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Tonbridge Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Tunbridge; Tunebrycgia

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

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ58954655
Latitude 51.19652° Longitude 0.27389°

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

There are major building remains.

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


Motte and Bailey Castle, first mentioned in 1080. Of the Norman Motte and Bailey the mound, surmounted by a few stones and containing the well, now mostly filled up. This is surrounded by the moat on the north and west sides which connects with the river Medway on the south. Of the C13 curtain wall surrounding the Keep, there survive a portion immediately to the east connecting the mound of the Keep with the Gateway, a small section to the south east of the Council Offices and a long portion on the south fronting the Medway of which the top has been made into a walk in the grounds of the Castle on account of the difference in levels to the north and south of this. Between the first section of the curtain wall mentioned above and the Council Offices is the Gate-house, built in 1230-1260. This is of sandstone ashlar and consists of a large square building with a wide carriage arch through it with 4 circular towers at its angles. High pointed arch with its head recessed in 6 grooves. Within this a lower and less pointed arch with similar head but above the latter a wall almost blocking the space between the heads of the inner and outer arches but leaving a small gap for the lowering of the portcullis with groove below. 3 square holes in the soffit of the inner arch for dropping hot liquid. Embattled parapet above building. Loop lights in flanking towers, and on ground floor of west outer tower an oblique shoot to the dungeons. Within the archway pointed doorways lead to the staircases. The rooms on first floor and hall above this occupy the whole area of the building. The floors have disappeared but the fireplaces remain. On the inner side the gateway is similar but the 2 arches are smaller with another portcullis groove between them and 3 square holes in the soffit of the outer arch. On the first floor above the arch are 3 trefoil-headed lights and on the second floor 2 larger larger pointed windows with the remains of cusping of the tracery. Loop lights in the towers, as on the outer side. (Listed Building Report)

The castle at Tonbridge survives well despite the partial excavation of the motte top in the early 20th century and the adaptation of parts of the castle for Georgian residences. The diversity of features at the castle is high, including for example the architectural details of the gatehouse and the garderobe chutes in the curtain wall in addition to the shell keep. In addition the castle is well documented historically as a place frequented by royalty, which together with good public access and informative displays makes the castle of high amenity value. The monument includes a motte and bailey castle dating from the years soon after the Norman Conquest, as well as the later remains of the curtain wall and the 13th century gatehouse. The principle feature of the earliest castle on the site is the earthen motte, circular in plan and 20m high. At its summit the motte measures 24m by 20m. Around the flattened top a wall was built to form a shell keep. The foundations of a number of buildings which backed onto the shell keep wall and a well were located during excavations in 1912 which resulted in the 7m wide depression visible today. The shell keep wall has been partially rebuilt in recent times to a height of ca.1m. The motte was originally encircled by a moat of some 14m width but this was infilled on the eastern side in the 12th century to ease access to and from the motte. Below the motte and to the east was a bailey, the line of which was consolidated by a tall stone curtain wall added in the 12th century which was in turn strengthened by a now-infilled outer moat on the east and north-east sides and to the south by the river. Inside the bailey the foundations of a number of buildings including a chapel are considered likely to survive. In the later 13th century, the original gatehouse was replaced with another with drum towers flanking a strongly-defended gateway. A wall-walk connected the new gatehouse with the keep. Many architectural details survive in the gatehouse, including sculpted windows and arrowloops. (Scheduling Report)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:31

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