Notes: Castle well sign-posted. Dedicated car parking available for the castle with ample parking space. NT members note you need to show you membership card before entry to the car park!
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The very impressive and picturesque remains of a late medieval castle that, although with a ruinous interior, is impressively intact on its exterior. Certain battlements can be accessed giving good views. As with most NT properties it is extremely well presented.
1. The Dalyngrigge surname was taken from a re-working of Dalling Ridge, near East Grinstead, where the family owned a small amount of land.
2. Richard II granted the licence to crenellate Bodiam on 20 October 1385.
Style over substance? Bodiam Castle is a textbook medieval castle but in reality was a stylised house for low born landowner seeking to improve his status. Besieged twice, by Richard III and a Parliamentary Army during the Civil War, the castle’s inadequate defences led to early surrender on each occasion.
HISTORY OF BODIAM CASTLE
Sir Edward Dalyngrigge was a minor landowner who through inheritance, marriage and military adventure abroad amassed considerable wealth. In particular his activities during the Hundred Years War, where he served under the Earls of Arundel and operated on quasi-mercenary expeditions with Sir Robert Knollys, gave him prestige and influence at court. This led to appointments in his native Sussex; he was made a Commissioner of Array in 1377 and a Justice of the Peace in 1380. It was Edward who built Bodiam Castle between 1385 and 1388 having been granted a licence, by Richard II, to fortify his existing manor there. In fact Edward chose to re-build his home into the impressive castle seen today.
The reason for the construction of Bodiam Castle is hotly debated; did Edward build it for defence or style? In supporting an argument for the former the vulnerability of the Sussex coast to a French invasion is often cited; it is certainly correct that by the late fourteenth century the Hundred Years War had turned against the English. Rye and Folkestone were raided by the French in 1377 and Winchelsea in 1380 - all occurred less than a decade before Bodiam was started. But on balance the evidence suggests the construction was to consolidate his success and reflect his hard won status. The shallow and easily drainable moat, the limited field of fire of the artillery positions, the large windows and thin walls suggest defence - at least against an organised military force - was clearly a low priority. With Edward having been at best minor gentry, he sought to make a clear statement about his success effectively buying credibility amongst the nobility.
The Dalyngrigge male line died out in 1470 and it passed by marriage to the Lewknor family. In 1483 the then owner, Sir Thomas Lewknor, incurred the wrath of Richard III leading to Bodiam being besieged by Royal forces in 1484. The defences though were inadequate and the castle was quickly surrendered where it was seized by the Crown until restored by Henry VII after his victory over Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485).
The final military action at the castle took place in 1643. By this stage the castle was owned by John Tufton, a prominent Royalist but was placed under siege by a Parliamentary army under Sir William Waller. As with the 1484 siege it ended rapidly due to the inadequate defences. The timely surrender did not save the castle however and it was slighted on orders of Parliament. It remained ruinous until it was restored in the nineteenth century and then granted to the National Trust in 1925 by the last private owner, Lord Curzon.