Bodiam Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameBodiam Castle
Alternative NamesBodeham; Bodiham; Bodyham
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityEast Sussex
1974 AuthorityEast Sussex
Civil ParishBodiam

Bodiam Castle survives well and contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The survival of the water-filled moat, despite being drained and partially excavated twice in the 20th century, provides conditions for the survival of organic remains. Gardens have been a feature of important houses since at least Roman times, if not earlier, but in the 16th century gardens became larger and more formal. Recurring features were terraces, ponds and canals, and in the design of these there was a continuous interplay between social aspirations, artistic aims and changing fashions. The earthwork remains of such gardens are important archaeological features illustrating their recreational and ornamental function and of course, the scale of investment in time and money. Although somewhat altered by modern dredging, restoration and dumping, the elaborate arrangement of water features and earthworks in which the castle at Bodiam is set, and with which it may be contemporary, survives relatively well and is an unusual and early example of a planned picturesque landscape. This setting was further elaborated by a substantial earthwork platform situated c.250m upslope to the north of the castle, which has been interpreted as a pleasaunce, or ornamental garden and viewing platform for the contrived landscape below. This is the subject of a separate scheduling. The mill pond at Bodiam is sited within the castle grounds and survives comparatively well despite some later alteration. It provides evidence for the associated economic activity necessary for the support of a large castle establishment, and the control exercised by the aristocracy on milling operations during the medieval period. The later medieval croft boundaries and ridge and furrow, and the post-medieval enclosure boundary and cultivation earthworks also derive importance from their location within the earlier castle setting

Their existence illustrates the encroachment of an expanding local settlement and its associated agricultural operations on the landscaped castle grounds and indicates the decline in the importance of the castle in the later medieval period. Pillboxes are small, squat, defensive buildings built to provide protection for armed defensive troops in vulnerable areas threatened by German invasion during World War II. The pillbox 100m south of Bodiam Castle formed part of the defences along the Channel coast and adjacent river valleys. It is of an unusual form and survives particularly well. The presence of the much later pillbox close to the earlier, medieval castle, illustrates the continued vulnerability of the area to invasion into the 20th century.

