Sutton Valence Castle, Kent
Sutton Valence, 6 miles South of Maidstone
Rectory Lane, Off A274
On top of a south-facing escarpment overlooking the Weald are ruins of a keep with ragstone walls up to 6 feet thick with clasping corner buttresses. Ragged holes mark the positions of basement loops facing east, west and south and there was a spiral stair in the north-east corner. A square forebuilding lay against the north side. Of the bailey there remains just slight traces of a curtain wall built on a natural cliff face.
~ History ~
814 - The Saxon settlement is sufficient to warrant a mention in a charter of the Kingdon of Mercia. "I, Coenwulf, King of Mercians, bestow upon Suinothe, my companion, one ploughland in full possession...adjoining the wood called Chart, with fields, woods and pastures, meadows yielding 12 carts of hay, a mill and pannage (feeding pigs on forest acorns) at Suthtune (Sutton or 'South Town').
1040's - The manor, including the castle, continues its connection with royalty under the ownership of the King Harold's brother Leofwine.
1066 - Leofwine is killed at the Battle of Hastings by the conquering Normans along with King and brother Harold Godwinson.
1086 - The Domesday book records the village of Town Sutton being granted by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo Fitzhubert, Bishop of Bayeux. Odo 'sub-lets' the manor of 18 smallholdings, 5 cottagers, 640 acres of cultivated land, pannage for 50 pigs and the vineyard, to Adam Fitzhubert, a Domesday book commissioner.
1166 - The village is granted to Baldwin de Bethune, Count of Albermarle, who rebuilds the castle in stone.
1212 - Following the death of Baldwin, his widow is forced to marry a favourite of King John, Fulke de Breaute. Initially Fulke does well by the inhabitants of Sutton, obtaining a charter for an annual fair.
1221 - But following a series of atrocities elsewhere, culminating in the sacking of St Albans Abbey in 1217, he is exiled. The manor falls to Baldwin's daughter Alicia, who marries the powerful William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke.
1225 - Alicia dies and the manor and castle passes first to her husband, then to his second wife, Eleanor sister of Henry III, then to her second husband, Simon de Montfort.
1265 - Simon de Montford, leader of the rebellious barons against King Henry III, is killed at the Battle of Evesham. The king grants Sutton to his half-brother William de Valence, along with 631 other manors. Upon Edward I's succession to the throne William resides at the castle during periods when the king is visiting his wife at nearby Leeds Castle.
1300's - William is succeeded by his son Aymer de Valence, who becomes keeper of the Marches of Scotland. His violent opposition to Robert the Bruce being due to the fact that it had been Bruce who had murdered Aymer's brother-in-law.
Although initially in rebellion against Edward II, he is later reconciled and commands forces at Bannockburn.
1321 - Aymer besieges and takes nearby Leeds Castle due to its holder, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, being in rebellion.
1344 - Upon Aymer's death the manor and castle passes into the powerful Hastings family and for a while it is known as Sutton Hastings.
1401 - Lord Grey of Ruthin, a member of the Hastings family, is captured by Owain Glyndwr during the Welsh uprising and the manor is sold to provide his ransom.
1418 - The Clifford family purchases the manor and hold it for the next 130 years.