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Sandwich Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle Mead; Sandwiche

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

OS Map Grid Reference: TR33485791
Latitude 51.27247° Longitude 1.34595°

Sandwich Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Palace although is doubtful that it was such.

There are no visible remains.


The first mention of a castle at Sandwich was circa 1327-1377, being a royal castle appointed by the governor of Dover Castle. It stood immediately without the town on its SE side, commanding the old harbour and the Deal approach road. The remains of the castle are shown at TR 33485791 in 1877 (OS 1st edn map) and Robertson (1886) notes that a cropmark was visible in 1886 after the foundations had been grubbed up. The dates of the foundation and ruin of the castle are unknown, but the latter is assumed to have been coeval with the decay of the town in 1464. A building attached to Sir Roger Manwood's School, now occupies the site, but no foundations of the castle were encountered in the construction of the building in 1910. (PastScape)

The castle stood immediately without the town on its south-west side, commanding the entrance to the old harbour and the approach by the Deal road. The site is low and level, the ground being not more than 12 feet above sea level. The Grammar School in Manwood Road occupies a portion of it Like the town, the castle probably relied for protection on wide ditches filled by the tide and the river Stour. The adjacent town ditch (here 50 feet wide) may also have served for that of the castle bailey, which would have communicated with the town by the now destroyed Sandown Gate. (Sands)

SANDWICH, CASTLE FIELD (TR335580). P. Bennett and P. Blockley of Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out trial excavations funded by the landowner, C. F. Burch, on the site of the medieval Sandwich Castle. A massive ditch was located, c. 14.25 m wide and 4.5m deep. A second ditch, 35.5m to the N., represented the N. side of the enclosure. The spoil had probably been thrown up inside this area to form a substantial mound, and sealed topsoil containing r zth-century pottery. The lowest fill of the S. ditch, which was perhaps water-filled, contained some 13th-century pottery. There was no trace of stone or timber structures, though documentary evidence suggests the presence of substantial buildings. It is suggested that the castle was levelled by Henry VIII at the time of the building of the new Sandown Castle in the 1540s. (Med Arch., 1984)

The earliest reference to a castle at Sandwich, the premier port of England at one time, was in the reign of Edward I (1272‚1307 ) when a bailiff or royal official was appointed by the King . The documentary sources say that the castle was 'newly erected' around AD1290. One intriguing possibility, not yet proved, that the 'newly erected' phase could mean that the stone castle was erected on the site of an earlier castle of timber construction, perhaps dating to the Norman conquest. Documentary sources also indicate that the King himself stayed at the royal chamber at the castle. We know that the King and the court came to Sandwich to buy goods from the merchants and traders that came to the port to sell goods and to buy England's chief export wool. The prime function of the castle was to defend the town which was vulnerable to attack, usually by the French. They raided in retaliation to attacks by the English on French ports. The King's accounts usually refer to the refurbishment and the repair of the castle, whose decline mirrored the decline of the port. The importance of the trading centre diminished with the silting up of the port and the Wansume channel which led directly to the sea. With the construction of the artillery forts of Sandown, Deal and Walmer in the reign of Henry VIII ( 1509-1547 ), the castle of Sandwich may have gone completely out of use. The castle was then demolished, the building stone, usually flint cobbles being used to build and/or refurbish the houses of Sandwich. From the archaeological evidence, or lack of it, the removal of the stone was very thorough. After the removal of building stone, the castle ditches appear to have been used as the town rubbish dump, probably encouraged by the owners of the property. The ditches were at least 5m wide and 3m deep and once they were filled in the owners could then use the area for growing crops. The first attempts to trace something of the nature of the castle was a series of trial excavations in the late 1960's. A local amateur archaeologist Mr Alf Southam and colleagues carried a series of trial trenches in Castle Mead, a field immediately adjacent to the town wall and the Sandown road on the east side of town. Trial trenches proved the existence of the castle ditches and eye witnesses remembered seeing walls being hit when the field was ploughed. In 1982, further trial trenching under the direction of Mr Paul Bennett of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, provided more evidence of the castle ditch and a possible castle mound. In 1981, observations by local archaeologist, Mr Keith Parfitt, were carried out in a service pipe trench, in Manwood Road immediately east of the Castle Mead. These observations revealed a flint cobble foundation, possibly from a building within the castle. In 1995 and 1996, excavations carried out by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust in advance of and during the construction of a house at the north end of Manwood road have provided exciting new evidence on the size and the nature of the castle. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to show details at present as the site is still being surveyed. The indications are that we have evidence for a cobbled yard, a foundation for a major building, traces of a defensive rampart and the castle ditch. Some of the recent finds from this site and elsewhere in Sandwich are presented in the case below. (Dr I. J. Stewart ( as indexed 2005 Feb 5. link now defunct)

Sandwich was a frequently used port for royal expeditions and visits to France. The relative ease of demolition in the C16 and the lack of any remains might suggest this was not a particularly strongly built castle, although if of a flint cobble and mortar construction then perhaps particular easy for the remains to taken away and be reused in the town. It may well have served as a royal residence whilst awaiting favourable tides and winds and as a storage depot.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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