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Castle Rising castle and 11th century church

A Scheduled Monument in Castle Rising, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.7928 / 52°47'34"N

Longitude: 0.4694 / 0°28'9"E

OS Eastings: 566599.192491

OS Northings: 324555.122566

OS Grid: TF665245

Mapcode National: GBR P4K.ZD9

Mapcode Global: WHKQ6.52R8

Entry Name: Castle Rising castle and 11th century church

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1915

Last Amended: 11 May 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008356

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21329

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Castle Rising

Built-Up Area: Castle Rising

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Castle Rising St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


Castle Rising castle stands on a broad spur above the southern edge of the
village of Castle Rising, c.1km south of the Babingley River and near to the
edge of the marshland which borders the Wash to the west. The monument
includes a 12th century hall keep castle, and the remains of associated
buildings of various dates, amongst which are the ruins of an 11th century
church which was incorporated in the castle and put to secular use. These
buildings are set within a ringwork comprising a central enclosure with a
strong earthwork bank and ditch, an entrance on the east side with a bridge
and 12th century gatehouse, and outworks to east and west. The standing
buildings of the castle, including the bridge and gatehouse, are Listed Grade
I and included in the scheduling.

The church is the earliest masonry structure identified on the site and is
situated in the central enclosure c.30m to the north of the keep, partly
within the southern face of the northern bank. The walls still stand to a
height of up to 4m. The building measures c.26m in length overall and is
divided into three cells: the nave at the western end, measuring 12m by 4.8m
internally, with a low stone bench running around the foot of the walls, a
central area c.4m square, and a chancel measuring c.4.8m by 4m internally with
an apsidal east end. At the western end of the nave there are two opposed
doorways, both of them now blocked, in the north and south walls respectively.
The chancel was lit by three narrow, round headed, internally splayed windows,
two of which remain on the north and east sides of the apse. The third, which
no longer survives, was on the south side, where it was recorded in the 19th

The church dates from the period before the construction of the castle, when
Rising was held as part of the manor of Snettisham by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux
and Earl of Kent and then, afer 1088, by William de Albini I. It is thought
to have been the parish church prior to the 12th century, when the present
church of St Lawrence was built 260m to the north. Pottery and traces of
timber structures and hearths, found in excavations below the floor of the
keep, are evidence for the existence of a settlement adjoining it in the 11th
century. It remained in use as one of the domestic or service buildings of the
castle until at least the 16th century, when a brick hearth was inserted into
the wall on the west side of the south doorway.

The castle is thought to have been founded by William de Albini II, Earl of
Sussex and Lord of Rising, around 1140, which is the approximate date of the
keep and gatehouse. Excavation has shown that the original date of the
surrounding earthworks cannot be very much earlier than this, if at all,
contrary to a tradition that they are of Roman origin. The central earthwork
enclosure is ovoid in plan, surrounded by an inner bank standing to a height
of between 6m and 10m above the prevailing ground level, and a ditch c.8m
deep. The enclosure and earthworks together have overall dimensions of 198m
north-south by a maximum of 150m east-west. The entrance to this inner ward is
protected by a rectangular eastern outwork measuring 155m north-south by 92m
overall, with a bank up to 9m high above the prevailing ground level and an
external ditch with a depth of between 4m and 5m. A ramped causeway leads up
to the outwork from the north and crosses the bank and ditch on that side at
their western end. The northern part of the causeway, which underlies the
modern road and two cottages on the east side of it, has been disturbed by the
installation of sewers and other services and is not included in the
scheduling. A corresponding causeway across the earthworks on the south side
of the eastern outwork is not an original feature.

The smaller outwork on the west side of the central ringwork is also
rectangular in plan and measures 125m north-south by 50m overall. The ditch,
which is c.2m deep, and a slight bank up to 1.5m high, enclose a platform
raised up to 5m above the prevailing ground level. There is no surviving means
of access from the inner ward.

Limited excavations of the earthworks and in the interior of the two outworks
have revealed that the earthworks around the inner ward were originally lower,
and that the bank was heightened and the ditch deepened in the late 12th or
early 13th century, when the outworks were also modified. The platform of the
western outwork was created at this time, presumably with material dug from
the enlarged ditches, and the interior of the eastern enclosure is known to
have been raised also by the dumping of up to 1.5m of redeposited sand and
boulder clay. Traces of a ditch and counterscarp bank, which probably date
from the earliest period of construction, can be seen as relatively slight
earthworks immediately to the south of the western outwork. They follow the
curve of the outer edge of the ditch on the south west side of the central
enclosure, but clearly predate it in its present form, and also the western
outwork. To the south and east they have been levelled by ploughing, but the
ditch survives as a buried feature which extends up to 10m beyond the later
earthworks and is partly visible on air photographs.

