Ancient Monuments

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Tower keep castle at Chilham

A Scheduled Monument in Chilham, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2429 / 51°14'34"N

Longitude: 0.959 / 0°57'32"E

OS Eastings: 606626.146641

OS Northings: 153465.988021

OS Grid: TR066534

Mapcode National: GBR SX5.37Q

Mapcode Global: VHKK9.K1V0

Entry Name: Tower keep castle at Chilham

Scheduled Date: 6 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011802

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24360

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Chilham

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains and the unoccupied
upstanding sections of an 11th to 12th century tower keep castle constructed
on an earthen mound surrounded by a ditch and outer bank. The castle buildings
have undergone alterations in more recent times and some are occupied. These
are Listed Grade I and are not included in the scheduling.
The site stands on level ground above and to the south west of the village of
Chilham. The remains include a mound on which stands an octagonal keep with a
forebuilding, a small building designed to protect the castle entrance,
surrounded by a roughly rectangular curtain wall which survives to a height of
c.3m. It is possible that this mound was originally a motte which pre-dates
the Norman castle. Excavations in 1926 confirmed earlier observations of a
southern bay to the forebuilding which pre-dated the castle and was
unfortified. This has been dated to the 11th century.
Beyond the curtain wall are the remains of a ditch and outer bank which have
been disturbed and partly obscured by modern development. The ditch is
approximately 10m wide and varies in depth around the castle from c.0.5m on
the north to 2m on the south below the level of the surrounding gardens and
road. Further evidence relating to external earthworks may survive in the
grounds surrounding the castle and the mansion house. Identification of these
earthworks is complicated by landscaping of the mansion garden. To the west
and north, however, some indications of an external bank are visible.
From 1066 Chilham was the seat of the barony of Fulbert of Dover. The
surviving structures date from 1171-1174, when Henry II spent over 400 pounds
on building an octagonal keep of three floors built of coursed ragstone
rubble, with mid-wall buttresses and a rectangular stair turret on the north
east side. There is evidence that there was a garderobe to the south east. The
curtain wall was built at the same time. The castle again came into royal
control during the reign of Richard I, when various repairs are recorded as
being made to the structure. In 1214, seisin was granted to John of Dover's
illegitimate son, Richard, and the castle finally passed out of royal control.
A mansion was built to the east of the castle by Sir Dudley Digges - the
master of the Rolls for James I - in red brick on a polygonal plan in 1616. It
is recorded by antiquaries such as Hasted that Sir Dudley also pulled down the
ancient mansion which had stood on the site, before building his new manor
The castle was restored early in the 20th century, and now provides domestic
The castle keep and curtain wall are Listed at Grade I, as is the donkey
wheel and its building. The forebuilding is also Listed Grade I. The
forebuilding, curtain wall and the earthen mound on which the castle stands
are all included in the scheduling. Excluded are the castle keep, since it is
an inhabited and roofed building, all modern fittings, wooden and wire fences,
the small wooden shed to the south west of the castle mound, the timber shed
and donkey wheel within it, and the statue and modern features associated with
the pond in the garden to the west of the mansion house; the ground beneath
all these features is, however, 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

The Norman keep together with its associated features survives well, despite
being partly restored in the 20th century. Partial excavation has confirmed
that the site contains archaeological remains, including evidence for both
pre- and post-Conquest activity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Newman, J, The Buildings of England: Kent: North East and East, (1983), 273-274
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968), 142
Colvin, H M, 'The History of the King's Work' in Chilham Castle, , Vol. II, (1963), 613

Source: Historic England

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