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Cooling Castle and its associated landscaped setting

A Scheduled Monument in Cooling, Medway

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Latitude: 51.4555 / 51°27'19"N

Longitude: 0.5227 / 0°31'21"E

OS Eastings: 575369.479209

OS Northings: 175962.664095

OS Grid: TQ753759

Mapcode National: GBR PNX.M0M

Mapcode Global: VHJLG.0PQ3

Entry Name: Cooling Castle and its associated landscaped setting

Scheduled Date: 25 January 1946

Last Amended: 7 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009018

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25457

County: Medway

Civil Parish: Cooling

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Cliffe-at-Hoo St Helen

Church of England Diocese: Rochester


The monument includes a quadrangular castle and an associated landscaped area
situated on the north Kent marshes, on the southern bank of the River Thames,
around 3.2km south of the present course of the river.
The manor of Cooling was acquired by the de Cobham family by the middle of the
13th century and John de Cobham, the 3rd Baron Cobham, used the French raid
on the Thames estuary in 1379, part of the hostilities of the 100 Years War
between England and France, to justify the need for a castle to protect
northern Kent and the seaward approach to London. He received Royal licence to
fortify his manor on 2nd February 1380-1, and building work was completed by
the end of 1385.
The castle buildings occupy two islands divided by the now dry, eastern arm of
the moat surrounding the western island. The remains of the inner ward on the
western island are Listed Grade I. The defensive curtain walls of the western
island form an almost complete circuit around the sub-square, inner courtyard,
although a short section of the northern wall near the north eastern corner
has been dismantled. The island covers an area of c.0.24ha and takes the form
of a raised platform 1.8m above the surrounding ground. The curtain walls are
c.1.2m thick and are faced mainly with ragstone ashlar and some roughly-
knapped grey flint, with a chalk rubble core. These have become partially
ruined, surviving to a height of between 4.5m and 9m. At each of the four
corners are the remains of a circular tower, the south eastern and north
western of which survive almost to their full height and are pierced by
gunloops. The south eastern corner tower has an inserted, four-light, hollow
chamfered, mullioned and transomed window at first floor level.
The original entrance to the interior of the western island lies toward the
northern end of the eastern curtain wall and is a gateway with a central,
four-centred arch flanked by two semicircular towers pierced by gunloops.
This entrance is now blocked by a modern wall. Steps leading up to a gunloop
survive inside the northern gate tower. Access to the gateway would have been
by way of a drawbridge from the eastern island over the moat, although this
has not survived. A further simple entrance survives at the northern end of
the western curtain wall and may have provided access to the island for
water-borne traffic. A former owner of the castle is known to have unearthed
the remains of a small wooden boat near the water gate during the 19th
Within the north eastern corner of the inner courtyard is the great hall, of
which one bay of the three-bayed undercroft survives intact. The ceiling has
quadripartite vaults with chamfered ribs resting on short columns built into
the walls. The floor is paved with modern stone flags. A piscina, or alcove
containing a water basin, which would originally have been situated within the
castle's chapel, has been resited on the eastern wall. On the outer side of
the eastern wall is a central, rectangular projection which may have contained
the fireplace and chimney of the hall. The great hall is faced with ragstone
and finely-knapped flint arranged in a chess-board pattern and the room is lit
by small lancet windows. In the south eastern corner of the courtyard,
adjacent to the corner tower, are the remains of a further chamber, now below
ground level and reached by way of a newel staircase. The south eastern corner
tower was built after this chamber, obscuring a window opening on its southern
wall, and this, along with a slight change in the alignment of the northern
curtain wall near its eastern end, suggests that the eastern wall was a later
addition to a slightly earlier castle plan. Further domestic buildings which
ranged around the central courtyard survive as buried features.
The eastern island is a substantially raised, sub-rectangular platform and is
the larger of the two islands, covering an area of c.1.1ha. The island was
also, originally, fully enclosed by a curtain wall, although only the western
portion of the wall survives as a standing feature. This has been the subject
of partial rebuilding and alteration over the years. There are ruined,
horseshoe-shaped towers at the north western, north eastern and south eastern
corners. The original buildings of the interior survive mainly as buried
foundations, and a 19th century farmhouse and farm buildings, including a
Grade II Listed, timber-framed barn dating from the 16th century, have been
built within the interior. A small building, now an outhouse, situated on the
western side of the farmhouse and adjoining the western curtain wall, is
constructed of medieval masonry, some reused from dismantled portions of the
castle. The building has a curved southern wall which suggests that it
contains the remains of a circular mural tower, part of the original
accommodation of the castle's interior.
In the south western corner of the eastern island is the main gatehouse, a
Grade I Listed Building, which provided overland access to the castle complex.
The gatehouse survives almost intact and has two, semicircular flanking
towers capped by boldly projecting rings of machicolations and crenellations.
The towers are open on the inside. Between them is a four-centred arch with
crenellations on either side, set above a moulded, round-arched gateway.
