Bodiam Castle a brief history

A view across the moat to Bodiam Castle in the early morning sunshine

Bodiam is the quintessential English castle, an echo from distant and very different times.

The Spirit of Bodiam

The castle survives physically as a moated ruin within the Rother valley, but its spirit resides in its power to capture your imagination and allow you to ‘look into another world’.  Reactions are distinct and personal: for some, the place evokes imagery of medieval knights; for others, it is the ultimate ‘bucket and spade’ castle. 

A turbulent age

Bodiam Castle was built between about 1380-85 by Sir Edward Dallingridge and his wife Elizabeth. They lived in a turbulent age: from the Black Death in 1348; through the protest and social upheaval it provoked; to the royal disputes that led to the wars of the Roses.

Throughout the second half of the fourteenth century, England was at war with France, which brought Sir Edward prestige and wealth. Sir Edward was a soldier of fortune in north-western France from 1367, Knight of the Shire of Sussex after 1379 and Warden of London in 1392, a promotion made by King Richard II (reigned 1377-99).  As a servant of King Richard, Dallingridge reached the highest circles of English society.  Bodiam Castle opens a window onto late fourteenth-century England, the world of Chaucer. 

A romantic relic

The castle is an exceptional survival, both as a work of architecture and for its medieval setting. In contrast, its interiors fell into ruin without any record surviving of how they were organised. 

View overlooking the interior of Bodiam Castle built between 1385 and 1388
View overlooking the interior of Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, built between 1385 and 1388
View overlooking the interior of Bodiam Castle built between 1385 and 1388

Reappraisal as a romantic relic of archaeological curiosity in the eighteenth century, the castle was repaired by a series of owners, most notably Lord Curzon, who owned Bodiam from 1917.

The North front of the Castle and Barbican at Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
The North front of the Castle and Barbican at Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
The North front of the Castle and Barbican at Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

He bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1926, since when numerous discoveries and reinterpretations have thrown new light on the building and its site.