The gatehouse at the entrance of the inner enclosure is set between the ends
of the bank. The main structure, which is dated to the earlier part of the
12th century, is a rectangular tower pierced by an entrance passage with plain
round headed arches to front and rear. There are grooves for a portcullis
behind the outer arch, and arched recesses in the side walls of the entrance
passage. In the south wall there is also an arched doorway leading to a
stair which gave access to an upper chamber. The upper chamber is gone and
the stair is now truncated and blocked, but the manner in which it is
truncated suggests that the building at one time extended further to the west.
The structure of the gatehouse shows evidence of later modification,
including the insertion of a vault over the passage and the addition of
parallel walls to either side of the entrance, abutting the eastern face of
the tower and enclosing the approach. The stub of the northern wall remains,
along with a part of the southern wall, incorporating a stair.

The bank of the central enclosure was surmounted by a curtain wall, although
the date when this was first constructed has not been established. The stone
foundations of a wall are visible in many places around the crest of the bank,
and to the south of the gatehouse is a short length of standing wall, built of
brick and stone and thought to date from the later 14th century. On the inner
face of this wall there are deep recesses which contain embrasures and
openings and probably carried a wall walk above.

The principal building of the castle was the keep, whose walls still stand, at
15m, to almost their full original height. The main body of the keep is
rectangular and has external dimensions of 24m east-west by 20m north-south,
with a rectangular tower and forebuilding on the east side projecting up to 6m
beyond. The projecting tower, originally of two storeys, contains the
entrance to the keep at first floor level, reached by a wide stairway within
the forebuilding to the south.

The building is of coursed local stone with facings of limestone. The four
corners of the keep are enclosed by clasping buttresses which were crowned at
one time by corner turrets, and there are similar buttresses on the outer
angles of the forebuilding tower to the east. On the walls between the
buttresses there are broad pilaster strips above a sloping plinth, and on the
west wall of the keep, which was at the service end, arcading between the
pilasters masks the vents of latrines on the first floor. The walls of the
forebuilding on the east side and to the south, above the doorway at the foot
of the stair, are richly decorated externally with blind arcading and
elaborate and finely executed moulding and friezes. Within the forebuilding,
the entrance stair is in two flights, with an arch and second doorway on the
landing between, above which are the remains of a passage and a `murder hole'
for the defence of the stair. A third doorway at the top of the second flight
opens into an antechamber within the forebuilding tower, lit by large,
recessed windows with flanking columns. On the west side of the antechamber
is the main door into the keep, with a decorated round headed arch of three
orders, and to the right of the door is a smaller arched door opening onto a
stair within the north east angle of the keep.

The keep is divided internally into two parts by an east-west cross wall.
The principal apartments and domestic offices were on the first floor, with
the Great Hall, or public room of the castle to the north and the smaller
Great Chamber, used by the lord of the castle, to the south. Both are now
roofless and without a floor. The Great Hall, which measured c.13m by 8m
internally, is lit by three windows within large, splayed recesses in the
north wall. A small doorway at the western end of the north wall leads from
the Great Hall into the kitchen, which occupies the north west corner of the
keep, partly within the thickness of the north wall. The circular kitchen
hearth is in the north west angle, with a smoke vent above and a circular
chimney through the corner turret. In the south west corner there are the
remains of an oven, and the west wall is pierced by a drain at floor level.
To the south of the kitchen is a separate service room, entered by a door in
the west wall of the Great Hall, and between the two is a narrow passage
leading from another door in the hall to latrines behind the service room.
The Great Chamber was entered by a door through the cross wall on the south
side of the hall, and at the east end of the same wall is another door which
gave access to the anteroom of a chapel to the east of the Great Chamber. The
Great Chamber measured 43m east-west by 5m north-south internally and has a
fireplace and chimney in the south wall which are original features, although
the fireplace is lined with later brick. At the western end of the apartment,
separate doors and passages lead to two more latrines. The chapel comprises a
rectangular nave measuring 3.9m east-west by 4.2m north-south, and a small
chancel set at a slightly raised level within the thickness of the east wall.
It has two large windows, in the east and south walls respectively. The
chancel has rib vaulting, with carved bosses at the intersection of the ribs,
the nave walls are embellished with blind arcading, and there are decorative
mouldings on the semi-circular chancel arch and below the east window. The
keep had no third storey accommodation other than a small room above the
chapel, reached by way of the stair in the north east angle and a passage in
the thickness of the east wall.

The ground floor below would have been used principally for storage, and
access to it was originally by the stair in the north east angle, or another
stair in the south west angle which communicated with the Great Chamber. Both
stairs also gave access to the roof. The two compartments, to either side of
the cross wall, run the entire length of the keep and are lit by narrow,
internally splayed openings in the external walls. The northern and larger of
these basement rooms had an arcade down the middle to support the joists of
the vanished floor of the hall above. The two pillars of the arcade do not
survive above the base, but the springing of the arches at the east and west
ends can still be seen. There is a well head in the floor beneath. The
western end of the northern compartment and the eastern end of the southern
compartment, below the kitchen and chapel respectively, are vaulted.

