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Cooling Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cowling, Coulyng; Couling

In the civil parish of Cooling.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Medway.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ75357595
Latitude 51.45485° Longitude 0.52294°

Cooling Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Cooling Castle is an unusual form of quadrangular castle; most were constructed on a single, moated island. Despite some disturbance caused by subsequent gardening, landscaping and building, the castle survives well and contains standing remains, buried archaeological features and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The waterfilled portion of the moat will provide ideal 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 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. The landscaped water garden to the north and west of Cooling Castle survives well and provides evidence for the later elaboration of the original castle defences for ornamental purposes. The transformation of the medieval remains into a picturesque ruin within the landscaped garden of a 19th century house illustrates the phenomenon of Romantic Antiquarianism, the creation of an attractively informal garden around the focus of a ruined building. The monument includes a quadrangular castle and an associated landscaped area situated on the north Kent marshes, on the southern bank of the River Thames, around 3.2km south of the present course of the river. The manor of Cooling was acquired by the de Cobham family by the middle of the 13th century and John de Cobham, the 3rd Baron Cobham, used the French raid on the Thames estuary in 1379, part of the hostilities of the 100 Years War between England and France, to justify the need for a castle to protect northern Kent and the seaward approach to London. He received Royal licence to fortify his manor on 2nd February 1380-1, and building work was completed by the end of 1385. The castle buildings occupy two islands divided by the now dry, eastern arm of the moat surrounding the western island. The remains of the inner ward on the western island are Listed Grade I. The defensive curtain walls of the western island form an almost complete circuit around the sub-square, inner courtyard, although a short section of the northern wall near the north eastern corner has been dismantled. The island covers an area of c.0.24ha and takes the form of a raised platform 1.8m above the surrounding ground. The curtain walls are c.1.2m thick and are faced mainly with ragstone ashlar and some roughly- knapped grey flint, with a chalk rubble core. These have become partially ruined, surviving to a height of between 4.5m and 9m. At each of the four corners are the remains of a circular tower, the south eastern and north western of which survive almost to their full height and are pierced by gunloops. The south eastern corner tower has an inserted, four-light, hollow chamfered, mullioned and transomed window at first floor level. The original entrance to the interior of the western island lies toward the northern end of the eastern curtain wall and is a gateway with a central, four-centred arch flanked by two semicircular towers pierced by gunloops. This entrance is now blocked by a modern wall. Steps leading up to a gunloop survive inside the northern gate tower. Access to the gateway would have been by way of a drawbridge from the eastern island over the moat, although this has not survived. A further simple entrance survives at the northern end of the western curtain wall and may have provided access to the island for water-borne traffic. A former owner of the castle is known to have unearthed the remains of a small wooden boat near the water gate during the 19th century. Within the north eastern corner of the inner courtyard is the great hall, of which one bay of the three-bayed undercroft survives intact. The ceiling has quadripartite vaults with chamfered ribs resting on short columns built into the walls. The floor is paved with modern stone flags. A piscina, or alcove containing a water basin, which would originally have been situated within the castle's chapel, has been resited on the eastern wall. On the outer side of the eastern wall is a central, rectangular projection which may have contained the fireplace and chimney of the hall. The great hall is faced with ragstone and finely-knapped flint arranged in a chess-board pattern and the room is lit by small lancet windows. In the south eastern corner of the courtyard, adjacent to the corner tower, are the remains of a further chamber, now below ground level and reached by way of a newel staircase. The south eastern corner tower was built after this chamber, obscuring a window opening on its southern wall, and this, along with a slight change in the alignment of the northern curtain wall near its eastern end, suggests that the eastern wall was a later addition to a slightly earlier castle plan. Further domestic buildings which ranged around the central courtyard survive as buried features. The eastern island is a substantially raised, sub-rectangular platform and is the larger of the two islands, covering an area of c.1.1ha. The island was also, originally, fully enclosed by a curtain wall, although only the western portion of the wall survives as a standing feature. This has been the subject of partial rebuilding and alteration over the years. There are ruined, horseshoe-shaped towers at the north western, north eastern and south eastern corners. The original buildings of the interior survive mainly as buried foundations, and a 19th century farmhouse and farm buildings, including a Grade II Listed, timber-framed barn dating from the 16th century, have been built within the interior. A small building, now an outhouse, situated on the western side of the farmhouse and adjoining the western curtain wall, is constructed of medieval masonry, some reused from dismantled portions of the castle. The building has a curved southern wall which suggests that it contains the remains of a circular mural tower, part of the original accommodation of the castle's interior. In the south western corner of the eastern island is the main gatehouse, a Grade I Listed Building, which provided overland access to the castle complex. The gatehouse survives almost intact and has two, semicircular flanking towers capped by boldly projecting rings of machicolations and crenellations. The towers are open on the inside. Between them is a four-centred arch with crenellations on either side, set above a moulded, round-arched gateway. Gunloops pierce the southern faces of the towers at first floor level. High on the southern face of the eastern tower is an enamelled copper plaque inscribed in gothic lettering with the following rhyme:- 'Knoweth that beth and schul be That I am mad in help of the cuntre In knowing of whyche thyng Thys is chartre and wytnessyng'. The eastern island is surrounded by a substantial, V-shaped dry ditch c.20m wide and up to 6m deep on the eastern and part of the southern and northern sides. The ditch is interrupted by a causeway which gives access to the main gateway to the south and, on the northern side, by a dam which, despite some modern reinforcement, is an original feature separating the wet moat to the west from the dry ditch to the east. The moat surrounding the western island is fed by natural springs and remains waterfilled on the northern, southern and western sides, although the level of the water is now lower than it would have been when the castle was in use. To the north and west of the western island is an elaborate and largely decorative landscaped area which may have been created in the 18th or 19th centuries as part of a landscaped garden incorporating the castle ruins. This area is bounded by, and incorporates, water channels flowing into the castle moat. A small circular island lies to the west of the castle's western island and is connected to a further, larger island to the north by a modern footbridge. A narrow causeway gives access from the larger island to the castle. Some 10m north of the northern arm of the moat is a low, north west-south east orientated linear bank c.46m long, perhaps forming part of the outer defences of the castle. Cooling Castle remained in the ownership of the descendants of Sir John de Cobham until the 18th century, although it is believed to have gone out of use as a manorial residence after 1554, when the castle was attacked by the forces of Sir Thomas Wyatt during his rebellion against Queen Mary's impending marriage to Philip of Spain. A former owner of the castle found fallen masonry and iron and stone cannon balls in the eastern arm of the moat during the 19th century. (Scheduling Report)

Embattled gatehouse. 1381-85. By Thomas Crump, possibly to the designs of Henry Yevele for Sir John de Cobham. Coursed ragstone with some knapped flint. 2 semi-circular towers with boldly projecting rings of machicolations and crenellations. Four-centred arch between with crenellations above and moulded round-arched gateway below and behind. Single loopholes on front faces of towers at half height. The gatehouse is open on the inside and originally admitted to the extreme south-west corner of the outer ward. (Listed Building Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1381 Feb 10 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:30

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