Castles have played an important military, economic and social role in England and grew in sophistication, leading to a sharp increase in the complexity and length of sieges.
Whilst many castles have survived the tests of time, many others fell to ruin. Here’s a glimpse of the countless enchanting ruined castles across England…
1 : Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle is a fortification on the Isle of Purbeck in the English county of Dorset. Built by William the Conqueror, the castle dates back to the 11th century and commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills on the route between Wareham and Swanage.
During its first phase of construction, the castle was one of the earliest castles in England to be built at least, partly using stone when the majority were built with earth and timber. During the English Civil War, Corfe remained one of the last remaining royalist strongholds in southern England, until eventually being conquered in 1645 and demolished on the orders of Parliament.
2 : Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle is a medieval fortification located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island adjacent to the village of Tintagel, in north Cornwall.
A castle was built on the site by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century, during the Later Medieval period, after Cornwall had been subsumed into the kingdom of England. It later fell into disrepair and ruin.
3 : Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland in northern England, located between the villages of Craster and Embleton. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322, taking advantage of the site’s natural defences and the existing earthworks of a former Iron Age fort.
The castle was maintained in the 15th century by the Crown, and formed a strategic northern stronghold in the region during the Wars of the Roses, changing hands between the rival Lancastrian and Yorkist factions several times. The fortress never recovered from the sieges of these campaigns, and by the 16th century the Warden of the Scottish Marches described it as having fallen into “wonderfull great decaye”.
4 : Peveril Castle
Peveril Castle (also Castleton Castle or Peak Castle) is a ruined 11th-century castle overlooking the village of Castleton in the English county of Derbyshire. It was the main settlement (or caput) of the feudal barony of William Peverel, known as the Honour of Peverel. The closest Peveril Castle came to seeing battle was in 1216, when King John gave the castle to William de Ferrers, but the castellan refused to relinquish control. Although they were both John’s supporters, the king authorised the earl to use force to evict the castellan, who eventually capitulated, although there is no evidence that the castle was assaulted.
Toward the end of the 14th century, the barony was granted to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Having little use for the castle, he ordered some of its material to be stripped out for re-use, marking the beginning of its decline.
5 : Restormel Castle
Restormel Castle lies by the River Fowey near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. It is one of the four chief Norman castles of Cornwall. The castle is notable for its perfectly circular design. Although once a luxurious residence of the Earl of Cornwall, the castle was all but ruined by the 16th century. It was briefly reoccupied and fought over during the English Civil War but was subsequently abandoned.
6 : Beeston Castle
Beeston Castle is a former Royal castle in Beeston, Cheshire, perched on a rocky sandstone crag 350 feet (107 m) above the Cheshire Plain. It was built in the 1220s by Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, (1170–1232), on his return from the Crusades.
In 1237, Henry III took over the ownership of Beeston, and it was kept in good repair until the 16th century, when it was considered to be of no further military use, although it was pressed into service again in 1643, during the English Civil War. The castle was slighted (partly demolished) in 1646, in accordance with Cromwell’s destruction order, to prevent its further use as a stronghold.
7 : Gleaston Castle
Gleaston Castle is situated in a valley about 0.3 miles (0.48 km) north-east of the village of Gleaston, which lies between the towns of Ulverston and Barrow-in-Furness in the Furness peninsula, Cumbria. The castle consists of the remains four towers connected by curtain walls around a roughly rectangular courtyard. The castle is first mentioned specifically in 1389, although Sir John de Harrington, 2nd Baron Harington of Aldingham is said to have died at Gleaston in 1369.
Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk eventualy sold the castle and its adjacent demesne land to his bailiff Walter Curwen before he was beheaded for treason in 1554, by which time it was in ruins.
8 : Pevensey Castle
Pevensey Castle is a medieval castle and former Roman Saxon Shore fort at Pevensey in the English county of East Sussex. Built around 290 AD and known to the Romans as Anderitum, the fort appears to have been the base for a fleet called the Classis Anderidaensis. The reasons for its construction are unclear; long thought to have been part of a Roman defensive system to guard the British and Gallic coasts against Saxon pirates.
Anderitum fell into ruin following the end of the Roman occupation but was reoccupied in 1066 by the Normans, for whom it became a key strategic bulwark. A stone keep and fortification was built within the Roman walls and faced several sieges. Although its garrison was twice starved into surrender, it was never successfully stormed. The castle was occupied more or less continuously until the 16th century, apart from a possible break in the early 13th century when it was slighted. It had been abandoned again by the late 16th century and remained a crumbling, partly overgrown ruin until it was acquired by the state in 1925.
9 : Goodrich Castle
Goodrich Castle is a now ruinous Norman medieval castle situated to the north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, controlling a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. It was praised by William Wordsworth as the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire” and is considered by historian Adrian Pettifer to be the “most splendid in the county, and one of the best examples of English military architecture”.
Held first by Parliamentary and then Royalist forces in the English Civil War of the 1640s, Goodrich was finally successfully besieged by Colonel John Birchin 1646 with the help of the huge “Roaring Meg” mortar, resulting in the subsequent slighting of the castle and its descent into ruin.
10 : Conisbrough Castle
Conisbrough Castle is a medieval fortification in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire. The castle was initially built in the 11th century by William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Hamelin Plantagenet, the illegitimate, parvenu son of Henry II, acquired the property by marriage in the late 12th century. Hamelin and his son William rebuilt the castle in stone, including its prominent 28-metre (92 ft)-high keep. The castle remained in the family line into the 14th century, despite being seized several times by the Crown. The fortification was then given to Edmund of Langley, passing back into royal ownership in 1461.
Conisbrough eventually fell into ruin, its outer wall badly affected by subsidence, and was given to the Carey family in the 16th century. Its derelict state prevented it from involvement in the English Civil War of the 17th century and the remains were bought by the Duke of Leeds in 1737. Sir Walter Scott used the location for his 1819 novel Ivanhoe and by the end of the 19th century the ruins had become a tourist attraction, despite the increasing industrial character of the area.