The fortress remains impressive despite the slighting and rebuilding of
some of the castle buildings after the 17th century Civil
War. It is of an unusual twin bailey plan and consists of a
Norman gatehouse with a keep on a powerful motte, two baileys
surrounded by masonry defences and Civil War earthworks.
At the centre of the site is a motte and bailey castle, with a lesser
bailey to the NE and the main ward to the SE. The first
castle comprised of the motte, some 250 feet in basal diameter and 65
feet above the courtyards, one on either side of the motte.
The surrounding ditches are up to thirty feet deep. The shell
keep on top of the motte, some 60 feet in diameter, has walls 30 feet
high. To the NE of the motte is a lesser bailey some 1,150
feet across. This originally had strong earthworks on all
sides except the NE where the steep slopes seem to have provided
sufficient defence. The lower levels of a stone gatehouse
survive at the gap in this northern earthwork, while the rest of the
enceinte is enclosed by a curtain wall with rectangular towers which
project more externally than internally. As such they could
well date to the 12th century. To the SE is the main bailey,
which is more rectangular in layout, although this could have been
caused by the late 18th century rebuilding. That this was the
main ward is suggested by the great entrance with barbican into this
bailey commanded by the keep, which was also entered from this side.
The motte and two baileys would appear to date from 1068. The
castle was besieged for 3 months in 1102 by King Henry I.
This suggests early and powerful masonry defences. At an
early date the shell keep of Caen stone was constructed with its
Romanesque round doorways. It was later modified in the reign
of Henry II when works were undertaken here by Roger Remfry, a royal
justiciar and grandson of Henry I. At the base of the motte
is the gatehouse and a strongly projecting barbican with powerful
rectangular towers. The lower part of the gatehouse may have
been built for Roger Montgomery, the Domesday holder. The
middle stage of the gatehouse and cellars under the SE range appear
stylistically to date from the late 12th century.
The castle was subjected to a 'unfeeling' rebuild in 1791-1815, which
replaced sections destroyed in the civil war and altered many of the
For more detailed descriptions of the castle see the CSG
Paul Martin Remfry