A large motte with limited masonry fragments of an elongated ‘D’ shaped curtain wall and square tower on the summit. The bailey has been obliterated by landscaping. Access to the motte summit is via the local Tourist Information Centre who will issue a key.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Castle is managed by local council.
1. The castle derives its name from the Saxon words waite, meaning forest clearing, and marr meaning bog.
Car Parking Option
Notes: Castle is found within Castle Park off Link Road in Bishop’s Stortford. The site is not sign-posted for vehicle users but easily found. Extensive car parking facilities in the vicinity.
River Stort. This river actually took its name from the settlement, rather than vice versa, and was originally channelled around the castle to form a water filled moat.
Possibly a Saxon fortification that was converted into a motte-and-bailey structure by the Normans, Waytemore Castle (also known as Bishop’s Stortford Castle) was property of the church. The castle was later attacked and destroyed by King John who, following his reconciliation with the Pope, was forced to rebuild the site.
HISTORY OF WAYTEMORE CASTLE
The origins of Waytemore Castle are uncertain with it being mooted as a former Saxon fort forming part of the frontier between the Viking controlled Danelaw and the Kingdom of Wessex. The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum in AD 884 had established the southern boundaries of the Danelaw along the line of the Roman Watling Street which ran from London to Chester. This placed Bishop’s Stortford into the domain of the Danelaw but in AD 903 the war resumed under the direction of Edward the Elder, King of Wessex. He built a fort at Hereford around AD 913 and it is probable that Waytemore was raised at the sametime - it provided command and control over the adjacent fording point over the River Stort. By AD 917 Edward's campaign had been successful with both Cambridge and East Anglia submitting to him.
By the mid eleventh century, Stortford was a small Saxon settlement and was procured in 1060 by William, Bishop of London who had been one of the Normans invited to England by Edward the Confessor. He played a key role post the invasion in reconciling the peoples of East Anglia with the conquest but circa-1070 a major rebellion erupted in the East Midlands led by Hereward the Wake. It is probable Waytemore Castle was erected at this time with the site converted into a traditional motte-and-bailey fortification by the invaders. Whether it was Royal troops, or the Bishop himself, that constructed the castle is unknown.
Surprisingly Waytemore Castle wasn't referenced in the Domesday Book (1086), perhaps indicative of the limited economic value of the site, but was certainly in existence in 1086 for it was granted by William I to Maurice, Bishop of London. The castle was rebuilt in stone in the first half of the twelfth century with substantial defences - the newly built curtain wall on top of the motte, which was configured in an unusual elongated 'D' shape, was 3 metres thick. A tall stone Keep, perhaps 20 metres tall, was added circa-1135. The substantial bailey enclosed around 4 acres including a Great Hall and all the domestic support facilities for such a community.
The castle's heyday coincided with the Anarchy - the civil war over the English succession between Queen Matilda and King Stephen. Prior to his death in 1135, Henry I had made the leading magnates of the realm swear allegiance to his daughter, Matilda. However, as the old King passed away his barons switched allegiance to her cousin, Stephen. As the country destabilised, Waytemore Castle was attacked by Anselm, Abbot of St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk who hoped to acquire the Bishopric of London. The castle withstood the siege but when the civil war started in 1139, it was offered by Matilda as a bribe to Geoffrey de Manderville, Sheriff of Essex to secure his support. He owned nearby Thorley and Saffron Walden and the acquisition of Waytemore would have connected his estates. However, the move was opposed by the church, and ultimately Geoffrey never got his hands on the site.
The castle remained as part of the Bishopric of London until 1208 when it was seized by King John who was locked in a feud with the Pope over succession to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. England was placed under Interdict and the King retaliated by confiscating church property including Stortford and Waytemore Castle. He demolished the latter but, when later forced to reconcile with the Pontiff, was forced to rebuild it at his own expense.
The newly rebuilt Waytemore Castle continued in use for another three centuries predominantly being used as a Bishop's Court (clergy were subject to religious rather than secular legal proceedings) and substantial repairs were made in the late fourteenth century. By 1545 though the Bishops of London has moved their court to nearby Hockerhill and the castle was allowed to drift into ruin. Use as a court facility continued but the neglected remains joined the long list of fortifications slighted by Parliament after the Civil War. It was never rebuilt.