A Glimpse of Medieval Splendour – Bodiam Castle

It is said that Bodiam Castle is one of the most well-loved and adored castles in all of England, however, looks are definitely deceiving when it comes to this seemingly grand castle. Nobody really knows what makes it so adored, maybe it can be attributed to the iconic design of the building, the darling moat, the lush green and colourful scenery, or perhaps it is the amazing history of this beautiful building. We will never know for sure what its appeal is, but what we do know is that it will be loved for many years to come.

Even if you have never heard of Bodiam Castle before, there is a high chance that you have seen hundreds of photos of it. You may be wondering why this is and luckily, we have the answer! This beautiful moated medieval masterpiece is so photogenic and elegant that it has been used countless times as a beautiful misty feature on tourist brochures, boxes of chocolate, tea towels, and memorabilia that is shipped all around the world.

A long bridge leading to the gates of bodiam castle with its high walls and surrounded by a moat of water
Bodiam Castle East Sussex England UK built 1385. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bodiam Castles History

This can also be attributed to the fact that it is often seen as the perfect castle for many reasons and it is just as impressive in real life as it is in all of the photos. Many people don’t get too far for the first half-hour of their visit because they are simply in awe of the beautiful sight of Bodiam Castle in front of them and they seem to just stand and stare. Don’t let yourself be fooled though, because as stated above, looks can be very, very, deceiving until you begin to look a little deeper.

The early history of Bodiam Castle

It all began back when Edward III of England continued to fight and cause a ruckus, and then pressed his claim for the French throne. This then meant that he secured the territories of Aquitane and Calais. Sir Edward Dalyngrigge was one of the many Englishmen who travelled large distances to France in order to seek their fortune as members of Free Companies which were groups of mercenaries who fought for the highest bidder.

Sir Edward fought hard under the Earl of Arundel and afterward, he joined the company of Sir Robert Knolles who was a notorious commander reputed to have made 100,000 gold crowns as a mercenary from pillage and plunder. As a member of the Free Companies, Sir Edward was able to raise the perfect amount of money that allowed him to be able to build Bodiam Castle.

He was the youngest son in his family, and this then meant that he was the last in line to inherit anything. However, he soon married into a lovely family that owned land and this led to him owning the manor of Bodiam back in the year 1378. His knighthood spanned from the year 1379 to 1388 and during this time, not only was he one of the most influential people in the county, but he had more than enough money to be able to build himself a home.

Bodiam Castle in England was originally built back in the year 1385 and has since been known across England as one of the most perfect and romantic castles to ever exist. It was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge who, at one point, was also a knight of Edward III. Equipped with a great amount of knowledge regarding battles he went forth and designed the castle specifically with the intention of being able to defend the area of East Sussex from an invasion during The Hundred Years War.

From home to castle

Sir Edward originally set out to build himself a delightful manor home that was supposed to be a grand and impressive building that was home to weekly markets as well as an annual fair held within the ground. However, two years after all of this, the people of England suddenly found themselves panicking due to fleets of ships gathering at the English Channel which meant that Sir Edward was finally allowed to take the necessary steps towards fortifying his manor home and, in turn, protecting his lovely estate and his beloved family. Though Sir Edward had other ideas.

He deeply adored his lovely manor and had gone as far as to settle in and finally call it home so rather than using that as a form of defence, he decided that instead, he wanted to build an entirely different and larger building, this building was later named as Bodiam Castle.

Aerial View of Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England
Aerial View of Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England. Source: Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t a small project at all considering the fact that it was all being done at the same time, not one thing at a time, so there was definitely a lot of hard labour involved.  One reason that sets this castle apart from the others is that it was built all at the same time which means it is one design only and not a plethora of them mashed together like other examples.

While the castle was being built, the gardens were also being landscaped and when complete, they were beautiful and vibrant. They were especially beautiful when you could look closer and see the large variety of different waterways surrounding them.

What makes Bodiam Castle so interesting?

While other castles were built simply to withstand misfortune, Bodiam Castle was built with a few different things in mind which is yet another reason why it is so special. Not only was it specifically built to protect its inhabitants, but it was also built to be an inviting and beautiful home. Even in this modern time, people are still quite baffled when it comes to the castle and it’s hard to not become intrigued when looking at it. This castle is an odd Quadrangular design featuring large chambers on the outer walls as well as towers on each of the entrance points and the corners.

