Lewes Castle

The castle at Lewes is unusual in having two mottes, one on either side of the bailey.  Lincoln castle also has two mottes, but these are closer together.  Possibly this denotes a twin lordship, with a motte for each lord.  Certainly such twin mottes seem to be early features.

Both mottes and the bailey in between support some surviving Norman walling and vaults.  The Norman castle is thought to have been built for William Warenne shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and remained in their family for centuries.  The bailey, some 440 feet by 330, had a continuous flint wall with towers at intervals and an internal rectangular gatehouse, of which only the E wall survives.  This was built of herringbone masonry - a style that was popular from the Roman era until the Norman age.  That the remaining towers are internal to the curtain wall suggests an early date for their construction, possibly even before the mottes were built.

The N motte, known as the Brack Mount, has been partially excavated and was found to consist of piled limestone blocks.  On the summit was a shell keep, probably similar to the one on the SW mound - seen to the right.  Both mottes and the bailey in between support some surviving ancient walling and vaults exist external to the enceinte by the Brack Mount and under a tower to the W.

Angular towers were added to the shell keep on the SW motte and in the 14th century the impressive round-turreted outer entrance, or barbican, was built to strengthen the early rectangular gatehouse.   Excavations on the SW motte in 1985-88 revealed a hall, kitchen and chapel set around the shell keep.  There are still fragmentary remains of the town walls built after a murage grant of 1266.

Similar shell keeps still exist at Totnes, Tremarton, Restormal, Windsor, Berkeley, Lincoln and to a lesser degree, Wigmore castles.

For more detailed descriptions of the castle see British History

Why not join me at Lewes and other British castles this October?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2016 Paul Martin Remfry

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