Friday, March 16, 2007
Bodiam Castle is situated beside the River Rother in East Sussex and was built in the late 14th century by a veteran of King Edward III's wars with France, originally as a coastal defence. In 1385, Sir Edward Dalyngrygge was given permission to fortify his house against invasion from France, but then decided to build a new stone castle a short distance away from the house.
What can be seen today is a relatively small, picturesque building that symbolises the movement from traditional medieval castle to comfortable manor house. With an almost square construction, Bodiam Castle has a notable symmetry and is surrounded by a wide moat. The moat was created from an artificial lake which, in turn, originated from allowing the river to flow into a rectangular area of marshy land.
At each corner of the curtain wall stands a four-storey, cylindrical tower, with rectangular towers located mid-way along each wall. The southern rectangular tower of the Postern Gate at one time carried the drawbridge across the moat. Symmetrically opposite stands the Gatehouse with its twin, rectangular towers consuming one third of the northern wall. A deep arch and parapet connect the towers of the Gatehouse. The gun-ports on the towers were a later edition to the castle. Access to Bodiam Castle today remains via the moat on the north side, passing through the Octagon and the Barbican before reaching the Gatehouse. The Barbican was originally constructed as a two-storey gatehouse but only the lower part of the western wall survives. Bodiam Castle has no keep, thus employing the gatehouse as a defence to the bailey within the castle walls.
The fortifications were never tested to any degree, although during the Civil War the interior of the castle was virtually gutted. After surrending, Bodiam Castle was then left to deteriorate until the early 20th century. At that time, Earl Curzon undertook a sympathetic re-building programme in order to restore Bodiam Castle to its former medieval appearance. However, little remains of the interior buildings other than remnants of fireplaces and doorways. The doorway to the Great Hall and some doorways and windows of the kitchen area are still standing.
The excavation works of Earl Curzon also uncovered a wide range of artefacts in the grounds of the castle, which can be seen in Bodiam Castle museum. Walking around the landscaped grounds - which are believed to follow the design by Sir Dalyngrygge to compliment his original construction of the castle - some spectacular views of Bodiam Castle can be seen. The construction of Bodiam Castle appears to have been a perfect combination of medieval defence strategies and remarkably comfortable accommodation, thus creating a magnificent fortified building in an idyllic rural location.
***Text courtesy of English Heritage
***Photos courtesy of Innes Dinn