Hedingham Castle

edingham Castle was built in around 1140 by Aubrey de Vere an Essex land owner. All that remains of the castle is the keep which is rectangular in plan and stands to a height of 110 feet. In places the walls are 12 feet thick. The keep now stands alone but once it would have been surrounded by other builds and a curtain wall. The keep originally had a fore-building that acted as the main entrance, but like many of the other existing Keep Towers, this section has been removed. The keep is similar to Rochester and could have been designed and built by the same architect. The de Veres earned the title of Earls of Oxford by assisting the Empress Matilda with her cause against King Stephen during the Civil War.

The interior of the keep is very well preserved and on the second floor is a large banqueting hall whose timber roof is supported by a massive Norman semi-circular arch with a span of 28 feet, one of the largest of its kind. It is still possible to walk around a gallery set within the thickness of the walls to overlook the banqueting hall below.


Hedingham Castle Key Facts
CountyEssex (7 castles)
DirectionsThe castle is to the north of Braintree off the A1017
CategoriesStone / Norman Square Keep
OwnershipBaronial castle
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating


Hedingham Castle keep floor layouts



1Fore-building: This section of the castle has been destroyed but would have offered protection for the main entrance on the first floor.
 
2The entrance to the castle is on the first floor.
 
3The one and only spiral staircase in this castle extends to all four floors.
 
4The main hall of the castle extends upwards two floors. A large arch provides support for the roof of the hall.
 
5Small rooms are built into the thickness of the walls.
 
6Dotted lines show the position of the arch supporting the roof of the hall.
 
7A passage built into the second floor walls provides extra light and a viewing location.
 
8The ground floor of the castle was used for storage and could only be reached via the spiral stairs.
 
9The top floor provided sleeping space or private chambers for the Lord of the castle. Again there are a series of small rooms built into the thickness of the walls.
 
Click here for more Information about Hedingham Castle's floor plans
YearMonthEvent
1140   Construction of Hedingham Castle
 Built by the de Vere family, land owners in Essex. 
1220 Jul 7  Stephen Langton returns to England
 Stephen Langton returned to England and resumed the role of Archbishop of Canterbury. He performed a ceremony in Canterbury in which relics from St. Thomas Becket were put in a tomb. The 7th of July became St. Thomas of Canterbury's Day; a major holy day. 

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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