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Hastings Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Haestinga; Haestingaceaster; Hasting; Hestengceastra; Hastinges

In the civil parish of Hastings.
In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of East Sussex.
1974 county of East Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex (Rape of Hastings).

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ820094
Latitude 50.85607° Longitude 0.58514°

Hastings Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Castle and Collegiate Church. Castle built circa 1170, ruined by 1399. The church was founded circa 1090, dissolved in 1547. Foundations of church, North and East curtain walls and East gate of castle visible. Probably built on an Iron Age enclosure. There is documentary evidence that a collegiate foundation existed in Hastings in the reign of Edward the Confessor, but it is not documented as so in the Domesday Survey. (PastScape)

Hastings Castle was the first such castle to be built after the Norman invasion of 1066 and features in the Bayeux Tapestry. Its subsequent history is well documented both historically and archaeologically. Promontory forts were defensive enclosures, some being occupied continuously while others were used as places of refuge. They were constructed during the Iron Age (700BC-AD43), most being abandoned during the 1st century BC. Such monuments are rare nationally, and are especially rare outside Cornwall. The Ladies' Parlour survives well despite in places having been damaged and partially buried by the earthworks of the later Norman castle and disturbed by recent partial excavation. Colleges were groups of ecclesiastical buildings used by small communities of priests living under a less strict rule than in monasteries. Their purpose was to offer prayers on behalf of a patron or founder. Most were established between the 11th-15th centuries. Early examples, such as at Hastings, are rare survivors. Together, the association of the promontory fort, the castle and the collegiate church, each important in its own right, greatly increases the significance of the monument as a whole.
The monument includes the castle of Norman origin together with its rock- cut ditch, the remains of a Collegiate church and the earthworks and interior area of an enclosure known as the Ladies' Parlour which has been identified as an Iron Age promontory fort. The Ladies' Parlour is part of a defensive enclosure which occupied the whole promontory although one half of its original area was subsequently taken over by the Norman castle. The crescent-shaped earthwork bank stands as high as 4m in places, but diminishes in height to both south and west. The ditch runs NW-SE between Castle Hill Road and the cliff edge above Burdett Place increasing in size to the south-east to a maximum of 2.4m deep and 20m wide. Within this defended area, William Duke of Normandy (later the Conqueror) built a motte and bailey castle immediately after landing with his army in 1066. The original motte, however, lies buried within a later enlargement on which stood a stone keep after 1172. The rock-cut tunnels to the north-west of the mound are storage chambers of Norman date. Much of the castle curtain wall dates from the later 12th century using sandstone cut from the 6m deep ditch east of the mound. Coastal erosion later undermined the south side of the bailey and the castle had been abandoned by the 15th century. Within the bailey area a college of priests had been established by 1094. The ruins of their church survive against the north wall of the castle and feature an upstanding square tower. The college was dissolved in 1546. (Scheduling Report)

The Castle built circa 1070. The church was started afterwards but before 1094. More building work in early 1170s to 1190s including the keep in 1172. Repairs of 1216 and afterwards progressive ruin. The walls are stone rubble, and as it exists now there are ruined walls and foundations of the church which had a central tower the western arch of which has been rebuilt, there are remains of a square tower at the west end of the nave. There remains the curtain walling along the North, North-west, North and North-east with the gatehouse on the North-east side with 2 rounded towers. Outside the walls on the north side are store-rooms (known as the Dungeons) in the form of narrow tunnel-vaulted passages. The keep and other buildings no longer exist. (Listing report)

This was a pre-existing Iron Age defence used by William the Conquerer in 1066. The suggestion that a motte was built here in 1066 is mainly based on the illustration on the Bayeux Tapestry. There is a mound of sandy soil at the castle, which was suggested as being hurriedly erected, although this can not be securely dated. It is certainly likely the pre-existing earthworks were strengthened, possibly using forced local labour (although the Bayeux Tapersty seems to show people with the Norman haircut, but in civilian clothes, doing the work. One has a pick, something not needed for a sandy motte but which would be needed to make the rock cut ditch), with the intent of protecting the valuable horses and equipment of several hundred knights (Something a motte would not do). However, the amount of time for the occupation of Hastings and the Battle with Harold Godwinson is less than 18 days and it may be that the 'motte' is possibly an artistic licence or the Tapestry actual portrays a bank surmounted with a palisade rather than a motte surmounted by a watch tower. Having gained some status from this use as a landing camp the site was certainly later converted into a castle. However there is a distinct probability the collegiate church existed before the Conquest and this suggests the site has some high status Saxon occupation (c.f. Dover). Much of the promontory has been lost to coastal erosion so the actual form of some of the castle is lost. There are also some suggestions that the castle built in 1066 was elsewhere (Renn suggest a site further east, around TQ829098, or beyond the Priory Valley, around TQ815095) possibly by the sea and designed to protect the ships of the fleet. It is even possible that there was a lost Roman fort at Hastings Port (as at Dover) which could have been utilised by William I. (Philip Davis pers. comments 2013)
The first comprehensive description of the castle was made by Charles Lawson. This is the same Charles Lawson behind the Piltdown Man forgery and, therefore, his account of the castle needs to be read with more than the usual level of care and later authors who relied on his account also need to be considered in the light of the possible unreliability of Lawson.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:30

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