Saffron Walden Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSaffron Walden Castle
Alternative NamesBury Hill; Waldena
Historic CountryEssex
Modern AuthorityEssex
1974 AuthorityEssex
Civil ParishSaffron Walden

Walden Castle occupies the W spur end of Bury Hill, withthe land falling to all sides except the NE. The remains of the keep occupy a local high point possibly enhanced by artificial heightening.The keep is a square flint built structure standing about 10m with theremains of an entrance tower on the NW corner. The monument is a fairly amorphous structure of mortared flint with no freestone detail remaining. The W wall has been heavily consolidated, elsewhere however differential weathering allows building lifts of c.0.6m to be discerned. The basement has two alcoves on the W wall and single alcoves on the N and S walls. There is a single alcove on the W wall at first floor level. Central to the basement is the foundation of a central pillar, it is unclear whether this formed the central springer for a vaulted undercroft or a support for timber flooring. Externally the remains of buttresses may be seen on the east, south, and north walls. The monument is in fair condition but is heavily ivy covered in places. The keep as noted above sits on a local prominence which may in part be artificial. The earthworks visible today have been smoothed by their incorporation into a public park. A levelling out of the earthworks against the roads may indicate the former presence of properties backing onto the castle. A scarp projecting from the SW corner of the castle represents an old wall or hedge-line. The former extent of the castle may partly be preserved in the local road pattern, a horse shoe shape with the keep at the heel. The area of the bailey now occupied by the Museum and tennis courts is up to 3.0m - 4.0m above surrounding roads. Although this may in part be emphasised by the terracing into the hill of the buildings and gardens of Church Street and Castle Street. St Mary's Church may occupy the area of an outer bailey,the church and its enclosure being 2.0m - 5.0m above the surrounding properties

Museum Street sits in a hollow and may mark the position of a ditch between the two baileys. (PastScape ref. Field Investigators Comments–F3 WDC 14-JUN-89)

It was under construction or possibly even completed by 1141 and was certainly substantially complete by 1143. In 1157 the castle was ordered to be slighted following de Mandeville's arraignment for treason; some evidence for at least partial demolition was found during the Castle Meadows excavations. It is possible that permission was granted to William de Mandeville to refortify Walden castle at the same time as the refortifying of his castle at Pleshey in 1167. However, the next direct reference to structural work at Walden dates to 1347 when de Bohun was granted permission to crenellate the manerium. (Unlocking Essex's Past)

Stylistic comparison suggests a building date of the second quarter of C12, cf. Farnham Castle 1138, Ascot Doilly Castle 1129-42. Geoffrey (II) de Mandeville was however forced to surrender the castle to Stephen in 1144. (Listing report)

Gatehouse Comments

Humphrey de Bohun was graned a licence to crenellate his 'mansum manerri' at Walden in 1348, however this was one of ten houses in the license and may not have been acted upon. Not the site of the original Saxon town but became focus of medieval town, However, sited on 'Bury Hill' which may suggest the site had some pre-existing fortification when the castle was founded although no other evidence exists for this suggestion.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL539387
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Primary Sources

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