Canterbury


The castle keep stands towards the southern boundary of the medieval town, using the city wall for the south boundary of it's inner bailey.  The city walls follow the line of the ancient Roman wall of Durovernum, built towards the end of the third century when Saxon raiding was becoming a problem.  So far only one internal tower has been found.  Roman gates have been noted at Queningate, Riding Gate and Worth Gate.  The Roman ditch was still viable in 1086 and the walls were said to be in repair about 1140.  Presumably these were still mainly the Roman walls.  Repairs are recorded in the pipe rolls in the late twelfth century and again from the 1290s to the 1320s.  The walls were further rebuilt in the late fourteenth century against French raids.  In 1363 a commission found the walls mostly fallen and the ditches blocked.  Consequently murage, a tax to build town walls, was granted to the citizens in 1378, 1379, 1385, 1399 and 1402.  More than half the city circuit survives, equipped with bastions fitted with early keyhole gunports.  The Westgate is the largest surviving city gate in England and is built on the site of the Norman entrance, which was once surmounted by the little parish church of Holy Cross.  In 1379, both church and gate were taken down by the order of Archbishop
Simon Sudbury, who was murdered during the Peasants' Revolt 2 years later.  The gate consists of two D towers 60' high.   This was originally protected by a drawbridge, wooden doors and a portcullis.

Within the Roman town walls a castle was probably founded soon after 1066.  There are two arguments concerning this.  One is that the first castle consisted of a 'motte',
called the Dane John, laying against the city walls at the south apex of the walls.  The other is that the castle keep built 600' NE of this is the first Norman castle.  Excavation seems to favour the second explanation as the Dane John, thought in 1640 to have been built by the Danes seems to have been scarped out of a Roman barrow, which itself possibly had a Bronze Age origin.  Only this one mound survives as an earthwork in what may have been a cemetery.  Limited excavation has shown no traces of castle defences although a ditch, 55' across and 10' deep, was uncovered 300' north of the mound which was questionably interpreted as an outer bailey for the 'motte'.  If this pre-existing mound was ever used as a motte it was soon abandoned and became a windmill mound, before being used as a Civil War (1642-46) gun emplacement.  It was finally incorporated into a public garden after 1790.

This 'evidence' suggests that the first castle was the great tower built just within the Roman wall in a similar manner to the Tower of London and Colchester castle. The tower was surrounded by a sub-rectangular balley with a gate to the north.  To the south was the Worth Gate, set in the city wall, but a part of the castle enceinte.  This was blocked up in 1548 and a new gate outside the castle opened just to the east, called the Wincheap gate.  All of this has been subsequently destroyed.  However in 1879 John Brent drew the Worthgate and this looks Roman, although it is a simple opening.  The arch was removed in 1790 and became feature in the grounds of Lee priory, just east of Canterbury.

Canterbury castle, obsolete by
the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) was then used merely as a prison and by 1335 was largely in ruins.  Pushed into service for the Civil War (1642-46) the great tower was largely demolished as a result, although the lower portion still stands.  The bailey walls and gates were largely demolished from 1792 and much of the site built over.  Only the base of the great keep and a small portion of the bailey wall still stand.

The square Norman keep is made of bands of flint and supposedly Caen stone blocks, the latter stated to be imported from Normandy.  The keep, measuring 87' by 75' externally has walls up to 9' thick.  Originally it had four arched windows on each face, while the interior has two cross walls and the remains of spiral staircases in the east and SW walls.  Fireplaces of rubble, set in a herringbone built wall, have survived.  Herringbone masonry is often regarded as pre-Norman, though here it would seem to be used for its fire-resistant properties.  Other tower keeps similar to Canterbury include Appleby, Bamborough, Brough, Brougham, Carlisle, Castle Acre (a converted hall), Corfe, Dover, Hedingham, Kenilworth, Lancaster, Ludlow (a converted gatehouse), Middleham, Norham, Norwich, Portchester (a converted hall), Richmond (a converted gatehouse), Rochester, Scarborough and the Tower of London.


On line link to full castle details at Archaeology Data Service:



 

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