“ Bodiam / nr Robertsbridge / East Sussex / TN32 5UA. „
I have lived in the United Kingdom for 4 years. During this time I have travelled to a few places around England and have seen a few castles. Bodiam Castle was one of them.
Brief information about Bodiam Castle:
Bodiam Castle is a 14th-century moated castle. It was originally built in 1385 to defend the area against French invasion. During the English Civil War, which was started in 1641, Bodiam Castle was subsequently dismantled and was left as a picturesque ruin.
Different from many traditional castles, Bodiam Castle has no keep. It has its various chambers built around the outer defensive walls and inner courts. Its corners and entrance are marked by towers, and topped by crenellations. Its structure, details and situation in an artificial watery landscape indicate that display was an important aspect of the castle's design as well as defence.
Historically the castle was the home of different owners' family and the centre of the manor of Bodiam. Today the castle is protected as a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Monument. Since 1925 the castle has been donated to The National Trust and is open to the public.
Bodiam Castle is located in the village of Bodiam, Robertsbridge; on the border between Kent and East Sussex, England. You can drive your car to get Bodiam Castle. There is a big parking area which is nearby the entrance. It's also accessible by ferry or by bus.
What to see at Bodiam Castle:
First are the ruins of the castle itself with its impressive defences outside and a comfortable grandeur inside. Passing by the parking and shop areas and walking a short distance, you will see a wooden bridge over the moat, which is leading to the entrance of the castle. Before showing my ticket to a National Trust staff in the gatehouse, I stopped on the bridge for a while seeing a lot of carp swimming in the water. I also noticed the portcullis, which is probably the oldest portcullis in Britain.
Roaming the interior of the castle I saw a central courtyard, which is a large and beautiful area of lawn. The outline of the original buildings is highly surrounded. Based on the guide information I can see there were a Great Hall, a pantry, buttery and kitchens, etc. From these ruins I can imagine people who lived inside the castle had very comfortable and safe life. You can climb inside each tower to access to the roof level. Due the bad weather I didn't stay too long outside. Before leaving the castle I watched a short film about Bodiam Castle in a small room nearby the exit.
Last but not least, you can visit a museum, which is located just above and facing the bridge. It tells the changes of the castle over the few centuries. There is a model of Bodiam Castle, which shows how it was looked when it was completed. You can also see some artefacts founded from the moat, etc.
Opening times and prices:
Bodiam Castle is open daily from 10:30am to 5pm. Currently the admissions are £6.30 for adult and £3.15 for child. As it is the National Trust property, it's free for National Trust members.
Bodiam Castle is a beautiful and impressive 14th century castle, which has fantastic towers and broad moat outside and a fairytale atmosphere inside. It's a great place for a day out.
Nearby Bodiam Castle you can also visit Bayham Abbey, which connects the history of Dissolution of the Monasteries and King Henry VIII; and Scotney Castle Garden and Estate which is full of Victorian memories.
For more tourist sites please visit my blog: http://blossom-iwanttoseetheworld.blogspot.co.uk/
If you do not know the East Sussex / Kent borders country very well I will warn you that the village of Bodiam, where this castle is situated, can be devilishly difficult to find. Like so many other hidden treasures though, you may find it well worth seeking out.
As this is a National Trust site, I will extrapolate their slightly less than helpful directions from the 2006 Handbook. On Foot, located on the Sussex Border path. By Ferry, Bodiam ferry from Newenden Bridge (A28). By Bus, Arriva 254 Tunbridge Wells to Hastings stops at Wadhurst (5 miles away!!!!). By Road 3ml S of Hawkhurst , 3ml E of A21 Hurst Green.
OK Ive been there probably half a dozen times, and all that means precious little to me, I still need a map to find the place! Here, for those of you who are interested or have GPS, are the grid coordinates: 199:TQ785256.
With or without a classic castle, this is a picturesque environment and landscape. Bodiam is set in the valley of the River Rother at a historical crossing point of that river; it is thought that there has been a port on this site since Roman times. Adittionally a north south (Rochester to Hastings) Roman road crossed the river at this point. Commercially then this, now, unassuming East Sussex village, was a strategically important site.
I would like to take you back to the mid 14th Century, Edward III was engaged in the Hundred Years War against the French laying claim to what he considered his right, the Crown of France. As with all wars that followed the English Channel was strategically vital to the success of the English cause. Control of the Channel passed backwards and forwards between the two nations during the 1300s with invasions taking place on both sides. The south coast of England therefore was being constantly strengthened and fortified during this period. One also needs to understand that the forces involved, in practical terms the army, were made up very differently from todays regimented organisation.
Power and influence as far as the crown was concerned was hard fought and won on the field of battle. Armies were Free Companies - private mercenary groups fighting under a commander loyal to the crown. One such commander, who had a fearsome reputation for sacking the French and reaping huge financial rewards, was Sir Robert Knollys. Serving under him was a knight by the name of Edward Dalyngrigge who also made his fortune whilst fighting the French.
