Canterbury Castle: Canterburie.

Canterbury Castle.
Image by Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay


  • Canterbury, Kent.
  • OSGB – TR 14607 57423
  • Scheduled Monument.
  • Monument Number – 464740.
  • Grade I Listed Building.


Medieval motte Castle. Located by Worthgate and the postern gate, just within the city walls. Covering approx. 4 acres.

One of the first castles built  following the Norman Conquest. The keep measured 26 m by 30 m with walls 2.7m thick. It included pallister buttresses on the angles and mid-way along the walls. There were two cross walls internally, separating the internal area into three rooms, with the lateral ones being further sub-divided, giving five rooms on each floor. Spiral staircases were located on the eastern and southern sides.  A circular fireplace was located in the Great Hall on the first floor.

The rectangular curtain wall included angle turrets and was defended with a ditch.

A Roman mortuary urn was discovered during excavations at the castle.



1080                 Keep constructed in timber on an earthen motte.

1086                 The Domesday Book records windows and fireplaces within the castle.

1135                 Held by the men of Robert de Gloucester who refused entry to Stephen.

1138                 The castle shut its gates against Stephen, in favour of Empress Matilda.

1138                 Robert de Caen, son of Henry I, was Governor of the castle.

1154-1189          Improved under Henry II.

1160                 Minor repairs carried out.

1160                 Baily constructed around the motte.

1173-1174          Repairs carried out at a cost of £24. 6s. 0d.

1175                 Repairs to the keep at a cost of £5. 11s. 7d.

1190                 The keep was rebuilt of flint rubble. Pipe Rolls show that a certain William Muschet was paid for supplying sand, lime, and stone to the site.

12th-13thC          The site included gates, a barbican bridge, chapel and other buildings.

1216                 The castle was taken by the Dauphin, Louis. (Later Louis VIII of France).

1215-1232          Hugh de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent, was Governor of the castle.

1232                 Stephen de Seagrave was Governor of the castle.

1227                 Granted to Hugh de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent.

1237                 ‘The King orders that the Saracen, whom he sends with this writ, be permitted to reside in Canterbury Castle, but that no one be allowed to confer with him.’ (Calendar of State Papers 1869). This Saracen was a courtier but believed to be a spy.

1259                 Nicholas de Moels was Governor of the castle.

1261                 Robert Walerand was Governor of the castle.

1272                 William de Eschetesford was Governor of the castle.

1279                 Jews were imprisoned at the castle. They carved Hebrew Psalms onto the walls.

1293                 Used as a prison.

1308                 Templars arrested in the Temple Church London, were sent to Canterbury Castle. William de la More, grand preceptor of England, and two other Templar Knights were quite comfortable there. They were ‘given their beds, robes, and silver vessels, and allowed to go outside the city at will without a guard’ (Perkins 1909).

1321                 It is recorded that a ‘William Savage, janitor portœ, carried off the daughter of Hamon Trendhurst, and detained her in the castle for eight days’ (Brent 1879).

1327                 Geoffrey Gilmyn was appointed Custodian of the Gate of Canterbury Castle.

1335                 In ruins.

1375-1381          Large defensive work undertaken including walling and a gate with towers added on the western side – the Westgate – which included gunports and a cannon. The Gate had 17 keyhole gunports.

1378                 The Roman walls were used as part of the new and higher Norman walls which were constructed.

1380                 The western gate was completed.

1380                 The castle surrendered to the French during the First Baron’s War.

1381                 Stormed during the Peasants Revolt. John Salos of Malling set the prisoners in the castle free.

1461-1585          Between: Many legacies were left to the prisoners of the castle.

1462-1463          Sir William Peche of Livingstone was Governor of the castle.

15th C                Derelict.

1539                 Five men were sent to the prison in the castle for fighting over wages during the construction of Deal Castle.

1553                 Rector John Bland of Adisham was imprisoned at the castle.

1555                 Rector John Bland of Adisham was removed from the castle and burned at the stake.

1556                 Five prisoners who were condemned to be burnt for being Protestants, were starved to death in the castle. They were John Clark, Dunstan Chittenden, William Foster, Alice Potkins and John Archer. A letter was thrown out of the castle, and stated:

‘Be it known to all men that shall read, or hear read these our letters, that we the poor prisoners of the castle of Canterbury for God’s truth are kept and lie in cold irons, and our keeper will not suffer any meat to be brought to us to comfort us. And if any man do bring us any thing, as bread, butter, cheese, or any other food, the said keeper will charge them that so bring us any thing (except money or raiment), to carry it with them again; or else if he do receive any food of any for us, he doth keep it for himself, and he and his servants do spend it, so that we have nothing thereof; and thus the keeper keepeth away our victuals from us: insomuch that there are four of us prisoners there for God’s truth, famished already, and thus is it his mind to famish us all. And we think he is appointed thereunto of the bishops and priests, and also of the justicers, so to famish us; and not only us of the said castle, but also all other prisoners in other prisons for the like cause, to be also famished. Notwithstanding we write not these our letters, to that intent we mought not afford to be famished for the Lord Jesus’ sake, but for this cause and intent, that they, having no law so to famish us in prison, should not do it privily, but that the murderers’ hearts should be openly known to all the world, that all men may know of what church they are, and who is their father. – Out of the castle of Canterbury.’ (Foxe, 1840).

