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ROCHESTER CASTLE

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The site of Rochester Castle which once controlled the bridge crossing of the Medway on the route from London to Canterbury and Dover. The castle was built soon after the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book, although the western curtain wall overlies an earlier Roman wall making it likely that this area of the castle was once within the Roman town of Durobreve. This was rebuilt for William Rufus by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester between 1087 and 1089. The four-storey keep is one of the largest in England. To the north of the keep an irregular bailey is all that can be seen of the 1088 construction. At the east end a section of wall with drum towers, the work of Henry III, survives. In 1127 Henry I gave the custody of the castle to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his successors and shortly afterwards construction of a stone keep began in the southern part of the bailey. The castle was carefully maintained, especially in 1172-73 and again in 1206 when a large sum was spent on its ditches, bridge, tower and other buildings. The castle was strengthened during the reign of Richard I, and during the siege of 1215 the curtain wall and southeast corner of the keep were undermined by King John's engineers. It was repaired in 1221-3. There was another siege in 1264 and the damage to the castle by Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare was considerable. A survey of 1340 shows the extent of the damage. A new building campaign, including a new angle tower, was undertaken in 1367-83 to finally repair the damage done during the siege. This was the last major period of repair. In 1610 James I sold the castle to Sir Anthony Weldon and it remained in his family until the 19th century. The castle grounds were leased from the Earl of Jersey by the City of Rochester in 1870 for use as a pleasure garden, and the remains of the outer gate and drawbridge were demolished by 1872. It was acquired by the City of Rochester in 1884 and is now in the care of English Heritage.

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