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Historic England Research Records

Bramber Castle

Hob Uid: 396239
Location :
West Sussex
Horsham
Bramber
Grid Ref : TQ1854510723
Summary : The remains of earthworks and standing ruins of Bramber castle which was occupied almost continuously from circa 1075 to about 1450 by the descendants of the founder, William de Braose. Excavations carried out in 1966-7 indicate how the castle evolved from a 'motte and bailey' type fortification, founded circa 1075, to an 'enclosure' type in the 12th century, with a stone keep, gatehouse and curtain wall. Subsequent alterations and rebuilding were carried out in the 14th century, however large scale subsidence saw the ruin of the castle during the 16th century.The castle was established as a defensive and administrative centre for the newly established Rape of Bramber (administrative area). The motte was raised nine metres above the level of the mound using marl quarried from an encircling ditch 15-17 metres wide and up to four metres deep. The whole mound, 170 metres north-south by 85 metres east-west, was enclosed within a wall or palisade, and a stone gatehouse guarded the only entrance on the south side. The motte was abandoned in the 12th century and a stone tower keep of three storeys was built over the gatehouse, and the motte ditch was backfilled. An outer ditch, in places 25 metres deep, below the hill top was dug around the hill and on its outer edge a bank was constructed to further strengthen the defences. Around the mound the wall was renewed or replaced in stone and still survives to a height of some three metres on the west side. The motte and fragments of standing stonework, possibly that of the keep, were mapped from aerial photographs as part of the English Heritage South Downs National Mapping Programme. All that remains of the castle now is the mound on which the castle stood and fragments of masonry of the surrounding wall.
More information : (TQ 18551070) Bramber Castle (NR) (rems of) (1)

Norman castle of the motte and bailey type probably built by the first William de Braose in the 11th c. Nothing of the keep remains except the mound on which it stood, and only fragments of the masonry of the surrounding wall. Scheduled. Ro coin found.(2-4)

Excavations in 1966 and 1967 showed that the motte was surrounded except to the NNE by a wide, shallow quarry ditch. Construction of the motte was followed by the building of a stone gatehouse with N-S entrance and single storey above. By the 12th c, it had been raised with a tall tower keep, the gate-way and several feet of its height being blocked with rubble. The W wall still stands to 70 feet and contains a fine 12th c window. A curtain wall was probably erected in the 12th c and the motte ditch, then no longer required, was filled in. The large outer ditch, some 70ft below the chalk plateau was constructed or remade (its date has not been established), involving scarping of the E side. The area N of the gate-house was built up with a dump of chalk and clay in which a coin of Henry II (c 1180) was dropped. Three successive buildings were erected in this area, while the kitchen lay to the W. The area was used as a rubbish dump in the 14th c when main occupation may have moved to the buildings erected E of the motte about this time. A section of the curtain wall shows a rebuilding of unknown date, which cannot be later than the 14th century.

A few sherds of Saxon pottery c 1000 were found on the original ground surface of the tower area.(5)

Bramber Castle as described above. Demolished during the Civil War (Notice).
Published 1:2500 survey revised.(6)

The 1966-7 excavation report seems to have ignored the investigations of Duke and Curwen in 1927. These showed clearly that the steep slopes around the church and carpark to the south of the mound demarcated a small bailey.(7)

Owned by the National Trust. Grade 1.(10)

Detailed report of the 1966-7 excavations, plus discussion of previous work and of documentary evidence. (11)

Bramber Castle is now owned by the National Trust and in the care of English Heritage. Excavation was carried out by the Central Excavation Unit in advance of consolidation work. Further excavation is likely to be necessary. (12)

Architectural description. (13)

Short account of history and structure. (14)

Refutation of theory of Saxon origins for castle. (15)

Mentions of castle within discussion of medieval Sussex. (16)

The castle was occupied almost continuously from 1075 to about 1450 by the descendants of the founder, William de Braose. Partial excavation of the site in 1966-7 revealed how the castle developed from a `motte and bailey' type to an `enclosure' type.

