Tonbridge Castle


Tonbridge Castle, Kent
Photo © Clem Rutter, 12 January 2008

Tonbridge Castle, Kent
Photo © Clem Rutter, 12 January 2008

Early history

Following the Norman Conquest, Richard Fitz Gilbert was granted land in Kent to guard the crossing of the River Medway. He erected a simple Motte-and-bailey castle on the site. To dig the moat and erect the motte 50,000 tonnes of earth were moved. In 1088, the de Clare family (descendents of Fitz Gilbert) rebelled against King William II. His army besieged the castle. After holding for two days the castle fell and as punishment the king had both the castle and the town of Tonbridge burnt to the ground. Before 1100, the de Clares replaced the wooden castle with a stone shell keep. This was reinforced during the thirteenth century, and in 1295 a stone wall was built around the town.

The twin towered gatehouse was built by Richard de Clare, sixth Earl of Hertford or his son Gilbert. Construction of the gatehouse took 30 years, being completed in 1260. The gatehouse shares many similarities with the ones at Caerphilly Castle built by Gilbert in 1268-1271. The great seal of England was temporarily kept here during one of Edwards visits to France.

The mansion was added in 1793. Both castle and mansion are Grade I listed buildings.

Modern history

Tonbridge Castle is situated on Castle Street. The site was purchased by the local council in 1900, who now use the mansion as offices, and making the grounds a public park.

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