Eye Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameEye Castle
Alternative NamesEay; Eie
Historic CountrySuffolk
Modern AuthoritySuffolk
1974 AuthoritySuffolk
Civil ParishEye

The motte and the standing remains of the curtain wall of Eye Castle survive well. The eastern part of the inner bailey, although formerly occupied by a school, has been shown by excavation to include buried deposits of medieval date. These standing and buried remains will retain further archaeological information concerning the construction and occupation of the castle, and evidence for earlier land use is likely to be preserved in buried soils beneath the motte and the raised platform of the bailey. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the town of Eye was a prosperous settlement with a market of regional importance, and the castle is of particular interest in this context and as the administrative centre of an important feudal estate.

The monument includes a motte, the eastern part of the inner bailey adjoining it and the remains of a stone castle, situated in the centre of the town of Eye. Also included is a 19th century mock keep known as Kerrison's Folly, constructed on top of the motte above the remains of the medieval keep. The structural remains of the castle and the 19th century folly are a Listed Building Grade I. The western part of the inner bailey, which is not included, was the site of a 19th century workhouse and is now occupied by modern housing.

The motte is visible as a conical mound 12m in height and approximately 57m in diameter at the base, with a sub-circular platform about 18m in diameter at the summit. The inner bailey to the west of the motte is ovoid in plan, wider at the western end, and defined by a scarp up to 4.5m high on the north and west sides and 2m high on the south. Limited excavations at the western and eastern ends have demonstrated that it was constructed on a natural hillock and that the interior, surrounded by an earthen bank, was raised and levelled by the dumping of imported soil to a depth of between 1.3m and 3m

The motte was probably surmounted originally by a wooden tower and the bailey surrounded by a timber palisade. These were replaced by a stone keep and a curtain wall of stone, and the ruined remains of part of the curtain wall survive on the north eastern slope of the motte and the north side of the inner bailey adjoining it, within the area of protection. The wall is visible in three discontinuous sections and is constructed largely of mortared flint rubble with some squared blocks of clunch. The longest section has an overall length of 27.2m and comprises a rectangular tower at the western end, with three narrow chambers in line adjoining it. To the east of these, at the foot of the motte, are the remains of a second rectangular tower, and near the summit of the motte, where the curtain wall would have abutted the keep, are the remains of another narrow chamber. The western tower, which projects 0.9m beyond the curtain wall externally, has internal dimensions of 2.9m east-west by 2.6m, with walls 1.6m thick and up to 3.2m high. The adjoining chambers are 1.8m wide internally and 5m, 2.8m and 3.7m long respectively from west to east. The inner and outer walls are 1.2m thick and about 1.7m in height. Only the foundations of the dividing wall between the two western chambers survive, but the dividing wall between the middle and eastern chambers still stands to a height of up to 3.9m. There is no visible evidence for windows or doors, and the chambers were perhaps intended originally for storage, although it is thought that they were used in the 14th century as a prison. The eastern tower has internal dimensions of 2m east-west by 1.6m, and the foundations, which are all that survive of the walls, are about 1.8m thick. Evidence for a chamber to the south of it was found during excavations carried out in 1987- 1988. The section of the curtain wall on the motte is up to 2.1m high and has a maximum length of 7.9m. The chamber which it contains is 3.8m in length north west-south east by 1.7m wide, and the inner and outer walls are between 1.4m and 1.6m thick. The internal walls to east and west do not appear to be bonded to the outer walls and may have been inserted at a later date. There are indications of a another chamber to the west of this, and lower down the slope of the motte, on the same alignment, is a large block of fallen masonry.

Excavations in part of the interior of the bailey adjoining the wall removed approximately 1.6m of post-medieval deposits and uncovered a layer of demolition rubble dated to the 14th century, overlying traces of a clay floor.