1565                 Assize held at the castle.

1569                 Assize held at the castle.

1576                 David Oxley of Tonbridge was imprisoned in the castle.

1577                 Assize held at the castle.

1586                 ‘Confessions of Joseph Joelhand, deputy searcher of Hythe, Alex Nethersell, customer and others, as to the manner of their imprisonment, as free prisoners, Canterbury Castle not being in a fit state to receive them. (Much decayed). (Calendar of State Papers 1865).

1590                 Alex Horden and Edmund Beck were appointed Keepers of the Castle Gaol.

1597                 The keep was in private hands.

1634-1635          In ruins.

1600’s               Early: James I granted the castle to a Mr. Watson in whose family it continues for a while.

1672                 The Psalms inscribed by the Jews could still be seen on the north-east staircase.

1732                 The Watson family sold it to a Mr. Fremoult of Canterbury.

1770                 Partially demolished.

1772                 The outer bailey walls were demolished.

1779                 The owner, Rev. Samuel Fremoult died, and he was succeeded by his nephew Samuel Balderston.

*                      Samuel Balderston sold off the precincts, eastern wall and ditch to Messers. Fenner and Flint of Canterbury.

1790                 The gardens of Dane John were laid out. This is the site of the original timber castle.

1792                 Walls and gates to the site demolished.

1797                 Samuel Balderston sold the castle and the rest of the precincts to Mr. Thomas Cooper, who built a house there.

1798                 The County Committee for Defence held a meeting at the Castle.

1817                 The top floor of the keep was removed.

1825                 Site purchased by the Gas Light and Coke Company. The demolished the internal cross walls and stored gas at the site.

1875                 Just Prior to: Ashlar quoins and dressings removed and sold off.

1928                 The keep was purchased by the Canterbury City Council.

1939                 Excavated.

1953                 Excavated.

1965                 Field Investigation.

1971                 Excavated.

1975-1976          Excavated. Parts of the Great Tower were uncovered in the ditch.

2018                 Closed to the public for safety reasons.


References & Bibliography.

1815. The Antiquarian Itinerary Comprising Specimens of Architecture, Monastic, Castellated, and Domestic; with Other Vestiges of Antiquity in Great Britain. Accompanied with Descriptions · Volume 1. Wm. Clarke.

1882. Epochs and Episodes of History. Ward, Lock & Co.

Addison. C. G. 1853. The Knights Templars. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Baillie-Hislop. M. J. 2016. Castle Builders: Approaches to Castle Design and Construction in the Middle Ages. Pen & Sword.

Brent. J. 1879. Canterbury in the Olden Time. Simpkin, Marshall & Company.

Brooke. G. 1915. Some Irregular Coinages of The Reign of Stephen. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 15, 105-120. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from

Calendar of Sate Papers Domestic series. 1865. Volume 1. Longmans & Green.

Calendar of Sate Papers. 1869. Longmans & Green.

Carter. J. 1890. Sacred and Mediaeval Architecture. E. Stock.

Collinson. P. 2013. Elizabethans. Bloomsbury Academic.

Cross. F. W., & Hall. J. R. 1884. Rambles Round Old Canterbury. Simpkin, Marshall.

Doyle. J. E. 1886. The Official Baronage of England. Longmans, Green.

Foxe. J. 1851. Fox’s Book of Martyrs. The Acts and Monuments of the Church · Volume 3. G. Virtue.

Gibson. J. 2007. An Early Seventeenth-Century Playhouse in Tonbridge, Kent. Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, 20, 236-255. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from

Gilman. A. W. 1895. Searches into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family. E. Stock.

Goldstone. N. 2010. Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe. Orion.

Gostling. W. 1774. A Walk in and About the City of Canterbury. Simmons & Kirkby.

Hasted. E. 1801. The History of the Ancient and Metropolitical City of Canterbury. Edward Hasted.

Lipman. V. 1981. Jews and Castles in Medieval England. Transactions & Miscellanies (Jewish Historical Society of England), 28, 1-19. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from

Perkins. C. 1909. The Trial of the Knights Templars in England. The English Historical Review, 24(95), 432-447. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from

Powlett. C. L. W. Duchess of Cleveland. 1889. The Battle Abbey Roll With Some Account of the Norman Lineages · Volume 2. John Murray.

Pratt. J. 1868. The Church Historians of England – Reformation Period · Volume 8, Issue 1. George Seeley.

Robertson. Rev. C. S. 1891. Richard Thornden, The Second Bishop of Dover. The Antiquary, Volume 23. Pp. 213-216.

Shelby. L. 1964. The Role of the Master Mason in Mediaeval English Building. Speculum, 39(3), 387-403. doi:10.2307/2852495.

Sheldon. P. 1969. The Cobham Troop of Gentlemen And Yeomanry Cavalry 1798-1820. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 47(189), 38-49. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from

The Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 1875. The Annual Meeting at Canterbury. Archaeological Journal, Volume 32, pp. 486-519.

Toy. S. 2013. Castles: Their Construction and History. Dover Publications.



error: You are not allowed to copy or take the contents of this page for use in any other printed material, website, social media accounts or for any commercial reasons. This includes using AI and ChatGPT to plagiarize and pass off my research as your own. Legal action will be taken you do so.
error: Alert: Content selection is disabled!!