The monument is situated on a gently rising, sandstone spur 250m north of the River Rother and includes Bodiam Castle, a Grade I Listed Building, an associated millpond, medieval crofts and cultivation earthworks and a World War II pillbox. Bodiam Castle forms the main focus of the site. This was built for Sir Edward Dalyngrigge on his return from a successful career in the Hundred Years' War with France. Dalyngrigge acquired the manor of Bodiam by marriage by 1378, and cited the defence of the area against French raids to justify the castle's construction. He received royal licence to begin work in 1385, and the castle was probably completed by around 1390. The castle rises from the edges of an artificial island and is square in plan, built of sandstone ashlar quarried at Wadhurst, around 15km to the north west. The outer curtain walls fully enclose the inner courtyard and are of two storeys. They survive almost to their full height, with crenellations on the northern and part of the southern faces. The interior is entered through the main gatehouse which is situated in the centre of the northern range. This is on three levels, also has a basement, and has a recessed, central entrance passage flanked by projecting rectangular towers, topped by a corbelled, machicolated and crenellated parapet. The walls are pierced by simple lancet windows, with gunloops at ground level. The medieval outer portcullis, made of iron-clad oak, also survives. A further, subsidiary entrance is provided by the postern gate, situated beneath the square, three-storeyed postern tower in the centre of the southern range. The curtain walls link four circular corner towers and two further square towers set centrally against the western and eastern walls. The walls of the towers, and much of their stone-built newel staircases, survive intact. The towers provided sleeping accommodation and are lit by single-light lancet windows. In the basement of the south western corner tower is a restored stone-lined well c.2.75m in diameter and around 2.5m deep, originally fed by a spring. Most of the fabric of the exterior is original, although some restoration and repair was carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries. In contrast to the castle exterior, most of the interior is in a ruined state. The domestic buildings which ranged around the central courtyard were largely dismantled during the Civil War in the 1640s, by which time the castle had ceased to be used as a residence. The arrangement of doors, windows and fireplaces evident on the inner face of the curtain wall suggests the original layout. Most of the buildings survive mainly as footings or buried features, although the walls of the kitchen, pantry and buttery, situated on the western side of the southern range, and part of the western range, survive as standing features. A large mullioned and transomed window, with two pointed lights, near the eastern end of the southern curtain wall, indicates the position of the great hall. The eastern range contained the principal living-rooms and the chapel. The large east window of the chapel is situated in the curtain wall in a projecting bay on the northern side of the central tower. It has three, plain, pointed lights, partially restored in the 19th century. The northern range is thought to have contained stables, a storeroom and a further hall on two storeys, and the western range accommodation and service rooms for castle retainers. The castle island is surrounded by a broad, sub-rectangular, north-south orientated moat measuring 155m by 115m and around 2m deep, fed by natural springs. Projecting halfway into the broadest, northern arm of the moat from the main castle gateway is a stone-built causeway containing the remains of an outer barbican and ending in an octagonal plinth which originally carried further defences. Excavations in 1919-20 and 1970 revealed foundations which carried the original, main bridge from the octagonal plinth to a surviving abutment at the northern end of the western, outer edge of the moat. The excavations also revealed the footings of a further bridge, since dismantled, which spanned the southern arm of the moat from a central abutment, giving access to the postern gate. Surrounding the castle is a group of water management features and ornamental earthworks connected with the construction of the moat, designed to add to the defences and to provide an attractive, elaborate approach and landscaped setting for the castle. The form of many of the ponds has been altered by later drainage and dumping and they are now mostly dry. The moat overflows through sluices on the southern side, near the south eastern corner, and on the eastern side into an adjoining rectangular pond. To the north west is a string of ponds which helped feed the moat, and, along with the overflow pond to the east, guard and ornament the northern side of the castle. Traces of terracing, possibly a carriageway, and ornamental earthworks survive on the northern and southern sides of the ponds. To the south is a substantial, west- east orientated, disused mill pond 160m long and around 65m wide which originally helped to power a 14th century watermill which formed part of the castle complex. A slight herringbone drainage pattern in the bottom of the pond is the result of a former owner, Lord Curzon's, attempt, in the 1920s, to turn the hollow into a cricket ground. To the east of the mill pond are the remains of a further, smaller pond. Bodiam Castle passed to the Lewknor family in 1470 and was sold to Sir Nicholas Tufton in 1623. In 1644, the castle was bought by the Parliamentarian Nathaniel Powell, and was partially dismantled around this time. The castle began to attract interest in the 18th century, when it was admired as a Romantic ruin. In 1829 the Websters of Battle Abbey sold the castle to John Fuller of Brightling in 1829, who began the repair and restoration work continued by two later owners, Lord Ashcombe and Lord Curzon. The latter left the castle and its grounds to The National Trust, to whom it passed after his death in 1925. On the spur to the west of the castle are the earthwork remains of formerly enclosed fields, the boundaries of east-west orientated medieval crofts, long, narrow strips of cultivated land attached to smallholdings, and traces of ridge and furrow. The croft boundaries survive as parallel banks up to 1m high, and date from the late medieval period, when the castle's domination of the surrounding area was in decline. Around 100m to the south of the castle moat, between the castle and the river, is a sub-rectangular, brick built World War II pillbox with concrete foundations and lintels. The pillbox orientated north west-south east, measures c.10m by 5m and has concrete steps leading down to the interior on the north eastern side. The south eastern end is boat-shaped and faces downstream. (Scheduling Report)

This building is an example of the latest period of military architecture of the Middle Ages. It was built by Sir Edward Dalingridge in the years following 1385, when he was given a licence to crenellate. The castle is built of sandstone ashlar quarried at Wadhurst. It takes the form of a hollow court-yard set in a wide moat. It is of 2 storeys with a castellated parapet over. At the four corners are round towers of 3 storeys similarly embattled-and with vices containing the stairways. In the centre of the south, east and west sides are projecting square towers similarly embattled, the south one with machicolation below the parapet. This tower contained the postern gate which had a drawbridge across the moat. In the centre of the north side are two similarly projecting square towers with a recessed portion between and on each side, and-machicolation over the whole. Four centred archway with portcullis. This was the main entrance of the- castle and drawbridge across the moat. Loop windows, some with pointed heads. The hall and kitchen were on the south side of the internal court-yard, the living rooms on the east side, but most of the buildings behind the outer walls are now ruinous. The castle passed by marriage to the Lewknor family in 1470. It was partly dismantled during the Civil War. It was bought by Lord Curzon in 1917, restored in 1919 and bequeathed by him to the National Trust in 1925. (Listed Building Report)

