COUNTY YARNS - Bodiam Castle: a licence to thrill

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle

In 1385 the French King Charles VI determined to invade England. He assembled a fleet of over 1,000 ships off the coast of Flanders.

Originally intending to land in August, Charles eventually postponed the attack to the following year.

In fact nothing ever came of the French threat. But it did lead to a wonderful legacy for East Sussex: Bodiam Castle. King Richard II realized England’s defences were vulnerable and he ordered swift defensive measures be taken. One of these came in a licence issued at Westminster in October 1385 for Edward Dalyngrigge to fortify his manor house.

It read: “... Know that of our special grace we have granted and given licence on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, so far as in us lies, to our beloved and faithful Edward Dalyngrigge Knight, that he may strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and may construct and make into a Castle his manor house of Bodyham, near the sea, in the County of Sussex, for the defence of the adjacent country, and the resistance to our enemies ...”

Though the licence was specific about his existing manor house, Dalyngrigge instead chose a fresh site to build a castle on and took advantage of the opportunity to give it a grand and noble setting in the midst of a moat that is really more of an artificial lake. The castle was subject to a lot of restoration work in the 19th century but looks very much as it would have done in medieval times.