See also Castle Acre Priory
Castle Acre Castle is in the medieval town of Castle Acre (once a fortified town), part of the fortunes of war given to William de Warrene who wielded his sword for the winning side in the 1066 invasion of England.
The castle, perched on a high mound in the town, served not only for defense but as a home to de Warrene, later to become earl of Surrey. He died in 1085 from a battle wound. The first building on the site was a two storey stone house built in the upper ward, of which only the foundations remain.
Two wells served the inhabitants. A ditch and bank gave some protection. It wasnít until the civil war between Matilda and Stephen for possession of the throne that serious fortification was a priority. The house was gutted c 1140 except for its exterior walls and turned into a defensive keep. This necessitated blocking up windows, increasing the thickness of walls, deepening the moat, raising the bank, making a curtain wall, and building a second wall.
The lower ward was sited to take advantage of a riverside location. In this ward there were workshops, stores, accommodation for servants and others. It is thought a great hall was constructed here in the 13th century but nothing now remains except an outline in the grass.
The family continued in ownership until 1316 after which it went through the hands of a number of families. It returned to the de Warrene family briefly before again passing to a number of people. By the end of the 14th century it was derelict. It was partially repaired in 1615 by the then owner, Sir Edward Coke.
Entrance to the castle ruins is through the west gateway from the centre of the village. The twin towers have disappeared. There was a north and south passage into the grounds from the gateway which goes into the lower ward, a grassy area. From here there is an east gateway and barbican, once the main entrance to the castle linked by a timber bridge (a modern one replaces it). Visitors will see in the upper ward only a few remains of the 12th century house, a well, the base of a spiral staircase, and the north half of the building. Parts of the curtain wall also remain. There were a number of archaeological finds in the upper ward. To see them visit the Castle Museum in Norwich.
Castle Acre Castle
Castle Acre village, Norfolk
Tel. 0 1760 755 394
Open: open site
English Heritage property
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
bailey gate by Sheila Russell; bridge to upper ward from lower ward, ruins of keep, ruins of west gate by Richard Croft
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