Colchester Castle

olchester Castle is located on the exposed East coast of the country and was needed by William the Conqueror to defend against the invading Danes. At Colchester there were the remains of a large Roman camp and temple on which it was decided to build a new castle. Gundulf, the Bishop of Rochester took control of the construction as well as the White Tower in London and building work may have started in 1080. After the threat of invasion had reduced, the castle passed into the hands of Eudo de Rie, who was held the title of high steward. Successive stewards were granted the control of the castle until 1215 when an invasion force from France captured the castle. The French handed the castle back after the death of king John in 1216.


Colchester Castle Key Facts
CountyEssex (7 castles)
CategoriesPre Medieval / Norman Square Keep
RemainsSmall amount survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times


YearMonthEvent
1080   Colchester castle begun
 To defend the estuaries of Essex against attacks from the Danes William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a new castle at Colchester.

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1091   Colchester Castle passes to Eudo
 Once the threat from invasion had reduced, the castle was passed into the control of Eudo de Rie, who held the position of high steward. 
1215   Colchester Castle occupied by the French
 An invasion force from France under direction of Philippe II, the king of France captured Colchester Castle. Their objective was to help the cause of the Baron's against king John. 

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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