Featured image of Clare Castle

The History of Clare Castle

LocationClare, Suffolk, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byClare Town Council
Official WebsiteClare Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Clare Castle is a ruined medieval castle situated in the city of Clare in Suffolk, England. The castle’s highlight is the vast grasslands and tall remnants of its ancient structure.

History of Clare Castle

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, Richard Fitz Gilbert was granted a barony by William the Conqueror. Through this barony, he was awarded two blocks of land, one in Kent and the other across Suffolk and Essex. Richard built two castles across these areas- Tonbridge in Kent and Clare Castle in Suffolk. Since Suffolk was one of the most prosperous parts of the country of its time, Clare Castle was built in between the River Stour and the Chilton Stream. The castle was built on the site of the former Anglo-Saxon manor house to display the Norman authority and demonstrate their power. The castle had a tremendous defensive value and was described as “the castle that represented and reflected the rank and dignity of the lord.”

By the 14th century, there was a severe outbreak of the Black Death, which led to the castle being passed onto the de Clare family line. The castle continued on the de Clare family line until the 8th Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare. He died at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and the estate was subsequently passed to his sisters. Elizabeth de Clare combined all her estates, including her deceased husband’s, making her one of the wealthiest women in England. She used the castle as her primary residence. After Elizabeth de Clare’s death, the castle changed many hands and got involved in the Wars of the Roses. The castle was a piece of art and was passed onto the Richard of York, who handed it to the Crown via his son Edward IV.

The castle deteriorated further with the onset of the upcoming years. The castle was robbed of its masonry in the following years since that particular part of England was always short of stones. In 1867, the Cambridge and Colchester branch line of the Great Eastern Railway was built through the castle, destroying almost all the integral parts of it to make room for a new station. The railway line is now shut down, and the castle is protected as a scheduled monument under UK law and is listed as a grade 2 building.


Footpath to Clare Castle
Footpath to Clare Castle”, by Evelyn Simak, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Initially, the castle was built in a motte and bailey design with two baileys stretching alongside. The castle was also provided with a nearby religious house when Richard de Clare founded the Clare Priory. The Priory grew into a residence of monks from all the four mendicant orders. In the 13th century, the castle took the form of a polygonal shell keep. The inner bailey was also strengthened with new stones, and a new wall was built. In the 14th century, when the castle was passed onto Elizabeth de Clare, it was redone entirely to reflect a wealthy family’s residence. There were three gates positioned across the castle called Nethergate, Redgate, and Dernegate. The castle’s four towers were named Auditorstower, Maidenstower, Constabletower, and Oxfordtower. Vineyards and orchards surrounded the property, along with a water garden that consisted of a geometrically shaped fountain.

The castle was magnificently luxurious. It had a staff of more than 30 knights and squires, including falconers, tailors, chaplains, and goldsmiths. The castle now consists of a motte, earthworks, fragments of the inner bailey are also visible. The castle was passed onto the Clare Town Council from the Suffolk Town Council for its better management.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happened to Clare Castle?

Clare Castle was once the residence of the wealthiest woman in England, Elizabeth de Clare. It was also passed into the hands of the Crown in 1600 but was disused and abandoned. The castle’s ruins are still visible, and the castle gardens are well maintained for visitors.

Who owns Clare Castle?

Clare Castle was previously owned by many wealthy families and passed onto a rich family line of de Clares. Later, the castle was passed onto the Clare Town Council from the Suffolk Town Council for better management.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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