It is uncertain when Orford became a port, but a market is thought to have been mentioned there in 1105.  Early in his reign (1135-54), when King Stephen was at Eye, he made a general confirmation mentioning Orford church.  It was probably at this time, around 1137 that he gave the honour of Eye with Orford, Dunwich, the lost Goseford and Walton to William Ypes, one of the king's most successful military supporters.  This would appear to have been setting him up as a counterbalance to Hugh Bigod (d.1176) of Framlingham as well as giving him a port to bring Flemish mercenaries and traders into the country.  The same could be said of his position in Kent.  Unfortunately the rest of the Ypres tenancy of Orford is shrouded in mystery, as to is the question to whether William founded a castle here or not.  However a c.1140 confirmation of the grant of Orford to William Yres records the port as Orfort, just perhaps this stands for the fort at Or.

With William Ypres' death in June 1164 the vill of Orford appeared in the pipe roll of September 1164.  It was recorded that Sheriff Oggerus Dapifer (1163-68) rendered £18 for the farm of Orford for the third part of a year, ie since the beginning of June 1164.  In the treasury he paid £16 and owed 40s, but these had been spent on the works of Orford limekiln and mill.  The building of a limekiln can probably be attached to the desire to build a masonry fortress there as a limekiln was necessary to make mortar, a major ingredient of a stone castle.  Tradition holds that the land previously belonged to Peter Valognes (d.1109+) of Benington at some point after Domesday and then passed down his family until acquired by the Crown.  If this did occur then King Stephen reclaimed the land from Peter's son, Roger Valognes, who was a known Angevin in 1141 and died before June 1142.  Acquisition of Orford gave the Crown a potential caput in Suffolk, although the castle never seems to have been used as such, Norwich remaining the seat of the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 1165 Sheriff Oggerus returned that the farm of Orford was worth £24 for the year which was paid in 2 tallies under the honour of Eye, presumably for the castle works there.  Under the same account the sheriff accounted for £56 14s 6d for the ships at Orford.  Possibly this was for bringing stone to the new castle site or the building of a fleet that was settled in the port and was mentioned repeatedly as the customs of the ships of Orford for the next few decades.  The next year in 1166, £64 12d was accounted for the ships of Orford (Nauibus de Oreford).  The same year work had begun in earnest on building Orford castle.  Firstly it was recorded under the accounts for Norfolk and Suffolk that under the observation of Bartholomew Glanville, Robert Valognes (d.1184, a younger grandson of the Domesday Peter) and William the chaplain, £266 4s 9d had been allocated to the works of Orford castle, together with £100 from the increment Henry II had placed on the counties.  In later entries under the honour of Eye, which was in the king's hands since the death of Count William of Blois in 1159 (the castle had been seized by the king in 1157), it was recorded that £194 16d, plus £64 1s, plus £26 6s 8d and £19 6s 3d had been spent at the castle under the view of the same 3 overseers.  This gave a total of £670 spent in the one year.  Additionally a cost of 69s 8d was run up for taking 2 piles of wood from Havering in Essex to Orford.  Presumably this was also for the castle works.

Work continued at the castle under the same 3 overseers in 1167, although there appeared problems with the account.  Initially £19 6s 10d were spent on the works, while a further £48 8s 1d was owed.  There then followed a series of smaller amounts including £60 1s paid for the ships of Orford and Sheriff Oggerus accounting for £26 13s 4d farm of the vill, which was then spent on the castle.  In addition to these sums 38s 4d was spent on munitioning the castle and Bartholomew Glanville received 20m (£13 6s 8d) as the first castle custodian.  In total this accounted for £372 18s 6d spent on the building works for the financial year of 1167.  It is also apparent that the castle was sufficiently complete to be garrisoned this year.  This could well suggest that preparation began in 1164 and the actual building of the keep and enceinte involved the 3 building seasons of 1165, 1166 and 1167.  What is surprising is that the great ditch around the enceinte does not seem to have been dug at all until 1173 in a reversal of the normal castle building methodology.  This would also mean that the stone for the castle was not quarried on site.

