What is the Oldest Castle in England?

When we dive into the history of England there is always a castle and every story, but have you ever wondered what the oldest castle in England is?

The oldest castle in England is Berkhamsted Castle built in 1066 by Robert of Mortain, the half-brother of William the Conqueror. An early Norman Motte-Bailey Castle built during the Norman conquest of England to control the key route between London and the Midlands.

Ruins of Berkhamsted Castle
 © Copyright Chris Reynolds

However, there have been even older wooden fortifications with defence duties in England dating back to the Iron Age, let’s find out more about them.

Maiden Castle in Dorset 600 BC

Maiden Castle
Picture by Mark Robinson on flickr.com

Not a Middle Ages “Motte and Bailey Castle“, as we will mainly talk about in this article.

Maiden Castle is one of the oldest fortifications in England built around 600BC, similar to many other hill forts in Britain covering an area of 16 acres.

Later towards 450 BC they expanded the fort and became the largest hill fort in Britain.

After the Roman conquest in Britain, the last tenants abandoned the Maiden Castle and used it afterwards for agricultural purposes.

Maiden Castle is located near Dorchester DT2 9EY, and it’s open to the public all year round with free admission under the care of English Heritage.

Bamburgh Castle 420

Bamburgh Castle

Another great castle what’s storyline stretches back way earlier than William’s conquest period.

Originally in 420 – 547, a Celtic Brythonic fortification settlement was known as Din Guarie and also represented the Capital of the Kingdom of Bernicia.

Since then fort has been passed over between Britons and Anglo-Saxons about three times and destroyed entirely by the Vikings 993.

William the Conqueror rebuilt a brand new castle in 1095 which is the core of the present court.

William realised how strategically important Bamburgh Castle was and made it one of the strongest border garrisons with Scotland.

Over the centuries Bamburgh Castle served as a home for many kings; John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II and Edward III.

During the war of two roses, Bamburgh became the first castle in England destroyed by modern artillery.

In 1894 William Armstrong bought the castle for £60 000 and belongs to its family up until today.

Berkhamsted Castle 1066

Built by William’s half brother Robert of Mortain in 1066 Berkhamsted Castle Is the oldest castle in England and one of the oldest castles in the world.

Built with the intent of controlling the road between London and the Midlands, Berkhamsted Castle was one of the earliest timber motte-and-bailey type Castle.

From 1155 the King’s right hand Thomas Becket reinforced the castle with a stone motte and curtain wall as well as with impressive earthworks.

After two weeks Louis besieged Berkhamsted Castle.

In 1225 King Henry III granted the castle to Richard Earl of Cornwall, one of the wealthiest nobles in England at that time.

His wealth allowed him to restore, refurbish and enlarge the western tower of the castle by giving an authentic luxurious palace look.

Edward, the Black Prince, used the castle as his favourite residence, later giving it to the Duke of Cornwall.

The last castle passed to the five queens ending with Elizabeth l.

It seems that since 1495 the castle hasn’t been occupied and gradually fell into the ruins.

Warwick Castle 1068

Warwick Castle

Another earliest wooden motte-and-bailey castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068.

Situated next to the river Avon kings used Warwick as a stronghold up until the 17th century when King James I granted the Castle to Fulke Greville.

Greville converted the castle into a country house and belonged to his family up until 1978.

In 1978 Greville’s family sold the castle to the Tussauds Group.

Is Warwick Castle worth visiting?

The Warwick Castle is worth visiting for its authentic inside and out architecture, entertainment, unique Barracks-types accommodation and the world largest working trebuchets.

What can you do at Warwick Castle?

Warwick castle is one of the best family out castles, that definitely will surprise you with the amount of fun it has to offer. 

Being a Grand in size Castle, you can spend a whole day walking around the castle, in the courtyard, and enjoy the castle’s tours and it’s history.

If you allow yourself plenty of time, you can hire boats and enjoy the spectacular view of the castle from the River Avon.

Warwick has its dungeon, knight village accommodation where you can stay overnight, breakfast and evening tea in the observatory.

The current owners of the castle worked hard to keep visitors for as long as possible.

For more information, please check out their website and we highly recommend visiting with the whole family.

Windsor Castle 1070

Windsor Castle
Picture by Mike McBey on Flickr.com

Windsor is the oldest occupied castle in the world where 39 monarchs have lived since William the Conqueror built a castle.

Even today it’s the primary residence of England’s royal family, holding the title also for the longest-occupied palace in the world.

It was initially built as a wooden motte-and-Bailey Norman stronghold on the outskirts of London, to strengthen their presence in the area and defence of unexpected attacks.

Gradually replaced with a stone structure, the castle resisted the siege during the Baron’s War at the beginning of the 13th century.

From then up until Queen Victoria’s reign, Windsor Castle survived many wars and suffered a lot of restorations.

Even in the second world war, the royal family used the castle as a refuge during Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign.

Now Windsor Castle is one of the Most Visited Castles in the UK and a top tourist destination.

Rochester Castle 1090

Rochester Castle
Picture by Kotomi_ on Flickr.com

The next on the list of oldest castles in England is Rochester, founded, Surprise Surprise! during William’s conquest and given to Bishop Odo.

Bishop Odo lost the castle to William Rufus during Rochester’s first military experience.

Between 1087 and 1089 Rufus built a new stone castle in Rochester, he established the current extent of the castle.

It was severely damaged during the First Barons War by King John and not log after by Prince Louis.

For the third time, the castle suffered severe damage in 1264 during the second Barons War where Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Claire tried to capture the castle but failed.

Rochester Castle experienced its last military action in 1381 when it was captured and ransacked during the Peasants revolt.

During 1870 the owners opened the castle and its park to the public.

Rochester suffered restoration works during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today the ruins are in the guardianship of English Heritage and open to the public.

Tickets and Tours 

If you are thinking about seeing more than one castle on the same day, you might consider checking TripAdvisor’s deals in Eastern England which include three or more castles on the same tour.

Summary 

We hope you have enjoyed the article and found the information you were looking for.

Don’t forget to check out our blog page for more exciting articles and our castle finder to search castles by country.

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