Recently we visited Weeting in Norfolk, it’s a place that you drive through to get somewhere and really never stop. You should stop because it has a history, castle and a round tower church. In my last post we explored the delightful church and now we move onto the castle, although its called a castle, it really is a medieval fortified manor house.
The castle is tucked away behind a housing estate of bungalows, which are built on the grounds of the old Weeting Hall, demolished in the early 1950’s. Once you have found your way through the estate you arrive at a small car park, and walk down a grassy path back through time. The ruins are not castle shaped, they are definitely manor house in shape and surrounded by quite a deep moat, although now totally dry and grassed over. Having researched the building, it is interesting because what you are looking at, is a rare surviving example of a grand 12th century manor house, and a typical example of an East Anglian ‘great house’, in fact rarer than a castle.
There are enough of the ruins to make out the shape of the great hall and a series of rooms beyond. This site is visited quite a lot by families, and while we were there, a couple of mums with small children were having a picnic, sitting on the ancient stone walls that are centuries old. As I started to explore, a thought struck me, we are very lucky that we have so many ruins that are tucked away and from them we can build so much history. Imagine if the castle had been totally demolished like Weeting Hall and built on, we know it was there, but to have something visual, even just a few stones, fires the imagination so much more. Even more so when researching, I found out that the remains were incorporated into the gardens of Weeting Hall as an ornamental feature…..oh well better that then total annihilation, at least they were saved for us to enjoy now.
There is some history at the bottom of the page about the castle, but now I want to research Weeting Hall, which I think is going to have a sadder ending than the castle. I will have to make a return visit to Weeting to see if there are any signs left of the Hall, I did see a nice old brick wall………..oh and not forgetting the ruins of the other church.
Now for some history that I found……..Weeting Castle was constructed by Hugh de Plais in about 1180, and was the home of the de Plais family until the late 14th century, when the property passed by marriage to the Howards, Earls of Norfolk and was subsequently abandoned. Hugh de Plais was a tenant of William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey. The Warenne’s Norfolk stronghold at Castle Acre had a similar building to Weeting Castle in the outer bailey, and it is thought that Hugh de Plais copied the design of this building for his own residence. Despite its name, Weeting Castle was never fortified. The rectangular moat that surrounds the building was added in the mid-13th century. Its primary purpose was not defensive, however; it was built to demonstrate the wealth and power of the de Plais family. After the hall went out of use, it was incorporated as an ornamental feature within the grounds of the now demolished Weeting Hall. The site has a long history of use, from the 10th century until the late 18th century. Archaeological excavations at the southern end of the hall have discovered ditches, burnt daub, post-holes and pottery dating to the Saxon period, suggesting that a Saxon settlement existed here before the stone hall was built.