By the next year, September 1168, Orford had its own account, which was possibly drawn up in the newly commissioned castle.  This recorded that the new farm of Orford brought in £26 13s 4d and that all of this had been spent on Orford castle under the view of Bartholomew Glanville and Robert Valognes (d.1184).  In total, the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, Oggerus Dapifer, accounted for £120 1d spent on work at the castle under the supervision of Bartholomew Glanville.  In September 1169, 50s 4d were spent in sending timber and boards to Orford from Yorkshire, presumably by sea.  Again Orford has its own short account in the pipe roll.  This  and other accounts showed that Sheriff Oggerus had spent some £275 7s on the castle works under Bartholomew and Robert Valognes (d.1184).  Further Ralph Hautville (Hauuvill') was allowed £8 3s 4d to repair the bird houses (aues) for those works.  Presumably the Hautvilles were already importing hunting birds from Scandinavia, a trade well established by the reign of King John (1199-1216).  A further sum of 9s was spent on the king's houses in Orford.  Presumably these were within the castle.

The year 1170 saw further, lesser expenditure at Orford castle totalling £149 19s 6d, as well as the installation of a new sheriff of the counties, no less a person than Constable Bartholomew Glanville of Orford, although he was helped in his office over the next 5 years by Wimare Capell (the chaplain? Capellanus) and William Bardolf.  Further the enclosure of the marsh of Orford was carried out at a cost of £4 11s 8d.  In 1171 the monies spent on the works of Orford castle dwindled to just £30.  Supplies of bacon were sent to Eye, while the undersheriff, Wimare Capell, rendered an account for 66s 8d from the old farm of Orford and £26 13s 4d from the new farm and £35 16s 8d from the custom of ships.  There then followed much information about expenditure on the town and district of Orford which included the enclosing of the marsh, making a new mill for £12 9s 4d as well as stocking some of the ships in the port.  It appears from this that the king was doing his best for Orford and its district.

In 1172 the castle works at Orford cost only £8 10s by the view of Robert Valognes (d.1184) and Norman Ipswich, although 4s was put aside for Ralph Fitz Oslach in exchange for his land which had been enclosed in the marsh.  Possibly this low expenditure marked the fact that the castle had been completed, but with the coming of war to Britain in 1173 there was another sudden burst of building work at Orford.  This is seen in Sheriff Bartholomew Glanville of Norfolk and Suffolk's account.  This shows that a great ditch was dug around Orford castle with stockading and brattishing for the works of the stone bridge there costing £63 2s 8d at the writ of Richard Lucy and under the view of Robert Valognes (d.1184) and Norman Ipswich.  The bridge and ditch therefore marked the completion of the building of Orford castle in its final form.  From 1174 onwards only repairs to the fortress would be made with no known additions made to the structure.  The cost of the castle had therefore been, 1166 £670; 1167 £372 18s 6d; 1168 £120 1d; 1169 £275 7s; 1170 £149 19s 6d; 1171 £30; 1172 £8 10s and 1173 £63 2s 8d.  In total over the 8 years the castle had therefore cost the king a recorded £1,689 17s 9d, with the castle probably being operational from September 1167 when a total of £1,042 18s 6d had been expended on the site. 

