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Castle Rising

Castle Rising is one of the most famous 12th Century hall keeps in England. It stands on a large 12 acre site and is instantly recognisable for its deep Norman man-made ditches and high earthworks.

The castle was built around 1138-1140 by William d'Albini II to celebrate his marriage to Henry I's widow, Adeliza of Louvain, and his consequent Earldom of Sussex. When the castle was built it was one of the most ornate castles in the country.

When the castle was first built the earthworks were about half the size they are today. The castle was upgraded at the end of the 12th Century or early 13th Century and the earthworks were built up to their current size as well as the castle building being strengthened and enlarged.

During "the Anarchy", a civil war caused by a succession crisis towards the end of Henry I's reign, Castle Rising briefly became a mint making coins for King Stephen.

The d'Albini family held on to the castle for some 200 years until it passed into the hands of the Crown in the early 14th Century.

Queen Isabella of France

In the 1330s the castle's most notorious resident arrived. Queen Isabella, the She-wolf of France, chose to live here after she was banished from Edward III's court. She, together with her lover Roger Mortimer, allegedly killed King Edward II to seize the throne. Mortimer was hanged for treason in 1330.

Although it's easy for us to picture the Dowager Queen imprisoned in her lonely keep that wasn't really the case at all. She had to surrender most of her lands after losing power, but she was still assigned an annual income in excess of £3000. She lived an expensive lifestyle with an entourage that included minstrels, huntsmen and other luxuries.

Queen Isabella lived at the castle for 30 years. After her death it passed to her grandson Edward, the Black Prince. After his death the castle stayed in the royal family being held by the Duchy of Cornwall when there was a Prince and by the king otherwise.

Edward was the last person to spend any real money on the castle's upkeep and the castle gradually fell into ruin. In the mid-16th Century Henry VIII gave the castle to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. It stayed with the Howard family until 1968 when it was passed to the state.

Despite its age parts of Castle Rising remain in excellent condition. There is a path around the top of the earthworks giving good views of both the castle and the village. Visitors can tour the keep with the help of an audio guide.

In the grounds there is a well and the remains of an 11th Century chapel which was probably destroyed to make way for the castle. It was discovered during excavations of the bailey in the early 19th Century.

Facilities available at the castle include car parking, toilets and a gift shop. The castle also hosts events during the summer months with medieval tournaments and recreations.

Status: Visitor Attraction
Owner: Lord Howard of Rising / English Heritage
Tel: 01553 631330
Opening Times: April to October Daily 10am to 6pm / November to March Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm

The keep at Castle Rising
The keep at Castle Rising

The gatehouse at Castle Rising
The gatehouse at Castle Rising

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