Hedingham Castle

Hedingham Castle

The Hedingham Castle is one of the Norman-era castles located in Essex, England. The castle was originally constructed sometime in the 11th or 12th century.

It was originally owned by a Norman lord, later acquired by Aubrey I. The Aubreys expanded the castle by adding a major tower to it. The castle was sieged twice in the 13th century.

The keep%2C Hedingham Castle in winter

It was later owned by the Earls of Oxford, passing to the hands of Sir William Ashhurst in the early 18th century. Today, the castle itself is privately owned and is a family house. The keep and the grounds are open to the public.

History of Hedingham Castle

The original site of the Hedingham castle had a manor house at the time of the Norman invasion in the 11th century. After the invasion, William the Conqueror awarded the manor to Aubrey de Vere I who had a castle constructed at the site sometime in the 11th or 12th century. The castle remained in the Aubrey family until 1625.

It was then owned by the Earls of Oxford until the early 17th century when it passed to the ownership of the Majendie family. It remained in the Majendie until the 20th century.

Hedingham Castle Location

The Hedingham castle is located in Essex, England, and is situated in the Braintree District.

Hedingham Castle Official Site

Hedingham Castle Timeline

Aubrey de Vere I was the owner of the manor at the site of the castle by 1086. The original structure of the castle was built in the 11th or 12th century. It was later passed on to the descendants of Aubrey I.

Aubrey II began the construction of a major stone tower near the castle. At about the same time, a keep was added to the castle significantly expanding its size. The top floor of the castle was probably added sometime in the 15th century.

In the 16th century, a red-brick bridge was added to connect the inner bailey and the outer bailey. A mansion was added to the outer bailey in the early 18th century. After that, it remained with the Majendie family until the 20th century.

Hedingham Castle Castles of England

What Type of Castle is Hedingham?

The Hedingham castle is a structure that served the purpose of both a military fortification and a residential unit. The original castle was built with an eye to defense. However in the two sieges in 1216 and 1217 since the castle had to be surrendered in both cases.

Its fortifications improved later when a keep, tower, and other fortification structures were added later. Hedingham Castle was generally used throughout the medieval ages and later for residential purposes. To that end, it passed from the Aubrey family to the Earls of Oxford who used it simply as a residence.

Interesting Features of Hedingham Castle

A notable feature of the original Hedingham Castle was a pyramid-shaped roof that topped it. This roof was replaced in the 15th century with another floor added on top. It is believed that many features of the Rochester Castle were imitated in the construction of the Hedingham castle.

The castle is also notable for having a keep that dates back to the medieval ages.

Hedingham Castle Construction

The original castle was constructed so that a large ditch helped create a space between the inner bailey and the outer ringwork. A keep was added later which exists today. It is square in shape and is constructed with lime-bound flint. Rather curiously, ashlar stone has been used in the construction of the castle.

This is unusual especially because the stone had to be transported all the way from Northamptonshire to Essex before using it in the construction. The keep itself comprises four floors. The floors span over a number of halls, including the Great Hall which is fitted up with a sizable fireplace.

A later addition to the overall structure was the construction of the Queen Anne mansion, sometime in the 18th century.

Hedingham Castle Size

The stone keep of the Hedingham castle is square, measuring 53 feet by 58 feet. It rises up to a height of 70 feet and has walls that are 11 feet thick, making it one of the most important parts of the castle’s fortifications. The outer bailey of the castle extends as far as the valley to the south of it.

Hedingham Castle Defences

The castle had a number of defensive structures, although it did not hold up significantly in the different sieges it had to face. Among the notable defenses of the castle was a ditch dug between the ringwork and the inner bailey.

To augment the ditch is the keep itself, its walls 11 feet thick and rising to a lofty height of 70 feet. The original structure also featured a red-brick bridge connecting the outer bailey with the inner bailey and a drawbridge. Of these, only the repaired red bridge survives.

Hedingham Castle is Famous For?

One of the most notable personalities associated with the Hedingham castle is Edward de Vere, who was the 17th Earl of Oxford and a courtier of Queen Elizabeth. According to some theories, he is the person who actually wrote the writings ascribed to William Shakespeare, although scant evidence supports this.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Another notable owner of the castle was Sir William Ashhurst, who was among noted English bankers and the Director of the Bank of England for a long time.

Hedingham Castle Summary

The Hedingham castle was constructed by one of the Norman lords appointed by William the Conqueror. Aubrey de Vere I had it constructed sometime in the 11th or 12th century. The castle underwent significant modifications in subsequent centuries. Originally a modest motte-and-bailey structure, a major tower was later added to it in the mid-12th century.

A four-story keep was also added which made the structure fit for the residence of the lords. It later passed from the Aubrey family to the Earls of Oxford in the 17th century.

Today, the castle is open to visitors and is frequently the site of events related to the medieval era.