The new castle was munitioned for the war with 200 loads of wheat from the measure of Ipswich at £21 13s 4d; 100 bacons at £10 and 500 cheeses at £4 3s 4d, 40s of iron, 25s of salt and 3 measures of tallow (pensis sepi) at 21s and 20s for ropes and lesser cords and 3 handmills at 4s and coal at 25s.  Further there had been 5s taken in Orford castle and 20s lost through the plundering of the Flemish (solidte/solidate amisse pro rapina Flandr).  Entries concerning Orford continue after the record of the munitioning of the other East Anglian castles of Eye, Norwich, Thetford, with 55s being accounted for sending 2 ships from Orford to Sandwich for 15 days.  Finally the garrison at Orford was mentioned with £87 6s 8d being spent on keeping knights there.  Further payments of 25s to the knights of Orford and 75s to the knights and serjeants of Orford were made.  On the Orford account 25s 4d was paid of the old farm by Oggerus Dapifer, while Vinar Capell owed £40 of the new farm, of which he paid £20, claimed 4s for the exchange in the marsh and gave £6 13s 4d to the knights and serjeants at Orford, leaving him with a dept of £13 2s 8d.  He also accounted for 105s received through the customs of the ships.  Finally a payment of £27 5s 8d was made to the knights and serjeants of Orford.  As the days these forces were stationed in Orford are not numbered, nor are the number of knights recorded, it is impossible to say how many troops were stationed at the castle and for how long.  Certainly it appears that the Flemings attacked the district, even if they made no serious attempt on the castle.

The next year more detailed records were kept for the royal forces in Orford.  Perhaps this shows order being created from the initial disorder of war which appeared in the rushed accounts for troops paid.  In 1174 Bartholomew Glanville, as both sheriff and constable of Orford castle, was granted £20 for the 20 knights who resided at Orford castle by the writ of Richard Lucy.  At the same time as other military affairs were accounted for £11 19s 4d was set aside for repairing the brattishing at Orford castle under the view of 2 Normans.  Ralph Breton was also given 5m (£3 6s 8d) for his houses which were transported into Orford castle.  These 2 entries together with last year's comments would tend to suggest that some kind of attempt was made on Orford castle by Earl Hugh Bigod (d.1176) and his Flemings.  The following Orford account noted the new and old farm payments and that Bartholomew Glanville had apparently used some of the revenues for his own purposes.  Probably these were for military affairs in defending his constableship.  This view is strengthened in 1175 when, under the Orford account, the vill was restocked due to the damage caused during the war at a cost of 28s.  It was also noted that the farm of Orford hadn't been paid due to the war.  The same year an assize was held in Orford itself and in which the men of Orford were fined £6 16d.  Presumably this was on account of them defying their king during the war.  The same September the sheriffship of Norfolk and Suffolk passed from Bartholomew to his undersheriff, Vinar Capell, who was to remain sole sheriff until 1186.

It was sometime during the sheriffship of Bartholomew Glanville that a wild man was caught in the nets of the local Orford fishermen and brought back to Orford castle.  As the castle was operational and there is no mention of war during the several months of the man's imprisonment, presumably this happened between the completion of the castle around the end of 1167 and the beginning of the Young King's war in 1173.  The story holds that the wild man [hominem silvestrem - or man of the woods] was caught in the sea by fishermen.  He was naked but covered in hair having a really long beard, dishevelled hair on his head and a shaggy chest.  He was handed over to Constable Bartholomew who had him guarded day and night and then had him tortured while hung upside down at the castle.  However he said nothing, but lived in a feral manner, heading for his bed the moment the sun went down and staying there until it came up again.  He also ate raw food as avidly as cooked.  He preferred fish and ate them by squeezing them between his hands and sucking the juice out of them.  He showed no sign of recognition or veneration in church.  Eventually he was taken to the sea and allowed to swim within an area demarked by a line of 3 nets.  Despite this the man escaped the nets and then frolicked in the sea, apparently taunting his erstwhile captors.  Then, suddenly of his own accord, he came ashore and spent another 2 months with his captors, before he is said to have secretly fled, presumably to the sea, never to be seen again.  After writing up this alleged event that had happened some 30-40 years before, Ralph Coggeshall then went on to speculate that this man was unlikely to have been a demon as he was so benign.  Conversely he thought the story worth being recorded as so many still spoke of these events with wonder.  In modern times it has been argued that his capture led to the establishment of a fashion for wild man carvings on the fonts of the nearby coastal parts of Norfolk and Suffolk where there are about 20 of them.  However, it is just as possible that the story was spawned by the fonts as much as the other way around.