By the early 16th century little remained of the stone castle apart from a tower and some ruined walling, and a windmill was erected on top of the motte around 1592. A path with steps cut up to 2m deep into the western side of the motte was probably constructed to provide access to the mill and is shown on the tithe map of 1839, which also shows a mill still in existence. The mock keep was built by General Sir Edward Kerrison around 1844, it is said as a house for the batman who served him at the battle of Waterloo, and occupies almost the whole of the top of the motte. It is constructed of mortared flint with moulded brick quoins and dressings, and the shell wall is polygonal in plan, with nine sides and buttresses at the angles. Each of the outer faces of the wall is decorated with a mock loophole. Much of the wall survives to its full original height of 4.6m, but the buildings within are ruinous, standing for the most part to less than 2m. On the western side of the enclosure is a ruined tower 4m square which projects beyond the shell wall, and within this, in the north east angle, is the base of a spiral stair to a now vanished upper storey, with a hearth against the wall to the west of it. Adjoining the tower to the south and south east are the remains of two larger rooms connected by internal doorways, and against the eastern wall of the keep is the base of a detached outside lavatory. Evidence that the folly may have been built on the surviving foundations of the medieval keep was found in 1990, when a small trench was dug against the eastern wall.

Construction of the motte and bailey castle was probably begun by William Malet, who was granted the estate known as the Honour of Eye after the Conquest, and was completed by his son, Robert. When Robert Malet was banished in 1102 the estate, with the castle, reverted to Henry I and was subsequently granted to Stephen de Blois (later King Stephen). Stephen's successor, Henry II, granted it to Thomas a Becket in 1156, and it was probably Becket who was responsible for the original construction of the stone castle. After Becket's murder in 1170 it returned to the Crown, and it was sacked during the rebellion of Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk in 1173. It was subsequently repaired, and regular repairs and improvements were carried out until the end of the 12th century. Henry III granted the estate to his younger brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall whose son, Edmund, inherited. The castle was sacked again in 1265 during the Barons revolt against the King. In 1337 the estate was granted to the de Uffords, the new Earls of Suffolk, and in 1381 went to the de la Poles, but by 1370 the castle was assessed as worthless, although parts remained standing. (Scheduling Report)

Motte and bailey castle. Motte raised 1066-71 and castle erected, the latter mostly destroyed in C14. Windmill constructed upon motte 1561-62, its successor demolished 1844 and replaced with house for Sir Edward Kerrison. This damaged 1965 during gale, partly collapsed 1979. House constructed of whole flints with brick piers and dressings. No roof. Plan is irregular enneagon consisting of curtain walls with living accommodation to south and west. To west side are remains of winder staircase to first floor, collapsed 1979. South end with foundations for 3 rooms. Curtain wall with arrow loops. Remains of late C12 flint curtain wall extends to north-west down motte to form part of north curtain wall of inner bailey. Historical note: house built for Sir Edward Kerrison's batman, who had saved his life during Battle of Waterloo. (Listed Building Report)

The remains of Eye Castle comprise a motte, centred TM 14787378, and a bailey to the west. The motte measures c50.0m in diameter by c 16.0m high. Traces of the bailey wall exist on the NW side of the motte at TM 14757380 and the remains of a square structure, probably a bastion. The top of the motte is surmounted by a 19thc folly. The bailey is marked by a steep scarp protecting a raised enclosure. No evidence of further walling was found, nor the well mentioned by Renn. The bailey ditch has been mutilated by the gardens of adjacent houses but shows as a strong depression. (PastScape–Field Investigators Comments-F1 PAS 19-DEC-73)

Gatehouse Comments

There is a strong tradition of this being the site of an earlier Saxon fortification.

- 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 ReferenceTM148738
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Copyright Peggy All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peggy All Rights Reserved

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Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book II p. 379
  • Pipe Rolls 1157-98 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Howlett, R. (ed), 1889, ‘The Chronicle of Robert of Torigni' in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I (Rolls series 82) Vol. 4 p. 193 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. 427 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. 439-40


  • RCHME, July 1994, Eye Castle, Eye, Suffolk: An archaeological survey (SSF17502)