Medieval castle probably built in the years after 1385 when Sir Edward Dalingridge was granted a license to crenellate. Comprising a court yard with four corner round towers and projecting square towers in the centre of the south, east and west sides, the whole is set within a wide moat. The main entrance is on the north side and is flanked by two projecting square towers, outside of which but still within the moat are a barbican and octagonal outwork. The castle was partly dismantled during the Civil War, but was restored and presented to the National Trust in 1919. Formerly regarded as a 'textbook' example of a Medieval castle, field investigation in 1988 revealed that rather than being a defensive work the castle was probably the centrepiece of an elaborate designed landscape involving sheets of water, the whole designed to be passed through and also viewed from above. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Revisionist arguments sometimes underplay the defensive features of this castle; ignoring the defensive capability of a 'drained' moat (mud is a considerable barrier) and forgetting that the barbican, an important defensive feature, has been mainly demolished. Military deterministic arguments that Bodiam was susceptible to French raids from ships using the River Rother are weak. The Rother was navigable for small ships but no invasion force would sail up this river since it would immediately be trapped by the strong naval forces based at Winchelsea and Rye at the mouth of the Rother. It is clear that Bodiam was never built as a military fortress and that it is fundamentally a domestic house decorated and embellished with martial symbolism. Dalingridge's achievement at Bodiam was to build a house that so completely convinced later authors of its (and his) martial status; Gatehouse suspects it had much the same effect on many, but not all, of his contemporaries.

- 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 ReferenceTQ785256
Latitude51.0022583007813
Longitude0.543529987335205
Eastings578560
Northings125620
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Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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Books

  • Anthony Emery, 2016, Seats of power in Europe during the Hundred Years War: an architectural study from 1330 to 1480 (Oxbow Books) p. 63-70
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Hansson, Martin, 2009, 'The medieval aristocracy and the social use of space' in Gilchrist, R. and Reynolds, A. (eds), Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957-2007 (Society for Medieval Archaeology Monographs 30) p. 435-52
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 138, 203
  • Hansson, Martin, 2006, Aristocratic landscape: the spatial ideology of the medieval aristocracy (Lund Studies in Historical Archaeology 2)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 317-8, 440
  • Jones, R., 2003, 'Hastings to Herstmonceux: the castles of Sussex' in Rudling, D. (ed) The archaeology of Sussex to AD2000 (Great Dunham: Heritage Marketing and Publications) p. 171-8
  • Morris, M., 2003, Castle p. 142-82
  • Johnson, M., 2002, Behind the Castle Gate p. 19-33
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Sussex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 24-7
  • Everson, Paul, 1996, 'Bodiam Castle, East Sussex: a Fourteenth-Century Designed Landscape' in Morgan Evan, D., Salway, P. and Thackray D. (eds) The Remains of Distant Times: Archaeology and the National Trust (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 66-72
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 245-6 (plan)
  • Coulson, Charles, 1992, 'Some Analysis of the Castle of Bodiam, East Sussex' in Harper-Bill, Christopher and Harvey, Ruth (eds), Medieval Knighthood Vol. 4 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 51-107
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 53-55
  • Thompson, M. W., 1987, The Decline of the Castle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Turner, D.J., 1986, 'Bodiam, Sussex: True Castle or Old Soldier's Dream House' in Ormrod, W.M. (ed), England in the Fourteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxton Symposium (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 267–77
  • Guy, J., 1984, Castles in Sussex (Phillimore)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 469-70
  • Platt, Colin, 1982, The castle in medieval England & Wales (London: Secker & Warburg)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 190
  • Martin, David, 1973, Bodiam Castle Medieval Bridges (Hastings Area Archaeological Papers No. 1)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1970 (new edn), English Castles (Chancellor Press)
  • Wood, Margaret, 1965, The English medieval house (London: J. M. Dent)
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1960, Castles and Cannon: A Study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England (Oxford: Claredon Press) p. 12, 15-17
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 213-14
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 216-17
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1937, VCH Sussex Vol. 9 p. 259-62
  • Curzon, G.N., 1926, Bodiam Castle, A Historical amd Descriptive Survey (Jonathan Cape: London)
  • Tipping, H.A., 1921, English Homes, period 1 Vol. 1 (London) p. 239-46
  • Johnson, Theodore, 1912, The History of Bodiam, its Ancient Manor, Church and Castle (Hastings)
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 174
  • Tavernor-Perry, 1909, in Mundy, Memories of Old Sussex (London) p. 200-16
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 64-6 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 239-47 online copy
  • Ticehurst, Gorham, 1874, Bodiam Castle, Historical and Descriptive: a compilation from various authentic sources (Battle: Ticehurst)
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 364-7 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 312-4, 419 online copy
  • Ranger, William, 1848, A Brief History and Description of Bodiam Castle in Sussex from its Foundation to the Present Day (Northiam)
  • Cotton, William, 1836, A graphic and historical sketch of Bodyham Castle in Sussex (London)
  • Horsfield, 1835, History of Sussex (Lewes) Vol. 1 p. 521-4 (slight)
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 289
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 5 p. 132-4 online copy
  • (This very well known castle is usually covered in some detail, with varying quality, in any and all general castle texts of which only a section are represented in the above list.)

