Lewes Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLewes Castle
Alternative NamesLaewe; Laewas; Lewis; Lauus; Lawes; castellum Delaquis
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityEast Sussex
1974 AuthorityEast Sussex
Civil ParishLewes

Remains of flint built castle, begun circa 1100, extended in the C12 and C14, recently modified. The castle is approached from the South by an early C14 barbican which is followed by the Early Norman gatehouse which contains herring-bone coursing. There is some contemporary walling to its right and left, also, and more substantial curtain walling East of the Castle Gate House. On the West mound stands a shell-keep, again early Norman though strengthened by two C13 turrets. The only other remains are some walling and a tunnel-vault North of the keep belonging to a house along the path West of Castle Banks and some chalk masonry of the other mound, called Brack Mount. Originally there was a second shell-keep here. (PastScape)

The castle at Lewes is unique in having two mottes and hence illustrates some of the diversity of this class of monument. It survives well, with large areas of open space within which archaeological remains are considered likely to survive as well as with much original architectural detail. This is in spite of the disturbance caused by partial collapse of the motte, stone robbing, conversion to a pleasure garden, consolidation and partial excavation. Since it is opened to the public, the monument is of high amenity value.

The monument includes two mounds, the area between the mounds which includes some surviving Norman walling and vaults and part of the western ditch, all belonging to the Norman castle at Lewes, as well as the outer gateway added in the early 14th century. The Norman castle, built for William de Warenne shortly after the Conquest in AD1066, consists of two large mounds, or mottes, each surrounded by a deep ditch and linked by a broad courtyard, or bailey. The mottes were surmounted by timber palisades which were replaced by stone 'shell keeps' around AD1100

The bailey area, some 135m south-west/north-west by 100m south- east/north-west, also had a continuous flint wall with towers at intervals and a rectangular gatehouse, of which only the east wall survives. Angular towers were added to the shell keep of the south-western motte in the 13th century and in the early 14th century the round-turreted outer gatehouse, or barbican, was built to strengthen the gateway. In the 18th century the south-west motte was extensively reconstructed to form a Georgian pleasure garden. Much of the walling of the castle was consolidated in the early 20th century. Finally, excavations on the south-west motte in 1985-88 revealed details of the domestic buildings of the castle which backed onto the shell keep wall. These included a hall, kitchen and chapel. Included in the scheduling are the vaults under the Castle precincts and all surviving parts of the Norman and 14th century gatehouses. (Scheduling Report)

Castle. Circa 1100 for William de Warenne with two C13 turrets added by John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey. Flint with stone dressings, bands and copings, as well as quoins. Some repairs in brick. Shell keep with hexagonal towers to south and west connected by wall twenty yards long with remains of wall continuing to east and north for approximately twenty-five yards. West tower: three stages, with stone bands between. Embattled with loops in corners of third stage, shallower second stage and loops in wall-faces of lowest stage, replaced by tall narrow window in south-west face. South tower: four stages. Embattled above with stair-turret to north, rising slightly above tower with flagpole. Windows in top-stage, paired about corner. Shallower second and third stages with paired windows in second stage, in faces under string dividing this stage from the third above. Battered walls below, up from motte. Court: stair-turret against south tower with two Gothick-glazed pointed-arched windows. Single-storey flat-roofed and embattled block against entrance to south tower with pointed arched entrance in east face and pointed-arched Gothick-glazed window in front face. Pointed arched entrance to recess to right. West tower: deep recessed entrance, narrowing with chalk blocks below impost level. (Listed Building Report)

Castle not much used after 1347 when it passed into the hands of Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel and 'the old pile was neglected and suffered to moulder away piecemeal' (Mackenzie).

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 ReferenceTQ414101
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Copyright Beth Hoffman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Beth Hoffman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Beth Hoffman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Beth Hoffman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Beth Hoffman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Portcullis - design and development' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 132-201
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Guide Books

  • Poole, H., 1997, Lewes Castle and Barbican House Guidebook (Lewes: Sussex Archaeological Society)
  • Godfrey, W.H., 1928-77 (13 editions), Lewes Castle (Lewes: Sussex Archaeological Society)

Primary Sources

  • 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
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 449-50


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  • Thomas, Garbor, 2000, The Archaeology of Brack Mount: details of an exciting archaeological discovery on the summit of one of Lewes's most prominent landmarks (The Sussex Archaeological Society) online copy