Castle Acre

Castle Acre.
Image by Greg Waskovich from Pixabay


  • Swaffham, Norfolk
  • OSGB – TF 819 151
  • Scheduled Monument
  • Grade I Listed Building.


Fortified manor, with wall, ditch and gatehouse. Two storey fortified manor built over a Saxon manor house. Rectangular keep house, area covering 15 acres. The walls measuring 13ft thick and the ditches are deep. The upper ward is roughly circular with a triangular barbican. The upper ward is surrounded by a deep ditch and the outer ward is surrounded by a ditch with internal banks.

The village developed within the outer bailey.

There is a priory in the town with the same name.


Held by the Saxon thegn, Toki.

1080                            c: Built by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey and Chief Justicar to William I, with the Priory alongside.

1086                            Domesday: Held by William de Warenne.

11th C                          Motte and bailey castle with a Hall tower.

11th-12th C                   Built in stone.

1140                            Ringwork formed and a strong circular keep was added with the existing Hall base by William, 3rd Earl of Surrey who made the manor more like a castle. The defences were strengthened and the curtain wall added.

1148                            Was passed to Isabella de Warenne, when the 3rd Earl of Surrey was killed whilst on Crusade. She had married William of Blois,

1150                            c: Work stopped on the tower walls. The south wall was demolished but the north wall was done.

1159                            William of Blois died.

1163                            Isabella of Blois married Hamelin Plantagenet, half brother to Henry II.

12th C                          Strengthened into a polygonal shape with walls of flint. A curtain wall was built around the bailey.

1202                            Hamelin Plantagenet died and his son, William, 6th Earl of Surrey, inherited the castle.

1216-1240                   Between: Henry III visited William, 6th Earl of Surrey, several times.

1240                            William, 6th Earl of Surrey, died.

13th C                          Gates with twin round towers.

1304                            John, 7th Earl of Surrey died and was succeeded by his grandson, John, 8th Earl of Surrey.

1316                            John, 8th Earl of Surrey, gave the town to the Earl of Pembroke.

1347                            c: The last de Warenne died without an heir and the castle was left to ruin.

1397                            Derelict.

1615                            Held by Sir Edward Coke, Earl of Leicester, Chief Justice. He spent £60 on the castle.

1782                            Keys found on the site.

1959                            Neolithic axe found.

1971                            The Earl of Leicester placed it in the guardianship of the Department of the Environment.

1972                            Field Investigation.

1972-1977                   Excavated.

1981-1982                   Excavated.

1984                            Descendants of Sir Edward Coke still own the property and have handed its care over to English Heritage.

1986                            Remains of a child’s body found on the site.

1998                            Scheduled.

1999                            Surveyed and Measured.

2000                            Surveyed.

2001                            Watching Brief.

2002                            Watching Brief.

2006                            Evaluated.


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