Hastings Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHastings Castle
Alternative NamesHaestinga; Haestingaceaster; Hasting; Hestengceastra; Hastinges
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityEast Sussex
1974 AuthorityEast Sussex
Civil ParishHastings

Castle and Collegiate Church. Castle built circa 1170, ruined by 1399. The church was founded circa 1090, dissolved in 1547. Foundations of church, North and East curtain walls and East gate of castle visible. Probably built on an Iron Age enclosure. There is documentary evidence that a collegiate foundation existed in Hastings in the reign of Edward the Confessor, but it is not documented as so in the Domesday Survey. (PastScape)

Hastings Castle was the first such castle to be built after the Norman invasion of 1066 and features in the Bayeux Tapestry. Its subsequent history is well documented both historically and archaeologically. Promontory forts were defensive enclosures, some being occupied continuously while others were used as places of refuge. They were constructed during the Iron Age (700BC-AD43), most being abandoned during the 1st century BC. Such monuments are rare nationally, and are especially rare outside Cornwall. The Ladies' Parlour survives well despite in places having been damaged and partially buried by the earthworks of the later Norman castle and disturbed by recent partial excavation. Colleges were groups of ecclesiastical buildings used by small communities of priests living under a less strict rule than in monasteries. Their purpose was to offer prayers on behalf of a patron or founder. Most were established between the 11th-15th centuries. Early examples, such as at Hastings, are rare survivors. Together, the association of the promontory fort, the castle and the collegiate church, each important in its own right, greatly increases the significance of the monument as a whole.

The monument includes the castle of Norman origin together with its rock- cut ditch, the remains of a Collegiate church and the earthworks and interior area of an enclosure known as the Ladies' Parlour which has been identified as an Iron Age promontory fort

The Ladies' Parlour is part of a defensive enclosure which occupied the whole promontory although one half of its original area was subsequently taken over by the Norman castle. The crescent-shaped earthwork bank stands as high as 4m in places, but diminishes in height to both south and west. The ditch runs NW-SE between Castle Hill Road and the cliff edge above Burdett Place increasing in size to the south-east to a maximum of 2.4m deep and 20m wide. Within this defended area, William Duke of Normandy (later the Conqueror) built a motte and bailey castle immediately after landing with his army in 1066. The original motte, however, lies buried within a later enlargement on which stood a stone keep after 1172. The rock-cut tunnels to the north-west of the mound are storage chambers of Norman date. Much of the castle curtain wall dates from the later 12th century using sandstone cut from the 6m deep ditch east of the mound. Coastal erosion later undermined the south side of the bailey and the castle had been abandoned by the 15th century. Within the bailey area a college of priests had been established by 1094. The ruins of their church survive against the north wall of the castle and feature an upstanding square tower. The college was dissolved in 1546. (Scheduling Report)

The Castle built circa 1070. The church was started afterwards but before 1094. More building work in early 1170s to 1190s including the keep in 1172. Repairs of 1216 and afterwards progressive ruin. The walls are stone rubble, and as it exists now there are ruined walls and foundations of the church which had a central tower the western arch of which has been rebuilt, there are remains of a square tower at the west end of the nave. There remains the curtain walling along the North, North-west, North and North-east with the gatehouse on the North-east side with 2 rounded towers. Outside the walls on the north side are store-rooms (known as the Dungeons) in the form of narrow tunnel-vaulted passages. The keep and other buildings no longer exist. (Listing report)