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 255, 258
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 62, 68 online copy

Journals

  • 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
  • Spencer, Dan, 2014, 'Edward Dallingridge: Builder of Bodiam Castle' Ex Historia Vol. 6 p. 81-98 online copy
  • Burton, Peter, 2010-11, 'Original castle gates and doors – A Survey' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 246-59 online copy
  • 2005-6, 'Bodiam's wooden portcullis is the original, dating from 1385' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol 19 p. 130
  • Stevens, Simon, 1999, 'A section through the moat bank at Bodiam Castle' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 137 p. 182-183 (short limited excavation report) online copy
  • Fraser, A., 1999, Castles in the air' History Today Vol. 49.2 p. 62-3
  • Goodall, J., 1998 April 16, 'The Battle for Bodiam Castle' Country Life Vol. 16 p. 58-63
  • < >Everson, P., 1996, 'Bodiam Castle, East Sussex: castle and its designed landscape' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 70-84 < >
  • Nigel Saul, Jan 1995, 'Bodiam Castle' History Today Vol. 45.1 p. 16-21
  • Whittick, Christopher, 1993, ' Dallingridges's Bay and Bodiam Castle Millpond - Elements of a Medieval Landscape' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 131 p. 119-123
  • Coulson, Charles, 1991 Aug, 'Bodiam Castle: Truth and Tradition' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 10 p. 3-15
  • Taylor, C.C., Everson, P. and Wilson-North, R., 1990 'Bodiam Castle, Sussex' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 34 p. 155-7 online copy
  • Smith, R. D., and R. R. Brown, 1989, 'The Bodiam mortar' Journal of the Ordnance Society Vol. 1 p. 3-22
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 209
  • < >Coulson, C., 1979, 'Structural Symbolism in Medieval Castle Architecture' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 132 p. 73-90 < >
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1977, 'Early Gunports' Fort Vol. 4 p. 76
  • McLees, A. David, 1973, 'Henry Yevele: disposer of the King's works of Masonry' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 36 p. 52-71
  • Wilson, D., Moorhouse, S., 1971, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 15 p. 148, 165-6 online copy
  • < >Faulkner, P.A., 1963, 'Castle Planning in the 14th Century' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 120 p. 215-35 (on domestic arrangements) online copy < >
  • 1962-3, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 6-7 p. 334-5 (excavations of sites close to, and probably related to, the castle) online copy
  • Duggan, A., 1950, Battle and District Historical Society transactions Vol. 1 p. 17-20
  • Henderson, 1933, The Builder Vol. 145 p. 12, 22 (detailed reconstruction only)
  • Simpson, W. Douglas, 1931, 'The Moated Homestead, Church, and Castle of Bodiam' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 72 p. 69-99
  • Lloyd, Nathaniel, 1926, 'Bodiam Castle' Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects p. 442-5
  • Conway, 1914, Country Life Vol. 35 p. 950-6
  • Sands, Harold, 1905, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 62 p. 179-80 online copy
  • Sands, Harold, 1903, 'Bodiam Castle' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 46 p. 112-133
  • Clark, G.T., 1874, Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 9 p. cv-cxvi (reprinted in MMA)
  • Savery, J.C., 1868, 'On Bodiam Manor and Castle' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 24 p. 352-61 (plan) online copy
  • Blaauw, William Henry, 1861, ' Royal Licenses to Fortify Towns and Houses in Sussex' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 13 p. 114 online copy
  • Lower, Mark Antony, 1860, 'Notices of Sir Edward Dalyngruge, The Builder of Bodiam Castle' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 12 p. 221-231 online copy
  • Lower, Mark Antony, 1857, 'Bodiam and its Lords' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 9 p. 275-302 online copy

Guide Books

  • Goodall, J., 2005 (reprint with corrections), Bodiam Castle (National Trust)
  • Goodall, J., 2001, Bodiam Castle (National Trust)
  • Thackray, David, 1991, Bodiam Castle (National Trust)
  • Yarrow, A., 1985, Bodiam Castle. (National Trust)
  • Morton, C., 1975-81 (several edns), Bodiam Castle, Sussex (National Trust)
  • Simpson, W.Douglas, 1946-71 (several edns), Bodiam Castle (Country Life for The National Trust)
  • Lloyd, Nathaniel, c1938, Bodiam Castle (National Trust)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1385-89) Vol. 3 p. 42, 123 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p