It’s time for another castle, Rochester Castle is located in the town of Rochester on the Medway estuary in Kent, SE England. Rochester is well known for its connections with Charles Dickens, and also has a splendid Cathedral. We visited both, Castle and Cathedral, but because I forgot our English Heritage cards, I only took photos of the exterior of the castle, the interior will have to wait until our next visit.
The best way to enter the castle is by the castle gate and climb the steps up into the Bailey, the large green area, in front of the remains of the castle, which is now a public park.
Some history, Rochester Castle is one of the best preserved and finest examples of Norman architecture in England. Its great keep, square, massive and one of the tallest in the country, measures 113 feet high, 70 feet square and has walls 12 feet thick in places. It was on or close to the present castle site that the Romans built their first fort to guard the bridge carrying their legions over the river on their way from Dover to London and beyond. Centuries later, in 1087, Bishop Gundulf – one of William the Conqueror’s finest architects – began the construction of today’s castle, making use of what remained of the original Roman city walls. The great keep was built by William de Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom Henry I granted custody of the castle in 1127.
The castle has a chequered history, having been subjected to siege three times and in 1215 King John lay siege to the castle and took it after two long months. He finally undermined the south east tower and burned the props with the “fat of forty pigs” causing the tower to collapse. The city was well placed for raids on London and it also enabled them to devastate the lands of Kent, particularly those belonging to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had crowned Rufus and was therefore Odo’s and the rebels’ enemy.
By the 17th century, the castle had become neglected, the keep had been burned out, and the site was being used as a local quarry for building materials. In 1870 the castle grounds were leased to the City of Rochester, who turned them into a public park and eventually, in the 20th century, responsibility for this imposing old structure was taken over by English Heritage.
You can also see the Cathedral from the castle walls, and that its our next visit.