Gatehouse Comments

This was a pre-existing Iron Age defence used by William the Conquerer in 1066. The suggestion that a motte was built here in 1066 is mainly based on the illustration on the Bayeux Tapestry. There is a mound of sandy soil at the castle, which was suggested as being hurriedly erected, although this can not be securely dated. It is certainly likely the pre-existing earthworks were strengthened, possibly using forced local labour (although the Bayeux Tapersty seems to show people with the Norman haircut, but in civilian clothes, doing the work. One has a pick, something not needed for a sandy motte but which would be needed to make the rock cut ditch), with the intent of protecting the valuable horses and equipment of several hundred knights (Something a motte would not do). However, the amount of time for the occupation of Hastings and the Battle with Harold Godwinson is less than 18 days and it may be that the 'motte' is possibly an artistic licence or the Tapestry actual portrays a bank surmounted with a palisade rather than a motte surmounted by a watch tower. Having gained some status from this use as a landing camp the site was certainly later converted into a castle. However there is a distinct probability the collegiate church existed before the Conquest and this suggests the site has some high status Saxon occupation (c.f. Dover). Much of the promontory has been lost to coastal erosion so the actual form of some of the castle is lost. There are also some suggestions that the castle built in 1066 was elsewhere (Renn suggest a site further east, around TQ829098, or beyond the Priory Valley, around TQ815095) possibly by the sea and designed to protect the ships of the fleet. It is even possible that there was a lost Roman fort at Hastings Port (as at Dover) which could have been utilised by William I. (Philip Davis pers. comments 2013)

- 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 ReferenceTQ820094
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Copyright Antony Shepherd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Antony Shepherd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Antony Shepherd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Antony Shepherd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
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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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 58-9, 68, 75-7
  • 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
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  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 248-9
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  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, 'Evidence for a pre-Conquest origin for the chapels in Hastings and Pevensey castles' in Taylor, A.J., Studies in castles and castle-building (London: Hambledon Press) p. 233–40
  • Guy, John, 1984, Castles in Sussex (Phillimore) p. 64-73
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 471
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 239
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  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Dawson, C., 1909, History of Hastings Castle 2 vols (London) online copy (NB: this is Dawson, the Piltdown forger, and book is in fact largely the work of William Herbert, about 1824)
  • Clinch, G., 1905, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Sussex Vol. 1 p. 476-7 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 71-3 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 82-8 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 357-360 online copy



  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 309
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1986, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 167 download copy
  • Barker, P.A. and Barton, K.J., 1977, 'Five castle excavations: reports on the Institute's research project into the origins of the castle in England. Excavations at Hastings Castle, 1968' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 134 p. 80-100
  • (Barker), 1969, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 12 p. 260 download copy
  • Taylor, A.J., 1969, 'Evidence for a pre-Conquest origin for the chapels in Hastings and Pevensey Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 144-9
  • Barker, P.A. and Baxter, N.J., 1968, 'Excavations at Hastings Castle, 1968' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 125 p. 303-5
  • Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
  • 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)
  • Mason, J.F.A., 1956, 'The Companions of the Conqueror: An Additional Name' English Historical Review Vol. 71.1 p. 61-69
  • 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
  • Baring, FH, 1915, ' Hastings Castle, 1050 - 1100, and the Chapel of St Mary' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 57 p. 119-135
  • Sands, 1908, South-Eastern Naturalist Vol. 13 p. 53-65
  • Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 232-3 online copy
  • Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 83 online copy
  • Round, J.H., 1902, 'Castle Guard' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 59 p. 144-159 online copy
  • Dawson, Charles, 1896, ' Description of and Remarks on the Dungeon Cells at Hastings Castle' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 40 p. 222-235
  • Clark, G.T., 1882, The Builder Vol. 43 p. 533-5 (reprinted in MMA)
  • Cooper, William Durrant, 1849, ' Hastings Rape, Castle, and Town' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 2 p. 161-168 (history only) online copy

Guide Books

  • Dyer, W.H., c. 1960, The Story of Hastings Castle (Hastings Tourism & Recreation Department)

Primary Sources

  • The Bayeux Tapestry online copy
  • Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Worcester Chronicle AD1066 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
  • Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1846, Chronicon Monasterii de Bello (Anglia Christiana Society) p. 3 online copy
  • Arnold, Thomas (ed), 1879, Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London: Rolls series 74) p. 200 online copy
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls Series 73) Vol. 2 p. 419 online copy
  • Luard, H.R (ed), 1866, 'Annales Prioratus de Dunstaplia' in Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 3 p. 46 online copy (demolition in 1216)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 449
  • SP12/46/77 (Survey of 1568) The National Archives reference
  • B.M. Harleian MS. 1326 (Survey of 1623) British Library collection information


  • Shapland, Michael, 2012, Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-nave Churches (PhD Thesis University College London) passim esp. Appendix I.14
  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Harris, R.B., April 2010, Hastings Historic Character Assessment Report: Sussex Extensive Urban Survey Download copy