It is not certain when the first fortification was raised at Essendine but it may have been a Norman ring-and-bailey fortification raised in the latter half of the eleventh or early twelfth century. If so evidence of that structure has been eliminated as in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century it was converted into a manorial site either by William de Bussew or Robert de Vipont.
Essendine Castle consisted of a central, broadly square platform that would have hosted the high status residence. It was surrounded by a wet moat. To the south was a bailey which is still partly occupied by St Mary's Church, originally the castle's chapel. A further enclosure to the north served as a fishpond, an important source of food in the medieval household, and there were additional ponds to the south of the church. The moats and ponds were fed from the adjacent West Glen River that runs to the east of the site. A park was enclosed in vicinity of the castle no later than the thirteenth century which was stocked with deer.
The castle passed through the hands of numerous families during the medieval period. In 1296 it was owned by Robert de Clifford, in 1318 it was held by John de Cromwell and in 1336 it was held by the Despeners. In 1447 it passed to Cecily, Duchess of Warwick and thereafter it remained in the hands of the Earls of Warwick until taken into Crown ownership by Henry VII in 1499 (following the execution of Edward Plantagenet, Seventeenth Earl of Warwick). Elizabeth I later granted it to William Cecil, Lord Treasurer. It went out of use sometime during the seventeenth century.
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Essendine Castle consists of substantial earthworks and is one of the most impressive surviving examples of a medieval moated manorial site in the region. In addition the church of St Mary's, which was contemporary with the castle and was enclosed within its bailey, is a fine example of a Norman ecclesiastical building. The castle site itself is on private land with no public access but it can be viewed from the adjacent church grounds.
Essendine Castle Plan. The manorial site consisted of two substantial platforms surrounded by a wet ditch fed from the West Glen River.
Ditches. The large ditches were once filled with water.
Castle Platform. The castle was built upon a roughly square platform. No visible traces remain of the high status manor house that would once have occupied the site.
St Mary's Church. The impressive church contains fabric dating back to circa-1130. It was probably contemporary with whatever structure pre-dated the castle, most probably a Norman ringwork fortification.
Essendine Castle was a medieval moated manorial site built in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century possibly on the site of an earlier fortification. It was surrounded by substantial water features which served both defensive and economic functions. The castle's chapel survives and is a fine example of a Norman church.
Essendine Castle is found on the A6121 to the eastern end of the village of the same name. There is a small car park at the junction with Manor Farm Lane. The castle site can be seen from the grounds of the church.
Car Parking Option
Bourne Road, PE9 4LH