed Building Report)

Medieval castle probably built in the years after 1385 when Sir Edward Dalingridge was granted a license to crenellate. Comprising a court yard with four corner round towers and projecting square towers in the centre of the south, east and west sides, the whole is set within a wide moat. The main entrance is on the north side and is flanked by two projecting square towers, outside of which but still within the moat are a barbican and octagonal outwork. The castle was partly dismantled during the Civil War, but was restored and presented to the National Trust in 1919. Formerly regarded as a 'textbook' example of a Medieval castle, field investigation in 1988 revealed that rather than being a defensive work the castle was probably the centrepiece of an elaborate designed landscape involving sheets of water, the whole designed to be passed through and also viewed from above. (PastScape)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1385 Oct 21 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


Revisionist arguments sometimes underplay the defensive features of this castle; ignoring the defensive capability of a 'drained' moat (mud is a considerable barrier) and forgetting that the barbican, an important defensive feature, has been mainly demolished. Military deterministic arguments that Bodiam was susceptible to French raids from ships using the River Rother are weak. The Rother was navigable for small ships but no invasion force would sail up this river since it would immediately be trapped by the strong naval forces based at Winchelsea and Rye at the mouth of the Rother. It is clear that Bodiam was never built as a military fortress and that it is fundamentally a domestic house decorated and embellished with martial symbolism. Dalingridge's achievement at Bodiam was to build a house that so completely convinced later authors of its (and his) martial status; Gatehouse suspects it had much the same effect on many, but not all, of his contemporaries.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:47

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