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Arundel siege castles

In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of West Sussex.
1974 county of West Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ018073
Latitude 50.85626° Longitude -0.55507°

Arundel siege castles has been described as a probable Siege Work.

There are uncertain remains.


Arundel Castle was besieged for 3 months in 1102 during Robert Belesme revolt against Henry I. Another possible siege took place in 1138, during the Anarchy, when Matilda was given refuge by William de Albini at Arundel Castle. Stephen is presumed to built siege works around the castle but the King marched on the castle and, after a short time, allowed Matilda to leave and go on to Bristol so it may be that the presumed siege was no such thing.

A.D. 1102. In this year at the Nativity was the King Henry at Westminster, and at Easter in Winchester. And soon thereafter arose a dissention between the king and the Earl Robert of Belesme, who held in this land the earldom of Shrewsbury, that his father, Earl Roger, had before, and much territory therewith both on this side and beyond the sea. And the king went and beset the castle at Arundel; but when he could not easily win it, he allowed men to make castles before it, and filled them with his men (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle)

Suggested site are; Ford (TQ00180370), Lyminster (TQ02810624), Rackham (TQ054126), Cock Hill, Patching (TQ08920974), Warningcamp (TQ03020680), The Burgh (TQ04791122) and Pulborough (TQ03731894), although only Waringcamp is reasonably certain and Ford possible - the other sites are highly questionable (see individual site record). King writes "there may have been others" all these sites are east of Arundel and nothing is identified to the west of Arundel. The function of the 1102 siege castles was to contain the forces in Arundel castle rather than to produce a total blockade and force a surrender by starvation.
Care has to be taken with the phrases like "make castles" and 'build castles' as this can simply mean garrisoning existing sites or buildings. Even more care has to be taken with concepts of what happen during medieval sieges. Hollywood images of massed troops, battering rams, boiling oil are highly misleading. Large sieges, such as Henry V siege of Harfleur, were rare. Most C12 sieges were probably very small affairs with dozens of soldiers involved rather than hundreds. Follow the links to the primary sources to see how little information is actually given in the primary sources and how much later historians have built their own concepts onto these. See Coulson for general discussion on Anarchy castles.
Purton writes 'The South Downs contain numerous pre-medieval earthworks, which can make identification difficult in the absence of excavation, and the excavation of ephemeral siege castles is unlikely to produce definitive evidence.' This position allows authors to suggest isolated earthworks high on the Downs miles from Arundel as siege castles on highly contestable ideas. However, the pre-existing large earthwork at Burpham, with a clear view of Arundel and which would clearly be ideal as a site for a strategic reserve, but clearly an Iron Age fort has never been suggested as such. This says more about mid C20 concepts of what a siege was rather than the reality of medieval siege warfare.

A research project, lead by Professor Oliver Creighton, is examining, in detail, the sieges of the Anarchy and should through more light on the historical sources and surviving archaeological remains. The results of this project are due to be published in 2016. (See University of Exeter website)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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