Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Tower keep castle at Sutton Valence

A Scheduled Monument in Sutton Valence, Kent

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 51.2123 / 51°12'44"N

Longitude: 0.598 / 0°35'52"E

OS Eastings: 581552.501933

OS Northings: 149110.664045

OS Grid: TQ815491

Mapcode National: GBR QT7.VC5

Mapcode Global: VHJMN.9SZH

Entry Name: Tower keep castle at Sutton Valence

Scheduled Date: 1 March 1951

Last Amended: 27 February 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013537

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27017

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Sutton Valence

Built-Up Area: Sutton Valence

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Details

The monument includes a tower keep castle which survives as a ruin, Listed at
Grade II, within an area of associated earthworks and buried remains, situated
on the southernmost spur of the Chart Hills, on the eastern edge of the
village of Sutton Valence. The castle enjoys panoramic views of the Weald of
Kent and East Sussex to the south. Partial excavation has shown that the
castle was built during the latter half of the 12th century, in order to
control the road which led from Maidstone c.9km to the north to the channel
ports of Rye and Old Winchelsea.
The monument's most prominent feature is a square stone keep, now ruined,
built on the southern edge of the spur, towards the centre of an artificially
raised and levelled, roughly west-east aligned oblong earthen terrace c.100m
by c.34m. The keep is constructed of roughly-coursed ragstone and flint
rubble. Each face measures c.11m in length externally, and the walls survive
to a height of up to 7m and are c.2.4m thick, with additional support provided
at the corners by clasping buttresses. The keep, which originally stood to a
height of c.20m, had timber floors, now represented by joist-slots visible in
the masonry at first floor level. Built within the thickness of the southern
wall on the first floor is a barrel-vaulted passage, and traces of a
garderobe, or latrine, survive in the south eastern angle. A stair turret
located in the north eastern corner provided access to the upper floors.
Partial excavation during the 1950s showed that the entrance to the keep,
situated on the northern side at first floor level, was at first protected by
a small, rectangular masonry forebuilding, the foundations of which have been
exposed. This was demolished around AD 1200 and replaced by a staircase which
was later encased by protective walls. A short length of these survive at the
north eastern angle to a height of up to 4.3m.

The castle and surrounding land, then known as Town Sutton, was granted to
William de Valence in 1265 by his half-brother Henry III as a reward for
helping the king defeat Simon de Montfort's rebellion. The partial excavation
of the monument indicated that the castle was abandoned by around AD 1300,
after which time it fell into decay. The castle ruins were restored during the
1980s and the monument is now largely in the care of the Secretary of State
and open to the public.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern wooden fences and the
interpretative panel situated to the west of the keep, although the ground
beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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
important.

Although the area within the keep was partially disturbed by excavation during
the 17th or 18th century, the tower keep castle at Sutton Valence survives
comparatively well as a ruined structure and in the form of associated
earthworks. More recent part excavation, in the 1950s, has indicated that
the monument will contain contemporary archaeological remains and
environmental evidence, providing further information about the occupation of
the castle.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Sands, H, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Sutton Valence Castle, , Vol. 25, (1902)
Other
Original at HPGSE, Horner, G K, An Account of Excavations at Sutton Valence Castle 1956-7, (1957)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.