Chilham Castle, Kent
Off A28 / A252
There has been a castle on the site at Chilham since 709, when Wihtred, King of Kent, built a fort, probably of wood.
‘Cilleham’ was mentioned in the Domesday Book – ‘Sired held it from King Edward’. Today it is located in the beautiful manicured grounds of the Jacobean house of the same name, from the stunning village square with all its old tudor buildings.
The castle grounds are private with limited open days to the Jacobean grounds, but not the castle which is a private home.
There is limited parking in the village square which in itself a lovely place to explore down to the church. Alternatively there is a car park near the main road with a short walk up the hill to the village square, its pub and ice cream parlour.
~ History ~
1067 ~ King William the Conqueror grants Chilham and the title Earl of Kent to his half-brother, Odo, warrior Bishop of Bayeux who had fought beside William at the Battle of Hastings. Fulbert de Lucy is made keeper of Chilham and as part of his feudal duty, buids a wooden keep at Chilha. He also provides men and horses to the garrison at Dover Castle, where he buids the Chilham Tower in Dover Castle. Fulbert’s family adopt the name de Dover (being more important than Chilham).
1082 ~ Bishop Odo is discraced and imprisoned by his brother King William after planning in secret a military expedition to Italy, it is said to fulfill his ambition to become Pope. Hisvast estates across England are taken from him and he spends the next five years in prison, released upon the death of King William.
1170s ~ Fulbert, son of John de Dover, replaces the stone keep in stone, employing Ralph, master-mason to King Henry II.
1200 ~ Fulbert dies, but as his heiress Roese is too young to marry, the castle reverts to the Crown under King John, who granted it in quick succession to Fulk de Bréant and then, after his acquittal for treason, to Thomas Peverell.
Meanwhile, Fulbert’s orphaned heiress Roese, great-great-granddaughter of the first Fulbert, a ward of the Crown, is married to King John’s son, Richard fitzJohn, who thereupon is granted the Barony of Chilham and his wife’s family name of Dover.
1216 ~ The castle is occupied briefly by the Dauphin, heir to the French throne. Having captured Canterbury, he is on his way to London to claim the English throne, which had been offered to him by rebellious barons. He is forestalled by the death of King John. The barons change their minds and, favouring John’s infant son Henry, send the foreign prince back home.
Soon after Richard fitzJohn dies, Roese remarries to another Richard, who adopts successively the names de Dover and then de Chilham. Roese daughter Isabel de Chilham is bought up in the King's Court, where she is later married to David de Strathbolgi, Earl of Atholl, a Scottish aristocrat and a leading ally of England in the Scottish Wars.
1270 ~ Isabel, now châtelaine of Chilham, having lost father and husband in that same year, is married to an even more powerful Scot, Alexander de Baliol, Lord of Cavers, Grand Constable of Scotland under King Edward I of England and cousin to John Baliol, Scotland’s puppet king.
1280 ~ After Alexander’s death, the castle reverts to Isabel’s child, John de Strathbolgi, 9th Earl of Atholl. A contemporary of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, Earl John plays a major part in the Scottish Wars of Independence but, unlike his father, he fights against the English.
Since he holds lands in England and had sworn allegiance to King Edward I of England as Lord Paramount of Scotland, Earl John is regarded in England as a traitor. Captured at the castle of Kildrummy in Scotland, he is brought back to his Kentish territories for execution. To the pleadings of the Queen and English nobles for mercy for this high-born prisoner, the response of King Edward is to promise that, ‘his only privilege shall be to hang on a higher gallows than the rest, as his treasons have been more flagrant and numerous’.
1307 ~ At Canterbury, where his mother Isabel lay buried in the cathedral, Earl John is hanged, drawn and quartered. His severed head is taken for display upon a pole at London Bridge, beside that of William Wallace.
Chilham reverts once again to the Crown, but within months, King Edward I followed Earl John to the grave.
1312 ~ King Edward II grants Chilham with several additional holdings to a famous man of Kent and a sworn enemy of the Scots, Bartholomew ‘the rich Lord de Badlesmere’, who had been born at Chilham castle.
1321 ~ Bartholomew as Governor of the castles of Bristol, Tonbridge, Leeds and Dover, and Lord Warden to the Cinque Ports, is considered an 'over-mighty subject', and like is predecessor at Chilham, an enemy to the Crown.
After being refused entry to Leeds Castle by Margaret, Lady Badlesmere, the furious Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II swears to bring down the over-mighty Badlesmere's. She demands redress and, following the surrender of the castle at Leeds, Henry de Valoynes, who holds Chilham Castle on behalf of Badlesmere, surrenders the castle to two knights from King Edward's army.
After a brief rebellion, allied with other rebellious barons and his former enemies the Scots, Badlesmere is captured. He is taken back to the gibbet in his own manor of Blean, near Canterbury, to suffer the same gruesome death as his predecessor, John de Strathbolgi, 9th Earl of Atholl, 14 years before. Of lower rank than Earl John, his head is displayed locally, on the Burgate at Canterbury. Then, completing her revenge, the vindictive Queen has Margaret, Lady Badlesmere, and her children imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1322 ~ Badlesmere’s lands are forfeited. Possession of Chilham is restored briefly when King Edward II passes Chilham back to David de Strathbolgi, 10th Earl of Atholl. David too falls foul of Scotland’s uncertain loyalties. Because his father-in-law, Red John de Comyn, had been murdered by Robert the Bruce, Earl David allied himself with the English. The lordship of Chilham his reward.
1326 ~ Earl David is killed on the field of battle. Chilham’s longest connection with one family, which had lasted over two centuries, stretching back to the Conquest, had finally come to an end.
1327 ~ Having later imprisoned and murdered her husband King Edward II, Queens Isabella rules the realm in the name of her son, Edward III. Some years later, after wresting power from his mother, the new King overturned much of what his parents had done. Making amends, he bestows Chilham upon Giles de Badlesmere.
1364 ~ Upon the death of Gile, possession passes to his sister Margery, wife of William Lord Roos of Hamlake and Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire.
1381 ~ During the Peasants’ Revolt some local peasants make a futile attack upon the castle before joining the march to London led by Wat Tyler of Dartford. After Tyler’s death, the revolt collapses and peace returned.
1461 ~ The Roos family possession of Chilham Castle comes to an end during during 'the Wars of the Roses'.
After the Battle of Towton, the Lancastrian Thomas Lord Roos is executed by order of the Yorkist King Edward IV, who passes Chilham to the Controller of his Royal Household, Sir John Scott of Scotts Hall, Smeeth, near Ashford. Sir Alexander Baliol, Lord Cavers, Lord of Chilham 200 years earlier, is Sir John’s six-times great-uncle.
1485 ~ Sir John Scott dies.
1502 ~ King Henry VII restores Chilham to Thomas Manners, Lord Roos, great-grandson of that other Thomas who, at the cost of his life and possessions, had joined the Lancastrians.
1539 ~ King Henry VIII, with coffers replenished from despoiled church property, offers cash to buy the the Chilham estate. Thomas, now Earl of Rutland, well advanced in years and with large holdings in the Midlands, accepts the money.
For the 10th time since the Conquest, the castle becomes Crown property, severing the Badlesmere connection for good.
1612 ~ Sir Dudley Digges, a buccaneering merchant of North America and Canada, and who had been embroiled in the mutiny of Henry Husdon's death in securing the north-west passage, has a lavish new house built on his Chilham estate. The castle is allowed to gradually fall into a state of disrepair.