Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The other Walmer Castle

It's not widely known that there is another, older, castle at Walmer. Built on higher ground next to the Norman church, and contemporaneous with it, Walmer Court is now little more than a ruin. In its prime, however, it must have been the most impressive building in the area - a symbol of the power of the Norman lord Hugh de Auberville.
Walmer Court, as it is known, was built as a fortified manor house rather than a castle like Dover, which was rebuilt in stone some decades later. It had two floors, a shingled wooden roof, a turret at each corner and an external stairway to the main entrance on the top floor. A dry moat surrounded the castle and the church.
The land was was presumably given to the de Auberville family after the Conquest, along with more at Westenhanger, Oxney and Langdon (where they later founded the abbey) and elsewhere in England - little is known about them apart from a few entries in local rolls and the name died with Joan d'Auberville of Sandwich in the late thirteenth century, whose possessions passed to her son Nicholas Kyriel.
My musings about Charles Dickens (with his Kent connections) knowing about the local name were brought to a disappointed end when I realised that "Tess of the.." was of course written by Thomas Hardy.
The walls are quite thin for a castle - only about a metre at their widest, and were made by pouring mortar and rubble between two frames of shuttering and placing lines of flints along the outside for decoration. When occupation of the castle ceased, this material wasn't particularly valuable so was not robbed for newer buildings nearby (the shingle on the beach was, of course, free) meaning that the walls still stand.
The facings of Caen stone, by contrast, have almost all been taken away leaving jagged edges to windows and doorways, with just a few traces of the remaining.
Walmer Court is visible from the church but is on private land, and is maintained by the landowner who kindly allowed us access.

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