In 1176 the Orford pipe roll account carried further entries concerning the farm of Orford and some of the recent expenses.  Money had been advanced to the knights, both foot and mounted, as well as foot serjeants in the king's castle of Orford in time of war for garrisoning the fortress at a cost of £80 44s 2d.  This was done at the king's writ by the number and times the knights and serjeants both horse and foot served (quod continet numeros et terminos militum et servientium equitum et peditum).  By 1177 Orford seems to have settled down into a normal routine with the farms of the vill being recorded under its own account heading as was now normal.  In 1178 further restocking of the manor took place at a cost of £40 6s 4d.

It was 1181 before further work needed to be done at Orford and this consisted of repairs to the fortress and houses within at a cost of £15 under the view of Adam and Ralph the clerics.  By September 1183 there had been a change at the castle when John Beclinges was called constable and was allowed £20 to repair the king's houses in his castle.  In 1187, the king acknowledged that he had appropriated a single knight's fee of Roger Sturmy for 20s as he held the fishery of Orford, which belonged to Roger, in his own hand.  In 1188 repairs were necessary to the doors and keep (turris) at a cost of £10 12s 2d under the view of Ralph and Adam the clerics.

Richard I was never so careful as his father in regards to the custody of royal fortresses so it is no surprise that he sold the custodianship of Eye and Orford castles to Walter Fitz Robert (d.1198) for £80 in 1191.  The same year he also spent £25 8s 8d in repairing the castles of Norwich, Eye and Orford by the view of Robert Bret and John Tauerham.  The sheriff also received £59 for guarding Orford and Eye castles this year and £4 for restocking the manors.  Both these events presumably occurred before Walter bought the custodianship.  By 1193 the country was again in a state of civil war with the forces of the Crown being deployed against Prince John (d.1216).  One result of this was the government placing garrisons in Eye and Orford castles for the whole year, it costing £73 for 6 knights and £21 for 7 horse serjeants and £18 3d for 12 foot serjeants.  Further the ships of Ipswich, Dunnow and Orford carried the chancellor over the sea to Germany at a cost of £29 and half a mark, while Walter Fitz Robert (d.1198) received 40m for the custody of Eye and Orford castles.  By 1195 King Richard had sold the men of Orford the custody of their own vill and given them a charter to that effect for the sum of 60m (£40).  Three years later in 1198 the king, in the form of the archbishop of Canterbury found it necessary to order 5m (£3 6s 8d) worth of repairs to the king's houses in Orford castle. 

By September 1199 the vill of Orford had been farmed out to Thomas Arden at 40m (£26 13s 4d) per annum for 2 years.  Of this sum he was eventually quit by the king's writ under the account for Eye as the constableship of the castle which had also been granted to Thomas came with a stipend of £40 per annum set by Henry II.  In any case Thomas paid 20m (£13 6s 8d) and was quit.  In 1200 the rather measly sum of 5s 7d was spent in repairing the houses in Orford castle, while the 40m (£26 13s 4d) farm of the vill was paid: 5m by Robert Fitz Roger (Robert had been sheriff from 1196 until 1200) and 5m by the sheriff (probably Richard Gosfield, Robert's undersheriff) who kept the remaining 30m (£20) as custodian of the castle.  On 26 December 1200 King John informed Theobald Valence, who was obviously constable of Orford castle, that as soon as he saw the king's letters, he was to turn Orford castle with the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk with all the stock in the castle and counties over to the bishop of Norwich.  John Grey was bishop from September 1200 until 18 October 1214.

In 1202 another 20m (£13 6s 8d) were spent on the works of Orford castle by the view of Geoffrey Fitz Peter and Michael and Roger Petersetrie.  The same year it was recorded that Robert Gray (probably the nephew of the bishop) held the farm of Orford for 1201 and 1202 at 40m (£26 13s 4d) per annum, although he had the custody of the castle at 60m (£40) per annum.  However he owed £6 9s 4d that had been spent on repairing Orford mill and consequently Robert now owed £6 17s 4d.  In 1203 Bishop John Grey of Norwich owed the county of Norfolk and Suffolk £6 17s 4d from his farm of Orford for last year and 40m (£26 13s 4d) for this year, but paid nothing.  Against this he was allowed 25m (£16 13s 4d) for the custody of Orford castle and therefore owed 20m 4s (£13 10s 8d).  At this time life seems to have progressed quietly at Orford although the king was obviously intent on keeping the port well maintained.  The year 1207 saw more work on the sea defences with 40s being spent on stones to strengthen Orford dyke.

