One of the many reasons to visit Sussex is its incredible history. We’re blessed with a number of Medieval castles that tell the story of Sussex, and Bodiam Castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex is a great one to explore. Bodiam Castle was built in about 1385, so it’s by no means our oldest Sussex castle. However, it is a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Monument, and it’s now owned by The National Trust.
The castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, to defend against a French invasion. But apart from being a defensive project, the castle was also about status. There were landscaped gardens and it would have been a luxurious family home. It is thought the castle was finished by 1392 but Edward Dalyngrigge died just three years later.
In 1483, Bodiam Castle was besieged and confiscated but later returned to the then owners, the Lewknor family, in 1485. During the Civil War in the 17th century, the castle was sold to raise funds for the Royalist cause, and then later, it was dismantled and left as a ruin. In 1829 it was bought by John Fuller (AKA Mad Jack) and partially restored. Then it was sold on and eventually, it came into the ownership of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India. He undertook an extensive program of research and repair and donated it to the National Trust on his death in 1925.
Exploring the ruins
Arriving from the Hastings direction, you suddenly round a corner and see the castle. It’s such an impressive sight, sitting proudly in its moat. You walk along a path (passing a WWII pillbox) and around the side to get access via a long wooden bridge. There are remains of the Barbican (a fortified outbuilding that protected the main gatehouse) and then you cross the bridge and enter via the impressive twin-towered gatehouse.
Inside, the castle is set out in a quadrangular shape with four towers and a central courtyard. With the help of information boards, you can explore the ruins of the great hall, the kitchen, private apartments, and servants’ quarters as well as the towers and chapel. Despite being in ruins, you get a real sense of how magnificent it must have once been here and you can almost hear the whispers of the families who lived here so long ago. Being able to climb the towers and look down gives you a real sense of proportion and it’s hard not to be intrigued by the history of the place. When you have finished exploring the castle, there are also extensive grounds where you can walk.
Bringing history alive
The ruins are compelling and fun to explore and the National Trust hosts lots of things for kids. Throughout the year, they have history and nature-themed family-friendly activities such as crafts, trails, and quests, with Medieval costumed characters, storytelling, and armour demonstrations.
If you’re looking for half-term ideas, or just love exploring a good Sussex ruin, Bodiam should be on your list. And if you’ve enjoyed this post about Bodiam Castle, you may also enjoy: