Isle of Albion
One of the most complete Norman keeps in Britain.
Photographed: Tuesday 14th July 2009
Site rating:  

Castle Rising was built around 1138AD by William d’Albini for his new wife, the widow of King Henry I. The keep is situated within massive earthworks, with the keep sitting inside an inner bailey that was once surrounded by a curtain wall atop the circular embankment that encloses it. This embankment is in turn surrounded by a ditch, with smaller earthworks to the east and west. The earthwork defences are believed to have originally been on a smaller scale, with building work taking place to enlarge and strengthen then during the late 12th or early 13th Century.

The central keep is a lavish structure, built with expensive imported materials, and featuring façades embellished with highly decorative stonework. It has served as a hunting lodge and royal residence, and an official mint, and historians believe that the castle's position - removed from any points of strategic value - suggest that it was once a Celtic monastic enclosure, possibly built on an older Roman site.

Between 1330AD and 1358AD, Castle Rising served as the residence of the disgraced former Queen Isabella of France, after she was implicated in the death of her husband, King Edward II. Upon her death, the castle passed to Edward, The Black Prince. When Edward died, Henry VIII granted the castle to the Howard family (who retain ownership to this day), and the building fell slowly into decay.

Today, the keep at Castle Rising survives in remarkably good condition, and is one of the most complete Norman keeps in Britain. That being said, there is little else to see other than the earthworks, with only a few fragments of the surrounding structures still standing. Sadly, my visit was late in the day, and I was only able to quickly photograph the castle from the outside. Even from this perspective, it's a remarkable building, and I hope to return in the future and explore it more thoroughly.