In 1210 £20 was spent on repairing the castle under the supervision of William Blome and Stephen the merchant.  In September 1215 it was recorded that the sheriff, John Fitz Robert Fitz Roger (d.1240), [owed] 5m for the farm of Orford.  He presumably also held the castle although this wasn't mentioned in the dire state England had now fallen into until the administration finally collapsed in 1216.  By that time many barons had revolted and the country was plunged into a civil war which culminated in the arrival of Prince Louis of France on 21 May 1216.  After taking many castles in the south of England Louis and the rebels who supported him seized Berkhamsted castle in December 1216 following on the death of King John that October.  With much of the south of England fallen to the rebels, the government of the young King Henry III (1216-72) bought a short truce with Louis by surrendering to them the castles of Norwich and Orford.  The rebels then went on to seize all the castles of Essex and Suffolk.  Quite clearly from this there was no military action at the changing hands of these fortresses.

At the end of the civil war in 1217 the castle was returned to the rule of Henry III, it then being granted to the powerful Hubert Burgh (d.1243) who held the office of sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk from that date until 1224.  An attempt to restore financial stability to the realm was undertaken with a general tax being levied on the manors of the counties.  This shows that the port of Orford was already in a state of decline considering its low tax rate.  Norwich paid £100, Yarmouth 60m (£40), Aylsham (Ailesham) 25m (£16 13s 4d), Dunwich 100m (£66 13s 4d), Orford 15m (£10) and Ipswich 30m (£20).  Presumably Hubert was in residence at Orford castle on 9 September 1219 when a royal fine was made at Orford.

In 1220 Orford mill was repaired at a cost of £11 19s 2½d, while the 2 millstones were replaced at a cost of 4m (£2 13s 4d).  Whether this was due to damage when the castle changed hands or general wear and tear is sadly not known.  At the same time 35s was spent on the marsh enclosure.  The year 1221 saw the repair of the castle houses and minor work on the castle bridge at a cost of 5m (£3 6s 8d) as well as repairs to the marsh enclosure and sheep run for 100s.  In 1223 Sheriff Hubert Burgh spent 63s 1d on repairing Orford castle, which was deducted from the 10m (£6 13s 4d) he owed for the farm of the vill.  The same year a tallage was rendered from the king's demesnes, which money was to be assigned to aid in the enclosing of these vills.  In Norfolk and Suffolk the following towns paid varied amounts of money, undoubtedly based upon their perceived worth.  Orford raised 20m (£13 6s 8d), while Norwich borough raised £100, Yarmouth 80m (£53 6s 8d), Dunwich 60m (£40), Aylsham 20m (£13 6s 8d) and finally Ormesby 10m (£6 13s 4d).

At some point Hubert passed the fortress onto his brother, Thomas Burgh (d.1235), who held the fortress and vill from September 1221 until apparently September 1224.  Richard Aguillon then took over Orford in the summer of 1227 and held it all through 1228.  By 1230 the vill and castle were back in the hands of the sheriff.  The castle later passed into the hands of Robert Bruce from half way through 1233 until the first half of 1234.  Presumably he died in the spring of 1234, in which case this man was probably the great grandfather of King Robert Bruce (d.1329).  On 7 June 1235 Thomas Hengrave was granted the profits of Norfolk and Suffolk for an annual render of £100 and that he may have 20m (£13 6s 8d) a year for the custody of Orford castle from the farm of Orford and £52 for the custody of Norwich castle.  For the next few decades little of note was recorded of Orford.