These towers had an incredibly important job, so they weren’t just for show. They were important when being used as lookouts so that any potential attack that was seen could be met with an incredibly quick response to ensure the safety of the inhabitants as well as the castle itself. Also featured are some beautiful inner courts which allowed adequate space for those living and/or working within the castle walls.

While you may have thought the castle couldn’t get any better, we come to the ever so beautiful and attractive moat that is said to be one of the most amazing parts of the castle. However, it really isn’t as beautiful as it seems because while it may look lovely, it actually acted as a sewage system for around 30 different toilets that could be found throughout the castle. While it may have looked great, it definitely didn’t smell that way.

The one thing that keeps people guessing in regard to Bodiam Castle in England is the question of what it was actually built for. Many people have many different opinions which only adds to the general confusion surrounding it. Some scholars will argue the opinion that Bodiam was built as somewhat of a Medieval romance with very little intention of ever being used in battle which made it a grand country home that was designed to evoke the majesty and power of other English castles nearby.

Opposite to that, historians counter that the castle was actually incredibly ferocious and was a very formidable fortress. This would mean that the castles look happened by accident and is only meant to look perfect to the foolish minds of modern visitors. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on this; however, it is unlikely that anyone will ever truly know.

No matter what your opinion is on this front, there is no doubt that Bodiam Castle is a truly phenomenal and enchanting example of medieval architecture. Although we may never know its true intended purpose, that doesn’t make it any less important or impressive.

There is no denying that Bodiam Castle is exquisite and to this day remains an amazing example of a medieval castle, but believe it or not, it was once far grander than it is now. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that the entire interior has fallen into the room, however, it doesn’t help that the outer gardens have also failed to continue as they once were.

If you know what you’re looking for, it can be quite easy to recognize the basic dimensions of the castle and in particular, the functional rooms such as the cellar and kitchen can be seen. Anyone with a keen eye will be able to create a floor plan in their head in order to layout the castle and it is quite simple to go from there and figure out how it would have once looked in its glory days.

Inside Bodiam Castle

There is very little left inside Bodiam Castle, in fact, it has all essentially been reduced to significant ruin which means that it really doesn’t take you long to explore it thoroughly. Realistically, it should only take you an hour or two to explore it, though the outside gardens may take you a little while longer. You are still able to climb up the towers and overlook the inside, outside, and scenic views of the castle, however, unlike other English castles, this one isn’t very well preserved inside.

When going from one tower to another, it is very easy to hear the sound of bats flying within the castle’s walls which further proves how ruined this castle actually is. Bodiam Castle still has its beautiful spiral staircase to wander around on, though it can be quite slippery so proceed with caution when you are visiting. Before going inside, it is quite easy to see that the castle is made to look far larger and formidable from the outside than it actually is.

The present day

These days, Bodiam Castle in England is a stunning and enchanting place to visit and relish in what once would have been the stomping ground of a grand knight. You may even be able to recreate your childhood by envisioning knights in shining armour and maybe your kids will even play along and create some memories of their own. This castle is so much more than ruins and misfortune, it also plays home to some great educational events as well as medieval performances in the Spring.

Even now, the lead-up to the entrance of Bodiam Castle is simply breathtaking and it is still remarkably impressive despite not being as grand as it once was. As you make your way up the driveway, you will be able to gain some small glimpses at the dark grey stone of the castle between some beautiful Oak trees that will only heighten your interest. With it being this beautiful now, it is incredibly insightful to imagine how it once would have been coming up the driveway in the 14th century.

Bodiam Castle Facts

Bodiam Castle is clearly impressive, we know that much. However, here are some facts to further prove just how special this gorgeous castle is.

  • It is a quadrangular (square-shaped) castle which is something not often seen, especially throughout England.
  • Bodiam Castle is built from sandstone and doesn’t have a keep, instead, the rooms and chambers are built against the curtain walls.
  • During the reign of Richard III, it is said that a siege was planned against the castle, however, records do not show whether or not the attack went ahead.
  • When the 17th and 18th centuries came around, the castle was reduced to ruin and drawings from the era show the castle in a state of disrepair with ivy covering a significant amount of the castle.
  • These days, the castle is a tourist attraction that is run by the National Trust and it is visited by more than 150,000 people every year.

You may enjoy reading about other English castles such as Kenilworth Castle.

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