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Newnham Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Championcourt; Champion Court

In the civil parish of Newnham.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Kent.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ95455786
Latitude 51.28633° Longitude 0.80147°

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

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


On the site of the windmill (shown on OS 6" 1876) adjoining Champion Court, Newnham, there is a mound 5 ft high and 38 paces in diameter surrounded by a ditch 15 ft deep. An outwork, consisting of a semi-circular ditch, is shallower than and connects at its extremities with the ditch surrounding the mound. On the east side, between the ditches a small mound of chalk was removed and found to be "a tumulus containing ashes, human bones, urns and part of a sword and spurs". (Payne) This motte and bailey was levelled by bulldozer in 1957. The motte has been levelled and the ditch filled in but traces remain. Similarly the bailey has been levelled but the course of the rampart can be clearly traced. There is no trace of the 'tumulus' which was probably destroyed during the construction of the C19 Mill Cottages. It may have been no more than a part of the bailey rampart, but some of the recorded finds and the proximity of another enigmatic barrow (TQ 95 NE 7) at least suggest a burial mound (F1 ASP 26-JUL-63). All that can now be identified on the ground is a scarp, centred at TQ 9548 5783, which extends for 35m as a slight curve from E to W at the southern end of Mill Cottages garden. It is 1.6m high and 3m long, apparently representing the outer face of the former bailey bank. A further 35m which existed to the W in 1963 has been totally destroyed and planted with orchard trees. (This area, and the motte site is Champion Court property). The OS 25" 2nd Edn. depicts the motte as about 34m in diameter at the base and the bailey on the S as 75m by 50m across. The earthwork, situated on the crest of a steep sided valley has no distant views and was evidently placed in a position that would control the valley road, and Newnham, immediately below. That the motte was subsequently utilised as a mill mound is suggested by the adjacent "Mill Cottages" and in the description given by Payne (F2 NVQ 16-OCT-86). (PastScape)

Hall house, now house, C13, C15, C16 and C19. Timber framed and rendered with applied timbers, and structural flint with plain tiled roofs. Two storeys and hipped roof with gablets and stack to rear centre. Recessed hipped 2 storey extension to right. Three glazing bar sashes on main range, 1 on extension on first floor, with 2 glazing bar sashes and tripartite glazing bar sash on ground floor. Half-glazed double doors to left, in gabled porch. Interior: much altered ceiled hall house (the main range of the main front), with C16 extension, with dragon beams, jetty-brackets, and S light beaded ovolo moulded window, now all internal features. Flint and brick cellar includes C13 recess, with moulded trefoil head, evidence of moulded hood and moulded colonnettes, possibly a piscina to medieval chapel. This was the chief manor of Newnham, home of Fulk de Newenham, founder of Davington Priory (1153). (Listed Building Report)

Guy is dismissive of this as a castle. Hasted's manorial history states that Fulk de Newenham founded a nunnery in the area in 1153. Nunneries tended to be small foundations but this may suggest a family with sufficient funds and pretensions to have had a small castle. Cropmarks visible on the air photo are suggestive of bailey. The destruction of castles at the end of the Anarchy was probably overstated by the chroniclers of the time but this may be an example of a small castle retained as a manor house with minimal defences. The granting of lands in the manor (but not the manor house), for a nunnery, in 1153 may represent this change in status. This does not necessarily mean the castles defences date from the Anarchy although this is possible. (Philip Davis personal comments 2011)
Excavations in the summer of 2012 (Jardine-Rose) have found the foundations of a square - approx 8.25m x 9m - 2m thick walled building. This is dated as C12. Although basically square it has rounded corners but this probably reflects a lack of good stone for corner quoins. The excavation show this to be a small castle site with a square tower with the earth dug from the ditch thrown up around the tower to produce the image of a tower sat upon a timber revetted motte. Champion Court probably represents the site of the bailey of this castle. The short interim excavation report does not suggest a demolition date for this tower but demolition in 1153 as a 'punishment' is possible with the bailey buildings being retained as the domestic manor. (Philip Davis personal comments 2012)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:30

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