Gunloops pierce the southern faces of the towers at first floor level. High on
the southern face of the eastern tower is an enamelled copper plaque inscribed
in gothic lettering with the following rhyme:-
`Knoweth that beth and schul be
That I am mad in help of the cuntre
In knowing of whyche thyng
Thys is chartre and wytnessyng'.
The eastern island is surrounded by a substantial, V-shaped dry ditch c.20m
wide and up to 6m deep on the eastern and part of the southern and northern
sides. The ditch is interrupted by a causeway which gives access to the main
gateway to the south and, on the northern side, by a dam which, despite some
modern reinforcement, is an original feature separating the wet moat to the
west from the dry ditch to the east. The moat surrounding the western island
is fed by natural springs and remains waterfilled on the northern, southern
and western sides, although the level of the water is now lower than it would
have been when the castle was in use.
To the north and west of the western island is an elaborate and largely
decorative landscaped area which may have been created in the 18th or 19th
centuries as part of a landscaped garden incorporating the castle ruins. This
area is bounded by, and incorporates, water channels flowing into the castle
moat. A small circular island lies to the west of the castle's western island
and is connected to a further, larger island to the north by a modern
footbridge. A narrow causeway gives access from the larger island to the
Some 10m north of the northern arm of the moat is a low, north west-south east
orientated linear bank c.46m long, perhaps forming part of the outer defences
of the castle. Cooling Castle remained in the ownership of the descendants of
Sir John de Cobham until the 18th century, although it is believed to have
gone out of use as a manorial residence after 1554, when the castle was
attacked by the forces of Sir Thomas Wyatt during his rebellion against Queen
Mary's impending marriage to Philip of Spain. A former owner of the castle
found fallen masonry and iron and stone cannon balls in the eastern arm of the
moat during the 19th century.
The farmhouse, all farm buildings, including the Grade II Listed barn which is
considered to be more appropriately protected by its listed status, and other
outbuildings situated on the eastern island, all modern walls and fences, the
modern reinforcement of the dam on the northern arm of the castle ditch, the
modern footbridge within the landscaped area to the west of the castle and the
modern wall which blocks the original entrance through the gatehouse on the
eastern curtain wall of the western island are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or
sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls
formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and
occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly
defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but
sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of
quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and
intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly
from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of
massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the
main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in
buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An
important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built
to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did
not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples
of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also
began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the
14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples
demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of
defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They
provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural
and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout
England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable
coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north
near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are
rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern
type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited
with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, 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 of national importance.

Cooling Castle is an unusual form of quadrangular castle; most were
constructed on a single, moated island. Despite some disturbance caused by
subsequent gardening, landscaping and building, the castle survives well and
contains standing remains, buried archaeological features and environmental
evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was
constructed. The waterfilled portion of the moat will provide ideal
conditions for the survival of organic remains.
Gardens have been a feature of important houses since at least Roman times, if
not earlier, but in the 16th century gardens became larger and more formal.
Recurring features were terraces, ponds and canals, and in the design of these
was a continuous interplay between social aspirations, artistic aims and
changing fashions. The earthwork remains of such gardens are important
archaeological features illustrating their recreational and ornamental
function and of course, the scale of investment in time and money.
The landscaped water garden to the north and west of Cooling Castle survives
well and provides evidence for the later elaboration of the original castle
defences for ornamental purposes. The transformation of the medieval remains
into a picturesque ruin within the landscaped garden of a 19th century house
illustrates the phenomenon of Romantic Antiquarianism, the creation of an
attractively informal garden around the focus of a ruined building.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Robertson, W A S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Coulyng Castle, (1877), 128-144
Robertson, W A S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Coulyng Castle, (1877), 128-144

Source: Historic England

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