The castle was established as a defensive and administrative centre for the newly established rape of Bramber. The motte was raised 9m above the knoll level using marl quarried from an encircling ditch 15-17m wide and up to 4m deep. The whole knoll top, 170m north-south by 85m east-west, was enclosed within a wall or palisade, and a stone gatehouse guarded the only entrance on the south side. The motte was soon abandoned in favour of a stone tower keep of three storeys built over the gatehouse, and the motte ditch was backfilled. An outer ditch, which plunged to 25m below the knoll top in places, was dug around the knoll and on its outer edge a bank was constructed to strengthen further the defences. Around the knoll top the wall was renewed or replaced in stone and still survives to a height of some 3m on the west side.
Inside the castle were a number of buildings used until the 15th century. The footings of the access bridge on the south side of the castle survive beneath the modern structure here. Subsidence on a large scale saw the ruin of the castle during the 16th century. (17)

The castle was briefly a royal possession from 1208, but was returned to the de Braose family in the reign of Henry III. (18)

The earthwork remains of the castle motte and fragments of standing stonework, probably associated with the keep were mapped from aerial photographs as part of the English Heritage: South Downs NMP. (19)

Excavations in 1988 on a small section of the curtain wall on the west side of the castle reveal that it was a late rebuild, possibly dating to the 14th century on top of the original early 12th century wall. A possible wooden structure dating to 15th to 16th c was also revealed. (20)

The ruins of a Norman castle built by William de Braose c.1075. The remains consist of earthworks and part of the wall of the keep-gatehouse. (21)

Bramber Castle was founded as one of six administrative regions of Sussex, each of which was controlled by a castle, following the Norman Conquest in 1066. King John held the castle briefly, but is known to have carried out repairs to the buildings. The castle returned to the de Braose family until the 14th century when it passed to the Mowbray family. Following the castles ruin due to subsidence, its masonry was used for building roads in the area. The castle may have been briefly occupied by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War. Excavations revealed that the area north of the gatehouse was built up with clay and chalk and a serried of buildings were erected there. A kitchen lay to the west. The area was used as a rubbish dump in the 14th century, when the buildings east of the motte may have become the main accommodation. The lower courses of these structures can still be seen. (22)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1961
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Source Number : 2
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Chanctonbury RD, DEC-1950
Page(s) : 18
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Excavations at Bramber Castle, Sussex, 1966-7
Source details :
Page(s) : Nov-79
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 134
Source Number : 12
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Kerr JB. 1989. Work of the Central Excavation Unit
Page(s) : 16-18
Figs. : 15,16
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Medieval military architecture in England. Volume 1
Source details :
Page(s) : 264-73
Figs. :
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Source Number : 14
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 27
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 142, 1985
Source Number : 15
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Typescript in Sussex Pamphlets box 01-MAY-1972 (K Barton, E Holden)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Source Number : 16
Source : Archaeology in Sussex to AD 1500
Source details :
Page(s) : 71, 77, 89-90
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 29
Source Number : 17
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 31-Jul-91
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 18
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 575
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Source Number : 19
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : MAL 65013 050 24-MAR-1965
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Source Number : 20
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 278
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 32, 1988
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ministry of Works. 1961. Ancient Monuments in England and Wales, 89
Page(s) : 89
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10
Source details :
Page(s) : 51
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 22
Source : Heritage Unlocked: London and the South East
Source details :
Page(s) : 60-61
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Sussex archaeological collections : relating to the history and antiquities of the counties of East and West Sussex
Source details : MH Bloxham
Page(s) : 243
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 16, 1864
Source Number : 5
Source : Current archaeology
Source details : Selkirk
Page(s) : 131-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 05-Nov-67
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 09-JAN-70
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Source Number : 7
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : F G Aldsworth
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Sussex archaeological collections : relating to the history and antiquities of the counties of East and West Sussex
Source details : F Duke and EC Curwen
Page(s) : 241-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 68, 1927
Source Number : 9
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : W Sussex CC Arch Record
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 10
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Horsham, 1980
Page(s) : 40
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Founded c.1075
Monument End Date : 1085
Monument Start Date : 1065
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1200
Monument Start Date : 1101
Monument Type : Castle, Curtain Wall, Keep, Gatehouse
Evidence : Earthwork, Structure, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered 14th C
Monument End Date : 1400
Monument Start Date : 1301
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork, Extant Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Ruined 16th C
Monument End Date : 1600
Monument Start Date : 1501
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Extant Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post Medieval
Monument End Date : 1600
Monument Start Date : 1501
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork, Extant Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : WS 21
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : SX 21
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 12859
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 298336
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 176
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 11 SE 3
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1863-01-01
End Date : 1863-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1908-01-01
End Date : 1909-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1926-01-01
End Date : 1926-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1956-01-01
End Date : 1956-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1966-01-01
End Date : 1967-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TQ 11 SE 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1970-01-09
End Date : 1970-01-09
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH OF BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: SOUTH DOWNS PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT BRAMBER CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE SIGNAGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRAMBER CASTLE MOTTE
Activity type : THEMATIC SURVEY
Start Date : 2015-01-01
End Date : 2016-12-31