Canterbury Castle

Canterbury Castle, Kent

~ History ~

1066 - The victorious William The Conqueror marches his army through Canterbury on his way to be ground King Of England at Westmister Abbey. A timber motte-and-bailey castle is erected to safeguard the Roman road to the port of Dover.

1086 - The Domesday Book records houses being held in exchange for lands used for building of a new castle.

1087 - King William II imprisons some of the Saxon monks of St Augustone's Abbey in the castle for refusing to accept a Norman Abbot.

1100's - Following the building of the White Tower in London and just a few years later a similar keep at Colchester, a half sized version is built at Canterbury by the master-builder of his day, Gundulf, newly promoted Bishop of Rochester.

1169 - Compensation for the land used to create the castle bailey is paid by Henry II.

1172 - Repairs to the castle are made over a two year period costing £200.

1193 - The garrison of the castle is recorded as being comprised of one knight and 40 foot-sergents. The main use of the castle being that of a royal prison.

1216 - The castle is captured by Prince Louis of France.

1277 - Jews are incarcerated in the prison prior to being sent abroad.

1380 - During an uprising the keeper of the castle is forced to burn all records and documents held in its vaults. The city walls are rebuilt with towers and key-hole shaped gunloops.

1390 - £200 is set aside from fines for repairs to the keep.

1539 - Trouble with poorly paid labourers working on Deal castle sees Sir Edward Ryngley report, "This week we had business with the King's labourers here, saying they would have 6d a day; but after I had spoken with them I caused them to return to work...I have sent the nine first beginners, five to Canterbury Castle and four to Sandwich gaol".

1555 - Queen Mary has 42 heretics starved and then burnt to death at the castle.

1609 - The castle is an abandoned ruin when it is granted by James I to Sir Anthony Weldon of Swanscombe.

1770 - The curtain walls are destroyed through demolition and the ditch filled.

1792 - The outer bailey is demolished along with the Roman Worthgate to improve access through the city.

1817 - The upper walls to the keep are pulled down.

1825 - The castle is brought by the Gas, Light and Coke Company who pull down the two internal cross walls so they can use if as a coal and coke store.


Castle Street, Canterbury





Canterbury Castle was one of the three original royal castles of Kent (the other two were Rochester and Dover) they were all built very soon after the Battle of Hastings. They were all located on the main Roman road from Dover to London, the route taken by William the Conqueror in October 1066, and it is likely that they were all built originally as motte-and-bailey castles in the winter of 1066-67 to guard this important route. The original castle at Canterbury being built within the 3rd century Roman Walls.

Early in the twelfth century, during the reign of Henry I, the great stone keep was built. This massive structure was originally 80 feet high with flint and sandstone walls over 14 feet thick at its base. Apart from the keep, there was an outer bailey of over 4 acres, which was enclosed by a wall and ditch and had a main gate with two drum towers. Later, the Roman walls enclosing the 120 acre site, were rebuilt in the late 14th century with towers and strong gates, in response the the threat from France.