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BERKHAMSTED CASTLE

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The now ruined Berkamstead Castle is believed to have been erected by Robert, Count of Mortain and half brother of William the Conqueror and dates from the late 11th century. Between 1155 and 1165 the castle was owned by Thomas a Becket, the Chancellor, when considerable sums were spent on building. In 1254 Richard Earl of Cornwall was responsible for the construction of a three storey tower and in 1337 it was acquired by Edward III. Further alterations were carried out in 1360 to make the castle habitable for King John of France. The castle has been unoccupied since 1495.

The castle comprises a steep-sided earthen mound, or motte, standing at the north-east corner of an oblong courtyard, or bailey. On the motte are the foundations of a keep, about 18 metres in diameter and containing a well. The motte mound is around 14 metres high and 55 metres in diameter at the base. The bailey, covering an area of about 1.3 hectares, measures approximately 130 metres north-south by 100 metres east-west and is enclosed by a flint-built curtain wall with half-round towers at intervals of about 55 metres. At the edge of the keep are traces of a building, the function of which is unclear. On the west side of the bailey the remains of a rectangular building are thought to represent a chapel while it is probable that the hall and living quarters were also on this side. A wide ditch surrounds the bailey and the motte and an outer bank and ditch surrounds these earthworks. The outer defences have been altered by the construction of the railway and road to the south. To the north and east is a bank that has at least eight earthen bastions set against its outer face which are considered to be the remains of siege platforms.

This site is under the guardianship of English Heritage.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the Historic England website.