The keep, like the rest of the castle and its outer defences, underwent
various repairs and modifications during the late 13th and 14th centuries.
Anomalies in the upper part of the outer walls show that they were extensively
repaired and possibly heightened, reusing original masonry, and corbels were
inserted into the long walls of the Great Hall and Great Chamber to carry the
timbers of a new roof. Vaulting was inserted in the antechamber of the hall,
and a new storey was added to the forebuilding tower above it. Some time
afterwards, the new upper chamber was also altered by the addition of
vaulting. Other alterations included the insertion of a doorway with pointed
arch in the wall between the Great Chamber and the chapel, cutting through the
12th century arcading around the nave.

During the first half of the 14th century, an important suite of buildings was
constructed to the south of the keep, including a western range of private
lodgings with an adjoining chapel to the east, a hall, and a separate kitchen.
All of these but the western range and chapel were later replaced by buildings
in timber and brick, which were finally demolished towards the end of the 16th
century. Part of the chapel still stood as a ruin in the 18th century, when it
was depicted in views of the castle, and the lower walls, together with
fragments of the walls of the east end of the lodgings range, are still
visible. Details of the plan of the rest of the buildings have been recovered
by excavations in this area. To the east and north of the keep, slight
earthworks mark the buried remains of other buildings and there is a well
c.12m to the north of the keep.

In a survey of 1542-43 the keep is described as a ruin, with only the walls
left standing, but parts of it were evidently still being used and adapted for
use in the later 15th and early 16th century, even after the collapse of the
main floor. Near the foot of the stairs in the forebuilding, a late medieval
door was cut through the east wall of the keep into the basement, and near the
head of the stairs, another entrance was cut into the Great Hall, apparently
through an existing recess. The main door from the forebuilding tower into
the Great Hall was blocked and a brick fireplace and chimney stack inserted,
and a passage was cut in the thickness of the north wall between the north
east angle and the kitchen.

The castle, and in particular the keep, manifests the power and status of
William de Albini II following his marriage in 1138 to Alice of Louvain, the
widowed queen of Henry I. After the death in 1243 of Hugh de Albini, the last
Lord of Rising of that name, the castle and manor passed by marriage to Roger
de Montalt and was held by his heirs until 1327, when Robert de Montalt
conveyed it to the crown. From 1331 until 1358 it was held by Queen Isabella,
the notorious widow of Edward II, as one of her principal residences, and the
suite of buildings to the south of the keep probably dates from this period.
In 1337 the castle was granted in perpetuity to the Duchy of Cornwall, and
after the death of Isabella it was held by the Black Prince until his death in
1376. Several documents of this period refer to works ordered or authorised
by the prince to be carried out on the buildings here, and later documents
attest its maintenance during the 15th and early 16th century. In 1544 it was
granted by Henry VIII to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and to Henry his son.

The custodian's ticket office, English Heritage display boards and notices,
and modern timber steps and railings on the castle bank and around the ruined
church are excluded from the scheduling, together with the public lavatories
at the western end of the car park and the modern gates and path surfaces,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the
principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a
defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes
are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of
various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be
defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into
the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a
gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops,
may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout
the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid-
15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were
constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new
creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading
families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are
widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh
border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining
significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Castle Rising castle keep is a particularly fine example of a variant type
known as a hall keep, in that the height is less than the breadth, and the
hall and Great Chamber are both on the same floor, and it is comparable in
many respects with the even larger Norwich castle. The forebuilding has been
described as the best preserved in England, and the keep retains a wide range
of features, relating to both the organisation of a noble household in the
12th century and subsequent changes in the use of the building over several
centuries. The surrounding impressive earthworks also survive very well and
will retain further important archaeological information concerning their
construction and the defences associated with them, in addition to the
evidence already recorded in limited excavations. Excavations in the southern
part of the central enclosure have uncovered details of some major buildings
surrounding the keep, and information on other buildings, including retainers'
lodgings, workshops and stabling, will be preserved in the remaining,
unexcavated areas. Limited excavations have also demonstrated the existence
of buried soils below the raised surfaces of the eastern and western outworks,
containing evidence for the earliest occupation of the castle and for a
settlement which preceded it. The relationship of the castle to this earlier
settlement and its church is of great interest, as is its relationship to the
village to the north, which has some characteristics of a medieval planned
settlement and is thought to have been founded when the castle was built.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brown, R A, Castle Rising Castle, (1978)
Harrod, H, 'Norfolk Archaeology' in Castle Rising, , Vol. 4, (1855), 59-91
Edwards, D, TF6624/T/AFY 1, (1976)
Gurney, D and Floyd, G, (1993)
Gurney, D, Castle Rising Castle: Excavation, 1987, 1987, Summary in SMR file
West Norfolk: Castle Rising 3307,

Source: Historic England

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