Haughley Castle was built in the late eleventh century by Hugh de Montfort to control the main road between Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds as well as the nearby River Gipping (which was navigable at this time). Hugh came from Montfort-sur-Risle in Normandy and funded fifty ships and sixty Knights for William I's invasion of England. He had accompanied the initial landings and fought at the Battle of Hastings where he allegedly rescued William Malet. He was richly rewarded with over one hundred manors spread across Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk. The grants included the Honour of Haughley which had previously been owned by an Anglo-Saxon landowner called Guthmund. Haughley was his caput (administrative centre) and this was simply taken over by Hugh who then built the motte to make a clear statement that he was now overlord. Hugh seems to have spent little time at Haughley however and its main purpose was to provide soldiers for the garrison of Dover Castle for which he was Constable.
The castle itself was initially built as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. A plan dated 1554 showed a rectangular bailey to the south of the motte which perhaps followed the boundary surrounding the former Anglo-Saxon settlement. The surrounding ditches were flooded by diverting a nearby stream. The defences on top of the motte, which would originally have consisted of a timber palisade, were rebuilt in stone perhaps by Henry of Essex who was granted the castle by King Stephen in the mid-twelfth century.
Haughley Castle was seized by the Crown in 1163. Six years earlier Henry II had invaded North Wales with a large field army perhaps 30,000 men strong planning to defeat Owain ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd. The invasion was a disaster and the English force was badly mauled at the Battle of Ewloe in which Henry himself had to be extracted and rushed to safety. Although Henry ultimately forced Owain to make peace, the expedition had been a humiliation for the King and scapegoats were sought! One was Henry of Essex who had dropped the Royal standard during the battle and was subsequently ostracised. In 1163 he was accused of treason by Robert de Montfort, a descendant of the original builder. The issue was settled by a judicial duel between the two men which Henry lost. His estates were confiscated and, although he survived, he spent the rest of his days as a monk in Reading Abbey.
The castle was destroyed in 1173 when it was attacked by Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester. He had joined the rebellion of Henry the Young King against Henry II and his assault on Haughley was part of a co-ordinated strike across the centre of England in conjunction with Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. Haughley Castle was held at this time by Ralph de Broc, a Knight who had been involved in the events that led to the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Ralph was unable to protect the structure from the large force gathered by Robert and he and his supporters fled leaving the castle to be plundered and burnt by the rebels. Whilst they were later defeated at the Battle of Fornham (1173), the castle was never rebuilt. During the eighteenth century Richard Ray levelled what was left of the Norman Keep.
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Haughley Castle consists of earthwork remains of a (large) motte and some outer defences. The motte itself is privately owned with no public access but can be viewed from an adjacent right of way.
Motte. The remains of the castle are dominated by the large motte which still has water filled defences surrounding it. The bailey occupied the area of the (now) open field to the south.
Haughley Castle was a motte-and-bailey fortification built to dominate a former Anglo-Saxon caput. The castle was seized by Henry II in 1163 but a decade later was attacked by forces representing his own son, Henry the Young King, who had rebelled against him. The fortification was destroyed in this assault and never rebuilt.
Haughley Castle is not sign-posted but is relatively easy to find. On-road car parking is possible on Duke Street opposite the motte and a footpath leading through the site can be accessed from the grounds of the church. There is also a lay-by on Bacton Road with adjacent access to the church grounds.
Duke Street, IP14 3QS