The next big change for Orford came on 18 June 1256 when the men of Orford fined for 3 gold marks to have that vill with the king's mill and marsh, saving to the king and his heirs Orford castle.  For this boon the men were to pay £30 annually.  Despite this on 22 October 1275, King Edward I (1272-1307) ‘to avoid disputes' concerning the land granted to the queen to enable her to have an income of £4,500, made over to her an assortment of lands and castles, including the castles of Bristol, Odiham, Peak (Peveril), Bolsover, Horsley, Rockingham and finally the castle and town of Orford.  These were to be held as dower by Eleanor as queen as well as in any widowhood.  After her death in 1290 the castle reverted to the Crown and her and Edward's son, King Edward II (1307-27), was still undertaking the overlordship of the vill on 20 February 1326 when he granted the burgesses quittance of toll throughout the realm.

Earl Robert Ufford is said to have been granted the fortress in perpetuity by Edward III in 1336 according to Joshua Barnes' 1688 History of that Most Vicotrious Monarch, Edward III.  Certainly this year saw a French naval raid on Orford and Walton which is thought to have officially commenced the Hundred Years War.  Consequent to the grant of the castle in 1336, the town and castle of Orford were extended on the death of Earl Robert in 1369.  This found that they were held from the king for the yearly rent of a peppercorn during his lifetime and £20 a year from his heirs after his death.  The grant included a market place with a fair on the feast day of St Bartholomew, a leet held on the Wednesday after St Hilary and a pasture called Le Kyngeston with a meadow called Kyngesmedwe.  The castle was threatened by a French and Flemish fleet a little before 1 June 1385 which caused the king to order the Suffolk militia to form at Orford and be intendant on the countess of Suffolk in regard to the ward of the castle if peril should happen and to protect the castle from imminent invasion.  This is the last recorded military action at the castle which was tending towards ruin in 1600/02 when it was drawn by John Norden.  This showed the castle keep still occupied, but the main ward gatetower partially down, although the 4 curtain towers looked well maintained.

The castle stands 1½ miles from the coast and about a third of a mile from the River Alde.  Eleven miles to the south-west lay the Bigod castle of Walton.  The caput of Bigod power, Framlingham castle, lay 13 miles to the north-west, while Norwich, the administrative caput of Norfolk and Suffolk and only other royal castle in the district was 40 miles away.  Ipswich and Colchester lay 17 and 30 miles to the south-west respectively.  Before Orford harbour silted up the associated port was of considerable importance and this probably explains the reason for the founding of a castle here to control access from the Low Countries - access that was used to attack the kingdom during the Young King's war of 1173-74.  The port finally silted up in the sixteenth century, by which time the castle was obviously obsolete and soon afterwards abandoned.

The fortress consisted of a masonry ward with apparently 4 square towers, 2 ditches and a probable outwork to the south-west.  In the centre of the site stands the last remaining part of the castle, the great keep.  This polygonal tower stands upon a sharp boss of ground that might be totally natural or possibly a remnant of an earlier motte, although only excavation could determine this.  Currently the mound stands some 20' higher than the surrounding land and this fact alone, if natural, may have been the reason for the siting of the 1160s castle here.

The site is approached from the south-west via a causeway some 75' long and 15' wide with a dog-legged turn to the north half way across the ditch.  This was probably the bridge built in 1173 when the ditch was dug.  The causeway terminated at a probably rectangular gatetower that was still standing in 1600, although much ruined.  All trace of this structure above ground is now gone.  The ward was small and roughly circular having a diameter of some 140', the keep being placed somewhat towards the western side making a concentric defence.  Outworks lay all around the fortress, but their layout and purpose is uncertain.  The mound to the north is probably modern, although whether associated with clearing the ditches or the sand pits to the west is unknown.

A series of excavations in 2002/2003 uncovered many hidden features of the site.  A trench excavated north of the keep found the robbed-out foundations of the curtain wall some 23' north of the keep.  These were about 11' wide and the excavators considered it ‘of probable thirteenth century date'.  Similarly the ditch beyond this with it's bottom some 65' from the keep and about 35' beyond the curtain was about 30' wide and ‘was found to have at least thirteenth or fourteenth century origins'.  The building dates of both features are noted above and this again goes to emphasise how little faith can be placed upon archaeological reports.  However, the large outer banks some 100' north-west of the keep was found to have been largely the result of modern landscaping.

