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Awesome Castles in Norfolk!
Norfolk is packed full of history and ruins. It might be surprising as to how many castles in Norfolk there actually are! This post covers the castles in Norfolk you need to put on your list to visit the next time you in the county.
If you are the mood for history, then this post about ruined churches in Norfolk, should definitely be of interest!
Norwich Castle – Castles in Norfolk
Let’s start with probably the most famous castle in Norfolk, and the only one on this list that isn’t a ruin – Norwich Castle.
Sitting high up on a mound looking over the city, this castle provides an impressive sight! It has a long an interesting history, and is now open as a museum. It was founded by William the Conquerer just after the Norman conquest between 1066 and 1087. Built in the Motte and Bailey style, a wooden stone keep built on a mound, with a walled courtyard and moat surrounding it.
From 1220 the castle was used as a prison and continued until 1887 when the city of Norwich bought the castle, to be used as a museum.
Nowadays, it hosts a wide range of exhibitions including Ancient Egypt, Boudica and the Romans, the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery and natural history. Inside the castle keep you can find out history from the castle. And for an additional fee you can take a tour around the battlements and dungeons.
24 Castle Meadow, Norwich NR1 3JU | Map
Baconsthorpe Castle – Castles in Norfolk
Baconsthorpe Castle is a moated and fortified 15th Century Manor house, in North Norfolk. It was most likely built by William Heydon and his son John. John was a lawyer with a lot of enemies, so built the fortified house to protect himself. However, his descendants became wealthy farmers, had less need to defend themselves and so expanded the castle into more of a elegant, courtyard house.
By the end of 16th century, the family was living beyond their means and the castle had to be mortgaged. However they carried on building new formal gardens and a mere. Sir John III fought alongside the Royalists in the English Civil War and as such was declared a delinquent by parliament. His wealth did not recover, and so he started demolishing the house to sell off the stoneware.
The outer gatehouse was turned into a private home and continued to be occupied until 1920, when one of its turrets collapsed.
Nowadays it is managed by English Heritage and makes for a lovely day out. And you can even take a picnic to enjoy some lunch among the ruins.
Castle Lane, Baconsthorpe, Holt NR25 6LL | Map
Castle Rising – Castles in Norfolk
An elaborately decorated medieval castle and fort dating from 1138. It was one of the most important castles of the 12th century. And one of the finest surviving examples of its kind to be found anywhere in the country. During it’s history, it acted as a hunting lodge, a royal residence and was even home to a mental patient for a brief time in the 18th century.
The most famous period in its history was when it passed to the mother of Edward III, Queen Isabella, following her part in the murder of her husband Edward II. The castle then came to the Howard family in 1544. It is still owned by them today. The current owner is a descendant of William D’Albini II, the Norman baron who built the castle.
It is located in the village of the same name, which is incredibly picturesque and charming. Enjoy a wander around the village after visiting the castle and stop off at the local pub for a bite to eat!
Lynn Rd, King’s Lynn PE31 6AH | Map
Another Medieval Motte and Bailey castle in the market town of Thetford, near the border of Norfolk. The original castle was replaced in the 12th century, but it was largely destroyed in 1173 by Henry II. As such there isn’t much left of the castle. But the Motte was left in tact and this was the second largest man made mound in England. It now forms part of the local Castle Park, and is free to explore.
16 Rampart Way, Thetford IP24 2DR | Map
A 15th century castle located 5 miles from Great Yarmouth. It is striking for it 100 ft tall tower, and was built by Sir John Fastolf. Fastolf was one of the inspirations for Shakespeare’s character Falstaff! The castle suffered damage in 1469 when it was captured by the Duke of York. And then in 1600 the castle, with the exception of the tower, fell into ruin when a new house was built nearby.
Today, the tower can still be climbed by visitors and the castle is home to the Caister Castle Motor Museum. This is a private collection of vintage vehicles. The entry to the museum includes the castle grounds and the tower.
Castle Ln, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth NR30 5SN | Map
Castle Acre – Castles in Norfolk
Not a huge amount remains of Castle Acre, but it is a fantastic place to go and see as you can also take a trip to the nearby Castle Acre Priory, which is one of the largest and best preserved monastic ruins in Norfolk!
