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Author Topic: Saltwood Castle  (Read 7222 times)

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Offline kyn

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Re: Saltwood Castle
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2012, 16:17:38 »
The present castle stands on the site of earlier castles, the first one being reported to have been constructed in 488 when the son of Hengist, Aesc, alongside the King of Kent, built a castle here.  Evidence of early use of the site has been found nearby in Hayne’s Wood from the Bronze age.  Strategically the site was important as the sea once reached the foot of the hill where the castle stands.  The first record of the castle is on a charter of King Egbert written in 833.

In 1026 the manor of Saltwood was granted to the priory of Christ Church in Canterbury, the deed was signed by Canute and a number of archbishops and noblemen.  One of the noblemen was Earl Godwin.  Under William the Conqueror the castle was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury and let, under Knights’ service, to Hugo de Montfort.  It formed part of the string of fiefs granted from Hithe to the New Forest along the south coast of England.

The castle was replaced in the 12th century by the building now standing, for a short time around this period Henry d’Essex, Constable of England, stayed here.  For around 300 years the castle was shared between priests and soldiers.  The soldiers lived in the main gate house and the barbican tower.  The archbishop had rooms in the main gate house for when he was in residence and the priests lodged in the south and west side of the castle grounds.

Sentries were posted on the summit of Thorpe’s Tower, southern tower and the west tower which is above the dungeon.  If an alarm was sounded soldiers could access the battlements directly from the main gate house, likewise those staying in the barbican gate could access the outer bailey battlements from the 1st floor of the gateway.

A major part of the castles history is from its use to plot the assassination of Thomas Becket in 1170.  Thomas Becket was nominated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 and he was elected on 23rd May the same year.  Henry and Thomas had been close before this and Henry hoped that Thomas’s loyalty would stay with the King but was disappointed when instead, Thomas began to be a staunch protector of the churches rights, creating any conflicts between him and the King.  One of the earlier conflicts was over the jurisdiction of secular courts over English Clergy men, the King believed they should be dealt with by the King and Thomas believed that they should be dealt with by the church courts.  Thomas began to claim back land belonging to the church and this created more issues between him and the King, as part of this Thomas had requested the restoration of Saltwood Castle as the ecclesiastical palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury; however, Henry gave it to one of his loyal barons Runulf de Broc. 

King Henry began to attempt to influence other bishops against Becket, beginning at Westminster in October 1163, the King was seeking approval of the traditional rights of the royal government in regard to the church, and this led to the constitutions of Clarendon, where Thomas Becket was officially asked to sign off on the King’s rights.  King Henry presided over the assemblies at Clarendon Palace on 30th January 1164, he won over nearly all of the English Clergy in attendance and Becket even agreed to the constitution, but he refused to officially sign the documents.  Henry summoned Thomas to appear before a great council at Northampton Castle on the 8th October the same year to answer allegations of contempt of royal authority, Thomas Becket was convicted of the charges and charged out of the trial and fled to the continent.

King Henry began to harass Thomas’s friends and supporters but Henry's rival, King Louis VII of France offered Becket protection.  Thomas spent almost two years in the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, his return to Sens was due to the King threatening the order.  In retaliation Becket threatened excommunication and interdict against the King and bishops of the kingdom, those who sided with the King were excommunicated by Becket, forcing the Pope to send Papal legates in 1167 with the authority to act as arbitrators.  Three years later in 1170 Pope Alexander sent delegates to impose a solution on the dispute; soon Henry offered a compromise that would allow Thomas to return to England from exile.

During 1169 King Henry had decided to crown his young son Henry, as King of England, to do this the Archbishop of Canterbury needed to conduct the ceremony.  Due to this and the increased embarrassment to Henry he began to soften towards Thomas, but Thomas refused to crown Henry’s son forcing him to have the Archbishop of York crown him instead.  Thomas Becket laid an interdict on England which forced Henry back to negotiations, they finally reached agreement in July 1170 and Becket returned to England at the beginning of December.

Unfortunately this was not the end of the conflict, soon after he returned Becket excommunicated Roger de Pont L’Eveque, the Archbishop of York, Gilbert Foliot, the bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon, the Bishop of Salisbury, for their part in the crowning coronation, infuriating the King.  In a fit of temper he announced “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!”

Some of the men in the room took this as an order to do something about Thomas Becket, four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton set out towards Canterbury to do something about the situation.  The men rode to Saltwood Castle where they stayed the night with Ranulf de Broc, presumably planning their attack on Thomas.  Early next morning the rode out of Saltwood Castle with a plan and presumably travelled the 15 miles to Canterbury via Stone Street, the Roman Road.

They arrived in Canterbury on the 29th December 1170.  Accounts by Monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim state that the knights placed their weapons under a tree outside the cathedral and hid their chain mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket.  The knights found Becket and ordered him to accompany them to Winchester to account for his actions, Becket refused and the knights left to collect their weapons.  Becket began to walk towards the main hall for vespers, however, the knights caught up with him with their swords drawn near a door in the monastic cloister, the stairs into the crypt and the stairs leading to the quire of the cathedral, where the monks were chanting vespers.

Edward Grim went on to describe the attack, where he himself was injured:

...The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.

After the assassination of Thomas Becket the castle was returned once again under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the 14th century gun ports were added to the gate house by Henry Yelvele, who is known as the “English father of the science of artillery fortification”.  Saltwood Castle remained a church property until the reign of King Henry VIII when Hythe and saltwood were seized by the crown.  On the 6th April 1580 an earthquake struck the south coast and the castle was damaged and made uninhabitable.  The castle remained a ruin until the 19th century and put back into use as the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the Second World War the castle was under slight protection from Nazi Hermann Goering who had ordered the Luftwaffe to not bomb Hythe as he wanted Saltwood Castle to become his post-invasion home.

The castle was bought in 1955 by art historian Lord Kenneth Clark of Saltwood, who died in 1983.  The castle was passed down to his son, Alan Clark (1928 – 1999), a minister of Margaret Thatcher’s government.  After Alan Clark’s death he was buried in the castle grounds.  The castle is still owned by the Clark family today.

Offline TowerWill

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Saltwood Castle
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2011, 10:25:53 »
On the railways we had a saying"in fog or falling snow to the mess room you do go".A quip on the guard's detonator protection duties in those days .
Country pubs were a useful refuge too if stranded by snow.
I used to see Mr Alan Clark now and again when i was checking tickets on the train.He'd get off/on at Sandling station.

Offline unfairytale

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Saltwood Castle
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2011, 20:29:35 »
I took a photo of the castle in January in the middle of a snowstorm whilst out for a new years walk. I was going to walk in a loop so I could return to the castle to take a pic of the two WW2 road-block cones by the main gate, but the snow got so bad we were forced to take shelter in the local pub. :)
When you've got your back to wall, there's only one thing to do and that's to turn around and fight. (John Major)


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