Sir Edward Dalyngrigge who came from an East Grinstead family married an heiress, Elizabeth of Wardeux, whose family had held the manor of Bodiam since 1330. Sir Edward came into possession of the manor in 1378. The original, moated, manor house at Bodiam was located slightly to the north of the present castle and at the top of the hill.
As Knight of the Shire for Sussex from 1379 to 1388, Dalyngrigge was one of the most powerful and influential men in the area. Partly due to his mercenary military days in France he also had a highly aggressive and rather unpredictable character, he made many more enemies than friends along the way.
As a military man, Dalyngrigge had been commissioned in 1380 by the crown to investigate and fortify the important coastal towns of Winchelsea and Rye. It just so happened that, although 14 miles inland up the River Rother from Rye and Winchelsea, Bodiam was regarded as part of the port of Winchelsea. This lead Sir Edward Dalyngrigge to conclude that building a castle here would form an excellent second line of defence on this strategic route north.
In October 1385 Dalyngrigge received a Royal Licence to Strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and, construct and make into a castle his manor house in Bodyham, near the sea, in the county of Sussex, for defence of the adjacent country, and, resistance to our enemies.
Sir Edwards manor house was, as we have already seen, situated in a different place to that in which, in 1385 he started to build what we now know as Bodiam Castle. He chose the best possible strategic position, overlooking the wharfs and bridge spanning the Rother, a position from which the enemy could easily be detected coming from the south to the north were hills anyway.
Planning regulations have forever, it would seem, been broken. In 1385 lets face it the planning consent officer would have been no match for the irascible Sir Edward Dalyngrigge!
The threat of a French invasion was such that, with Dalyngrigges power and financial position, Bodiam Castle was swiftly completed. No mean feat. This is a large castle, surrounded by a wide moat, as much a seven feet deep in places, all of that had to be dug out. The castle itself was constructed from blocks of local Wealden sandstone, pale stone in colour.
If you can picture in your minds eye the classic childhood picture of a magic castle, then that is what Bodiam looks like. It ticks all the boxes! Encircled by a moat, originally equipped with a draw-bridge, the castle itself having a round tower on each corner, plus a huge gatehouse at the entrance, Bodiam was designed to be a comfortable home a manor house - as well as a defensive stronghold.
The castle was the main residence of Dalyngrigge and his descendants until around 1470 when due to a lack of heirs the castle passed into the hands of another land owning family, the Lewknors. Regrettably, having taken the wrong side during the Wars of the Roses, in 1483 Sir Thomas Lewknor was tried for treason, following a siege the castle was surrendered to levy men in the Counties of Kent and Sussex. Upon accession to the crown in 1485, King Henry VII pardoned Sir Thomas and he was reinstated to Manor of Bodiam. He died a month later, by which time it would appear that the living quarters within the castle had already been dismantled leaving it pretty much as you see it today ..
well, not quite. During the centuries in between, Bodiam Castle was left pretty much to the elements and fell into some state of decay. George Cubitt purchased the ruin in 1864 for £5000. He drained the moat and discovered many of the missing stones, which had simply fallen from the castle walls into the water, he then employed a stonemason, Charles Thompson, to replace these and, where necessary, to cut and fix in place new ones. He stopped at reconstructing the outer walls of the castle; there was no intention to return the status of it to that of a family home. During this period the castle was covered in ivy and had trees growing in the central courtyard.
In a sense it is difficult to imagine a more romantic setting, or home than this, every fairy princesses dream come true, yet, unlike the Disney castles, this one is and was very much for real.
Bodiam Castle is one place that actually succeeds in bringing back childhood memories for me. I remember my parents taking me there when I was about four or five, a few years later I also remember being taken there on a summer excursion trip from school. Almost 40 years later, this is one place that remains exactly as I remember it as a child.
Having found Bodiam, assuming that you have arrived by car, you enter the car park, paying £2.00 at the gate. The car park is situated a little way from the castle on the north bank of the River Rother. All the facilities are located on the edge of the car park adjacent to the road. Before you set off to explore the castle and its grounds, be warned, the only toilets, on this admittedly not so large site, are located here. Having had lunch at our favourite tea room in Winchelsea, we use the toilets before setting off on foot to the castle.
I should mention here, at the time of our last visit (19.3.2006), that I was partially disabled, my left leg only having been out of plaster for three weeks. We had last visited Bodiam around eighteen months ago and from memory I did not think that this visit would be too much hampered by the fact that my walking is very slow and aided by a stick.
