Kenilworth Castle - Sarah Woodbury

Kenilworth Castle

It is thought that a castle has stood at Kenilworth in Warwickshire, since Saxon times. It is likely that the original structure was destroyed in the early 11th century during the wars between the Saxon King of England, Edmund, and Canute, King of the Danes.

100 years later, in 1129, the Norman King Henry I gave the land upon which Kenilworth now stands to his Chamberlain, a Norman noble named Geoffrey de Clinton, who at the time was both Treasurer and Chief Justice of England. Shortly afterwards, Geoffrey founded an Augustinian priory and built the current castle. This new original structure probably started out as a modest motte-and-bailey timber castle and even today the large earth mound that formed the base of the motte can clearly be seen.

The castle itself is built of red sandstone and represents five centuries of thinking on military architecture. In addition to the water defenses, the castle was protected by multiple walls. At the most exterior was a ‘braies’, a fortification with palisades, of which only fragments of masonry and earthworks remain. The barbican that was once the main approach to the castle is now a car park.

A second gatehouse guarded a long causeway that ran from the outer defenses to the main castle itself, and also acted as a dam. The castle then was fortified by an outer curtain wall that protected the outer bailey, and then an inner wall and an inner bailey that exploited the natural defenses of the knoll upon which the original Norman tower was built. The walls of that tower were at one time 16 feet thick and rose to a height of 98 feet.

In addition, other aspects of the castle which are still visible today are the remains of the great hall, the main gatehouse, and multiple towers, all of which were renovated many times over the centuries of use.

Kenilworth saw many important moments in English history, including the longest siege of the medieval period, the removal of Edward II from the throne of England, and was the place where Henry V received the famous tennis balls from the Dauphin of France that led to the Battle of Agincourt.

The castle was then slighted and mostly destroyed during the English Civil War.

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