In the south-eastern corner of England you can find several impressive castles – Hever, Leeds, Dover, Rochester, Deal and Bodiam amongst them. Historically the region has always been vulnerable to attack from foreign shores.
As we were staying in the Weald of Kent for a few days, which is on the East Sussex border, we decided to take the historic steam train from Tenterden to Bodiam and walk to the moated castle, often glimpsed from the road when passing by. We could have driven there in about 10 minutes, but sometimes it is nice to take things slowly and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
In 1377 French ships raided the Sussex coast, causing widespread damage and panic among the local population which led to the building of nearby Scotney Castle. The French later raided nearby Winchelsea in 1380, so when a new French invasion threatened in 1385 Sir Edward Dalyngrigge (one of Edward III’s knights) applied to King Richard II for a license to fortify and strengthen the existing hall he lived in.
Having been granted permission he decided to build a new sandstone fortress near the River Rother, which at that time was navigable to the coast. Though its primary aim was defense, Dalyngrigge made sure that Bodiam was also a comfortable abode, as much a fortified residence as a military stronghold. And of course a visual symbol of his wealth.
Bodiam Castle is considered to be the finest example of medieval, moated, military architecture in Britain.
The French invasion never took place, and Bodiam’s impressive defenses were never tested until 1484 when the castle fell to a siege by Richard III.
Do you have a favourite castle?