Mortemer-en-Bray Castle

It was probably some time after 1020 that the land of Mortemer-en-Bray was given to the son of Bishop Hugh of Coutances. Sometime before 1053 he adopted the surname of Mortimer, being one of the first men to adopt a name based on that of their home vill. In 1054 this man, Roger Mortimer, fought and won the battle of Mortemer for Duke William of Normandy (d.1087). However in the aftermath of the fight he entertained his father-in-law, Count Ralph IV Montdidier of Amiens (d.1074), in Mortemer castle and then released him. His overlord Duke William was astounded at what he saw as this act of treachery and seized Roger's estates. Later he restored all of Mortimer's lands except for Mortemer itself. At this point St Victors castle with its priory became the caput of the Mortimer family in France.  Mortemer castle was given by Duke William to Roger's brother, Ralph (d.c.1074), who went on to found the Warenne family - the future earls Warenne of Surrey in England.  The Mortimers never regained the vill of Mortemer from which they took their name.  In the 1140s Reginald Warenne (d.1179) held the castle, but agreed to hand it over to Count William of Mortain (d.1159) in 1153.  Count William was also lord of Castle Acre, Conisbrough, Norwich and Pevensey castles.  In 1157 the castle was resumed by King Henry II when he took all of Count William's garrisons off him in England and Normandy.  The castle later passed to Hamelin (d.1202), King Henry's half brother, in 1164 when he married Count William's widow, Isabella (d.1203) the daughter of Earl William Warenne (d.1148).  In 1204 Mortemer castle fell to King Philip of France and in 1209 he confirmed his occupation by getting Alice Eu (d.1246), one of the many granddaughter of Earl Hamelin (d.1202), to quitclaim this fortress and Bellemcombre to him.

Although we know a castle was standing at Mortemer in 1054 we know nothing of its composition. On the hill above Mortemer church lies the earthwork remains of a hill fort or castle ringwork. Modern quarrying shows the make up of the rampart.

In the valley below is a medieval castle ringwork which has a motte at one end on which stands a unique tower keep which bares some resemblance to the Warenne keep at Conisbrough castle in Yorkshire.

Copyright©2013 Paul Martin Remfry

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