Thurnham Castle, Kent
3 miles N.E. of
off M20, A249
Thurnham Castle stands on the site of Saxon fortress, long known as Godard's Castle, which may in itself been preceded by a Roman watchtower. In early Norman times the castle formed part of Bishop Odo's estates, half-brother of King William I, Earl of Normandy and victor of the Battle of Hastings.
The Castle is of motte and bailey type, sitting on top of a natural chalk spur in the North Downs commanding the road below. The mound and inner bailey overlooked and protected the outer bailey. The remains today are mostly from the inner bailey gatehouse and a small part of the shell keep that once crowned the motte.
This castle is a hidden away forgotten ruin that is a pefect example of what this website is dedicated to.
Access to the castle is off a busy road, sign-posted as White Horse Country Park, which provides plenty of parking for dog walkers and those who want to have a spectacular view across the North Downs. Few visitors venture further across the park, across a small lane at the far side, through a gate to a field that contains this hidden secret.
Although the castle is very ruinous, there is enough stone walls and motte still visible to get an idea of the layout of this little castle, with views from the North Downs towards the Weald of Kent.
To get a good appreciation of your visit, it's well worth reading the history of those who are associated with Thurnham castle, which includes Crusades to the Holy Land and important Kings and Queens central to the History of Britain and Europe.
~ History ~
1067 - Bishop Odo is granted the title of Earl of Kent by his half-brother King William I, including the manor of Thurnham. In the King's absence in Normandy he acts as regent of England, leading royal forces against Saxon rebellions.
1076 - Odo is tried at Penenden Heath for defrauding the Crown and the Diocese of Canterbury and forced to return many properties .
1082 - Odo is disgraced and imprisoned for having planned a military expedition to Italy. He spends 5 year imprisoned.
1085 - Thurnham is forfeit from Odo's estates and granted to Gilbert Magminot.
1087 - Odo's brother King William I dies. On his deathbed he is persuaded by his brother, Robert, Count of Mortain, to release Odo.
After William's death Odo returns to his Earldom of Kent and organises a rebellion against his nephew King William II.
1088 - The rebellion fails and Odo is forced to leave England for Nomandy.
1097 - Odo dies on his way to Palestine as part of the First Crusade.
1154 - Robert de Thurnham builds his Castle during the reign of King Henry II. Upon his death he leaves the castle to his two sons Robert and Stephen. The brothers sail with King Richard I to the Holy land on crusade. Robert is also given command of the English Fleet, whilst his brother Stephen is entrusted with escorting the Queen Mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, on a mission to collect King Richard's betrothed, the beautiful Berengaria of Navarre.
1191 - Stephen ensures that his King and his bride are safely married in Cyprus, where his brother Robert is made governor. Stephen later escorts the Queen Mother back to England.
1192 - On return from Crusade King Richard is forced to land in hostile lands with just a few trusted men and, disguised as a Templar Knight, heads north for the safe lands held by his brother-in-law Henry, Duke of Saxony. However, after an icy, gruelling, dangerous journey, he and his men are apprehended by Duke Leopold of Austria on the outskirts of Vienna.
1194 - Robert acts as chief fund raiser to pay the ransom demanded by Leopold to release King Richard from his imprisonment. English emissaries in the shape of abbots of Boxley and Robertsbridge are sent to start the negotiations of his release. After strenuous diplomatic efforts by the Queen Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine, the payment of 100,000 marks, raised by Robert is paid, which in turn almost bankrupts the Kingdom.
1213 - Robert dies peacefully in his bed at Thurnam Castle during the reign of King John without a male heir, so the castle passes to his brother Stephen, who in turn dies just three years later in Thurnham, an equally peaceful death.
1272 - The castle is held by Sir Roger de Northwood for King Edward I until his death in 1284.
1379 - Sir John de Northwood dies and his son, Roger inherits. In turn he grants the castle and manor to Robert Corbie, of Boughton Malherb.
1416 - Sir Nicholas Wotton obtains Thurnham Castle through his marriage to Joane de Northwood.
1631 - The castle again passes through marriage Catherine Wotton to Henry, Lord Stanhope. The Stanhope's sell the castle upon Henry's death. The castle is subsequent sold through various owners until its ruin.