The path up to the castle from the car park is well surfaced with gravel and not very steep. Certainly I had no problems managing it, neither did a quite elderly couple apparently, the wife of which was in a wheelchair. In wet weather, or if the grassy banks surrounding and above the castle are wet and slippery, you loose little in the way of views by sticking to the paths. In the summer as we did on our last visit, those grassy banks make superb picnick spots, shaded as they are by leafy trees.
On the ridge, just above and facing the bridge over the moat to the castle is located a small (one room) museum, adjacent to the admission desk. The museum contains an excellent glass encased model of Bodiam Castle, simulating how it would have looked in around 1400 when completed, plus some artefacts, mostly dredged from the moat when Lord Curzon, the then owner, had it drained in 1919.
Curzon was the last private owner of the Castle, purchasing it in 1916. He bought it with the sole aim of restoring it and then donating it to the nation. During his restorations and excavations, he discovered the castle well situated in the south west tower, for hundreds of years it had been in filled with silt and rubble. In 1926 he bequeathed Bodiam Castle to the National Trust.
From the museum it is a short walk to the wooden bridge, which in two parts crosses the moat. In the summer you will see large pike and carp swimming in the water, in March they were nowhere to be seen! Passing under the huge portcullis, showing your ticket to a National Trust member located in the gatehouse, you are then free to roam the interior of the castle.
The gatehouse is strong, heavy and dark as you pass under, then you are hit by the amount of light flooding the interior of the castle. Looking complete on the outside, Bodiam Castle is but a romantic ruin within. The central courtyard is largely an immaculately kept area of lawn, surrounded by the outline of the original buildings which formed the comfortable home within. To either side of the gatehouse were the servants quarters and services, including reputedly a stable block.
Looking clockwise from the gatehouse at six oclock, there is the chapel (obvious from its east facing window), a hall, ante-room, the Great Hall, then in the south west corner adjacent to the well, the pantry, buttery and kitchens. The servants hall and kitchen bring us back to the start. Although Bodiam Castle is of large and impressive appearance on the outside, the rooms inside, were compared to those in other residences of the period, of modest proportions. The largest of them, the Great Hall for example was a mere 40ft (12.2m) long by 24ft (7.3m) wide.
Much to the delight of children and adults alike, steep and narrow twisting spiral staircases can be climbed inside each tower, giving access to the roof level. The views of the surrounding countryside, and indeed the castle courtyard itself are stunning from up there. In the summer months you can even observe pleasure boats plying up and down on the Rother, as well as steam trains crossing the valley on the Kent and East Sussex railway. Needless to say, walking stick in hand, on this particular visit, I did not attempt to climb to the top of the towers!
In the summer months various events are held both inside the castle, small concerts etc, and outside where on occasion we have seen knights re-enacting battles, with their camp followers in period dress. Often they will be selling period souvenirs from their tents in front of the castle. Consulting the National Trust website www.nationaltrust.org.uk should give you more details of when such events are to be held here.
For the keen photographer, with the water, light and superb vantage points both within, up on top of and around the castle, this really is a superb site to visit. In fact for many I think, the actual image, the photographic image that is, of Bodiam Castle may well be far more familiar to you than the place itself.
Leaving the castle via the gatehouse there is only one way in and out we complete our tour by taking the circular path to the east and then descending gently back down to the car park.
As already mentioned adjacent to the car park are to be found all the main site facilities. There is a large tea room with many tables outside, both on the river and castle (north) sides. We have not actually sampled the tea room so I regret that I am unable to offer you a recommendation here specifically. The toilets located next to the tea room are not the most modern in the world, but are clean and well kept.
The last building here, facing the car park, is the National Trust shop. Here you will find a good stock of books, generally on heritage related matters, plus many toys and souvenirs. As has previously been the case with the National Trust, when compared to English Heritage shops, I find this one to be rather expensive. We only actually left with a Bodiam Castle guide book, not cheap itself at £4.50.
This really is an enchanting, enchanted even, place to come and see at any time of the year. When my, then, Polish fiancée came to England for the very first time, on holiday, this was the very first historical venue that she visited here. That was on a baking hot Sunday in May, even the large number of visitors on that occasion were not enough to dampen our enthusiasm for Bodiam Castle. We have been back on busy summer days since, but at this time of the year, late winter / early spring - well off-season, the place has even more attraction I think.
BODIAM CASTLE is located in the village of Bodiam, East Sussex, TN32 5UA.
11th February to 31st October: every day 10.30 18.00
4th November to 23rd December: Saturday & Sunday 10.30 16.00
6th January to 9th February (2007): Saturday & Sunday 10.30 16.00
Car Park £2.00
Adult £4.60 Child £2.30 Family £11.50
Reduced rates are available for those arriving by cycle or public transport.
One of Britain's most famous and evocative castles. Sussex Family Attraction of the Year. Medieval battlements, ramparts and moat to explore. Try on armour (ring ahead to check). Wonderful views across an archaeology-rich landscape.