Castle Acre itself is a set of medieval defences, also built soon after the Norman Conquests. Another Motte and Bailey style, built by William de Warenne and initially more a large country house in the centre of the Motte. it was never purely military, it was more a base for lords to over see justice and administer their estate . it was also used to enjoy leisure activities, such as hunting, and to entertain Royalty. Although, by 1200 it was a highly fortified and visible fortress!
Now, it is managed by English Heritage, and is free to enter. Although you do need to pay to visit the nearby monastery. The village itself is incredibly beautiful to wander around. Collectively the castle, village, parish church and priory area a rare and complete survival of a Norman planned settlement.
Pye’s Ln, Castle Acre, King’s Lynn PE32 2XB | Map
Claxton Castle is actually located on private land, so this can only be viewed from the road. It was built in the mid 14th century, but was demolsihed to make way for Claxton Hall in the 17th century. The castle ruins are made up of a long wall and three towers with various staircases and archways. Earthworks show there would have been an outer moat and causeway dating from medieval times.
The Street, Claxton, Norwich, NR14 7AS | Map
This castle was built by Hugh de Plais in 1180, and was the home of this family until the late 14th century. It then passed by married to the Howards and was then abandoned. Even though its name, Weeting Castle was never actually fortified. A rectangular moat was added in the 13th century, that surrounded the building. Its primary purpose was not defensive; it was built to show the wealth and power of the de Plais family. Excavations on the site have shown that there was a Saxon stronghold built here, before the stone house was consructed.
It is now managed by English Heritage. It is a rare surviving example of a grand 12th century manor house.
Castle Cl, Weeting, Brandon IP27 0RQ | Map
A little different to the other castles in Norfolk listed in this post. Burhg Castle is actually the remains of a Roman fort. And it is huge! It was one of a string of forts along the coast, acting as defence against sea raiders. This fort was built in the 3rd Century, on a low cliff.
Today the entrance is through where a gate used to be on the Eastern Wall. The Western Wall fell into the marshes long ago. The site is owned by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and the walls are looked after by English Heritage. It is free to enter, and a lovely place to walk around. You can access the river and walk along it. The information boards also give a really interesting insight into how the place might have looked.
Butt Ln, Burgh Castle, Great Yarmouth NR31 9QB | Map
In addition to the above Castles, which for the large part, have some ruins remaining. There are also a number of former castles in Norfolk which are now signified by large mounds in the ground, where they used to stand.
Denton Castle – A former motte and bailey castle built by William d’Albini in 1088.
Gresham Castle – A medieval castle built by Sir Edmund Bacon and was similar in shape to Baconsthorpe Castle.
Horsford Castle – Earthworks can been seen from the air of this Norman Motte and Bailey Castle, whic was abandoned in the 15th century
Middleton Mount – Another Motte and Bailey, where a wooden castle would have stood atop the Motte.
Wormegay Castle – Yet one more Motte and Bailey, built just after the Norman conquest.
Across the border into Suffolk, there are also some pretty amazing castles to be explored. Two of the most impressed, are detailed below.
Framlingham castle is an impressive 12th century fortress. Built in the 12th century by Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, it was home to the dukes of Norfolk for over 400 years.The castle came into the hands of Mary Tudor, and it was while she was here that she was proclaimed England’s first ruling Queen.
Today it is a listed building and managed and run by English Heritage, a perfect day out!
Church St, Framlingham, Woodbridge IP13 9BP | Map
One of Englands most complete and unique keeps. The castle was built in the 12th century for Henry II it was designed to curtail the power of turbulent East Anglian Barons, including Hugh Bigod at nearby Framlingham Castle. Michael Stanhope bought the castle in the 1590’s and began dismantling the other walls, to sell the stone. It was bought in 1872 and used for hunting parties. Before it finally was given to the Orford Town Trust in 1928.
It is now another castle managed by English Heritage.
Castle Hill, Orford, Woodbridge IP12 2ND | Map
Norfolk, and East Anglia, is home to a surprising number of castles – each making for an interesting visit!
For more interesting things to do in Norfolk, check out this post: Things to do in Norfolk, UK
And if you want to explore Norwich: Amazing places to visit in Norwich, Norfolk!
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