Another trench was dug on the causeway, some 130' south-south-west of the keep.  This found 2 buried walls forming a 13' wide entrance passageway which extended beyond the curtain wall.  The roadway across this was not encountered at a depth of some 6' below current ground level.  It was felt that these digs proved the smallness of the bailey and the accuracy of John Norden's plan of 1600-02.

The keep consists of a polygonal tower some 90' high and nearly 50' in diameter.  It had 3 rectangular turrets, each with 4 faces between them and stands 5 storeys (2 mesne) high.  The entrance lies on the first floor via a forebuilding attached to the west side of the southern turret.  Within the tower is a circular room with chambers in the 2 northern turrets and a spiral stair in the southern one.  In the basement both northern turret rooms are blind, while 3 sloping loops light the interior, equidistantly between the turrets to the north and east, but offset to the west due to the forebuilding.  In the centre of the floor is a 30' deep well while the forebuilding basement holds a cell with latrine and ventilating shafts. 

The first floor contains 3 double rectangular lights directly above the loops below and a modified fireplace to the north-east behind the turret.  The windows, being 3' high by 1½' wide were all further defended by iron bars (2 uprights and 7 horizontals in each aperture) and closed by shutters, of which some of the fittings remain in the stonework.  The embrasures are near-Romanesque, but they do have the slightest of points at the top.  There is also a bench around the walls which may suggest that this was a waiting chamber with an internal diameter of 26' and a height of 21'.  The north-east turret chamber has a single loop and is entered via a wall passage from the window embrasure south of it.  The north-west turret is similarly entered from the southern embrasure, but has a narrow wall passageway leading to a small latrine chamber with 2 lights to the north.  This turret is equipped as a kitchen with sink and drains.  The entrance doorway to the forebuilding has an angular head, which is probably an insert, while the room within is lit by one single and a pair of Romanesque windows with solid tympana.  The entrance into the tower proper to the south west has a triangular arch of 2 courses, but is otherwise similar to the outer one.  Above it are 3 Romanesque arches with highly decorated capitals on the one side, but not the other.  Unusually they are unsupported by pillars.  The portcullis was raised from the chapel above as was standard practise to make the castle less vulnerable to attack during mass.

The upper part of the hall has a mesne level in the turrets, the main stairs giving access to a passageway that leads to the forebuilding upper chamber.  As usual in such defensive structures, this was the chapel set defensively above the main entrance from where the main entrance portcullis was operated.  Beyond the chapel lies the north-west turret with another small latrine chamber to the north.  The north-east turret chamber is accessed via a tight vice leading off the northern double light embrasure below.

On the floor above is another hall, similar in layout to that below and accessed via a passageway off the main stair, which also gives access to the summit of the forebuilding.   The 3 double looped embrasures all have wall passageways leading off them and all have fully Early English pointed arches.  The embrasure to the south-west leads northwards to the north-west turret, while the western embrasure has 2 short passages to either side.  The north embrasure also has passageways on either side, the northern one leading to the north-east turret, while the southern one ends in a narrow garderobe.  The upper part of the hall is accessed via a mural passageway that runs along the western third of the wall to the cistern in the north-west turret.  The north-east chamber is entered from the upper part of the hall, probably via a catwalk from the mural passageway opening opposite.  The stairwell ends at the roof level above which was equipped with a parapet and parados, while the turrets continued on past the battlements of the main tower.  The north-west turret still supports its battlements and once contained a bakery.  The whole structure is made of coursed septaria blocks and coralline crag with oolite and allegedly Caen quoins, dressings and facings.  The plinth is also allegedly cut from Caen stone.

The keep is often compared with those at Conisborough in Yorkshire and Mortemer in Normandy.


Copyright©2020 Paul Martin Remfry