Chilham Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameChilham Castle
Alternative NamesChileham
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishChilham

The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains and the unoccupied upstanding sections of an 11th to 12th century tower keep castle constructed on an earthen mound surrounded by a ditch and outer bank. The castle buildings have undergone alterations in more recent times and some are occupied. These are Listed Grade I and are not included in the scheduling. The site stands on level ground above and to the south west of the village of Chilham. The remains include a mound on which stands an octagonal keep with a forebuilding, a small building designed to protect the castle entrance, surrounded by a roughly rectangular curtain wall which survives to a height of c.3m. It is possible that this mound was originally a motte which pre-dates the Norman castle. Excavations in 1926 confirmed earlier observations of a southern bay to the forebuilding which pre-dated the castle and was unfortified. This has been dated to the 11th century. Beyond the curtain wall are the remains of a ditch and outer bank which have been disturbed and partly obscured by modern development. The ditch is approximately 10m wide and varies in depth around the castle from c.0.5m on the north to 2m on the south below the level of the surrounding gardens and road. Further evidence relating to external earthworks may survive in the grounds surrounding the castle and the mansion house. Identification of these earthworks is complicated by landscaping of the mansion garden. To the west and north, however, some indications of an external bank are visible. From 1066 Chilham was the seat of the barony of Fulbert of Dover. The surviving structures date from 1171-1174, when Henry II spent over 400 pounds on building an octagonal keep of three floors built of coursed ragstone rubble, with mid-wall buttresses and a rectangular stair turret on the north east side. There is evidence that there was a garderobe to the south east. The curtain wall was built at the same time

The castle again came into royal control during the reign of Richard I, when various repairs are recorded as being made to the structure. In 1214, seisin was granted to John of Dover's illegitimate son, Richard, and the castle finally passed out of royal control. A mansion was built to the east of the castle by Sir Dudley Digges - the master of the Rolls for James I - in red brick on a polygonal plan in 1616. It is recorded by antiquaries such as Hasted that Sir Dudley also pulled down the ancient mansion which had stood on the site, before building his new manor house. The castle was restored early in the 20th century, and now provides domestic accommodation. The castle keep and curtain wall are Listed at Grade I, as is the donkey wheel and its building. The forebuilding is also Listed Grade I. The forebuilding, curtain wall and the earthen mound on which the castle stands are all included in the scheduling. Excluded are the castle keep, since it is an inhabited and roofed building. (Scheduling Report)

Castle Keep and curtain walls. C11 and 1171 - 74 by Ralph, master mason, for Henry II; restored early C20. Flint with Caen stone dressings. Octagonal (the earlier of'only 2 in the country) with square stair turret to east, with garderobes to exterior, 3 storeys. Remnants of forebuilding on south west wall of C11, an unfortified stone hall. Only one original opening survives, a window facing south east. Flint and buttressed curtain wall about 15 feet high, attached to the east side of the Keep. Restored early C20, now domestic accommodation and for a time tenanted by artists Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. Donkey wheel, C18, timber framed shelter with plain tile roof. Horizontal wheel in poor condition. (PastScape)

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 ReferenceTR066534
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  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 613
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 104
  • Braun, Hugh, 1936, The English Castle (Batsford) p. 44-8
  • C.H(ardy), 1916, Chilham Castle
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 412 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 8 online copy
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 154-66 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1798 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 7 p. 263-292 online transcription
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 3 p. 20-4 online copy



  • Charles Hollwey, 2015-16, 'From Chilham via Caernarfon to Thornbury: The rise of the polygonal tower' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 263-85
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp 190 online copy
  • Clapham, A.W., 1929, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 86 p. 302-6 online copy
  • Clapham, A.W., 1928, 'An Early Hall at Chilham Castle' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 8 p. 350-53
  • Hussey, A., 1924, Country Life Vol. 55 p. 1000-06
  • Hussey, A., 1911, 'Chapels in Kent' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 29 p. 228 online copy
  • 1794, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 2 p. 909-10 (plan not in Gomme) online copy

Guide Books

  • 1987, Chilham Castle (English Life Publications; Derby)

Primary Sources

  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 265


  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy