Nothing beats a day out at an English Heritage property, especially one that represents some of the best-preserved Norman architecture in the whole country. Rochester Castle sits on the banks of the River Medway at a point that has been of strategic importance throughout the centuries. Despite multiple sieges, it stands proud to this day, complete with thick walls and crenulations.
What will you discover?
The current castle sits on the site of a former Roman settlement, which was built to guard a crossing point on the river. This bridge was important, as it allowed the legions of soldiers to make their way between Dover and London. When in 1087, Bishop Gundulf – architect to William the Conqueror – began the construction of Rochester Castle, the remains of the original Roman walls were incorporated into the design.
By 1127, custody of the castle had fallen to William de Corbeil, the Archbishop of Canterbury. With the blessing of Henry I, he set about building the great keep, which remains the most impressive part of the fortification to this day. Its footprint measures 70 square feet, with the structure stretching 113 feet into the air and capped with traditionally-styled battlements, which are great fun for pretending to shoot arrows from.
Fire the kids’ imaginations with the story of King John, who used the fat of 40 pigs to start a fire and undermine the south-east tower and enter the castle. This 1215 incident was just one of the three occasions when it came under siege, leaving parts of the structure in need of repair. The round tower looks different in style, due to being rebuilt as a consequence. Take a look at the scale model in the chapel to see how the castle has changed over time.
A visit to Rochester Castle is always fascinating, but at various times of the year there are special events that will make your trip even better. These include:
- Medieval Merriment living history event – August 11th and 12th
- Robin Hood and His Merry Men outdoor theatre production – August 21st
- Luna Cinema film screenings under the stars – September 21st to 23rd
Every school holiday, the castle also runs special craft activities and family-friendly trails to keep everyone entertained. These often have a theme, such as Easter, or a historical connection.
How to get to Rochester Castle
Make your visit to Rochester Castle as stress-free as possible by hiring a coach. This will allow you to transport all your friends and family, as well as their packed lunches and waterproof clothes, to the attraction without having to worry about directions, parking or having enough drivers.
Photo credit: iStock/mbtaichi