Bodiam Castle: A Castle of Wonder
With its spiral staircases, battlements and surrounding moat, Bodiam Castle is the real thing. One of Britain’s most picturesque and evocative medieval ruins set in the heart of an historic landscape, much of its 600 years of history can still be seen today – from the iconic stone exterior rising dramatically above the moat, to the views across Sussex and its original fourteenth-century wooden portcullis.
Bodiam Castle was built by Sir Edward Dallingridge, a knight who made his name and fortune in France fighting in the Hundred Years War. Through his marriage to Elizabeth Wardeaux, he inherited the manor of Bodeham, as it was then called, upon her father’s death. An influential figure in Parliament, Sir Edward persuaded King Richard II in 1385 to grant him permission to crenellate. Not satisfied with merely improving the existing manor house, he decided to build a brand new castle, which had a working farmland, wharf and flour mill, as well as elaborately landscaped ponds and pools.
After the English Civil War, Bodiam Castle was abandoned and it gradually fell into disrepair. Several people are responsible for its rescue and conservation, the most notable being Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, who left the castle to the National Trust in 1926 who have cared for and conserved the castle and its grounds ever since.
Today visitors can experience medieval life inside the castle, enjoy walks and picnic around the grounds to appreciate its symmetry and imposing towers, or simply photography the many ducks and enormous carp in the moat.
Heather Packham, Visitor Experience Manager at Bodiam Castle comments: “The castle offers a fun packed event programme all year round – from archery, an annual fair, a knight’s and princess academy and even a visit from Father Christmas each December. It really is a place where you can relive your childhood and let your imagination run riot.”
Stories of our Ancestors
In-keeping with the history of colourful characters at Bodiam Castle, medieval characters roam the ruins on a daily basis. In authentic medieval costume they tell tales of the castle, how the household ran and host regularly changing demonstrations throughout the year – including everything from baking bread and minding your medieval manners to traditional masonry techniques which would have been used to build and repair the stonework.
Keen to tell intriguing and sometimes grizzly tales of medieval life, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the 14th-century mindset. Brave visitors can also join in the story too, acting as anything from spit boys or gong scourers who had the lovely job of clearing the castle’s 28 toilets.
A Knight’s Peril
Newly introduced in 2014, A Knight’s Peril is an interactive audio adventure designed for all the family. Visitors can take the challenge to follow their guide, Kate, a fictitious daughter of Sir Edward, to uncover a medieval murder plot unfolding within the castle walls.
Armed with a map and an ‘echo horn’, Kate guides you through the castle, where echoes of life in 1385 lead you to draw your own conclusions of who holds murderous intentions for Sir Edward. Drawing on historically real and imagined characters, A Knight’s Peril offers a glimpse into medieval life with all its sounds and social scheming, set inside real 14th-century walls.
Tea, cake and shopping
No visit to a National Trust property would be complete without a visit to the tearoom for a slice of cake or one of its scrumptious scones. Bodiam Castle is no exception and Marilyn’s Victoria sponge is worth a visit in itself.
The castle gift shop is also stocked with souvenirs, hamper items and knights and princess memorabilia for the little ones.
Events at Bodiam Castle
Easter holidays 28 March – 12 April
There is plenty to choose from over the Easter holidays to keep you and the family entertained, including a Cadbury Easter Egg Trail over the Easter weekend (3-6 April) archery lessons and between 7- 10 April, an Outlaw Academy where you can decide whether to use your skills to live off the land or defend the castle.
Spring Half Term 23 – 31 May
Come and play with medieval toys and games or maybe join Happening History from 26 – 31 May where you can make your very own medieval toy to take home with you.
Sir Edwards Fair 25 May
On the same day it was originally held in 1400’s, this annual fair is the chance for the whole family to enjoy a fun day out. There are plenty of games and activities to choose from, from trying on armour, tractor rides around the grounds to exploring local craft stalls.
Bodiam Castle is open all year round.
For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle
or call 01580 831324.