Exploring Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle is everyone's idea of the perfect 'bucket and spade' castle. But for the man who built it, Sir Edward Dallingridge, Bodiam was deadly serious. Veteran of the Hundred Years War, he wanted not only to counter the threat of French invaders, but also to impress his fractious neighbours. Today, it survives as a romantic ruin. Here are a few of the castles key features. Take a look around...

The moat at Bodiam Castle

The Moat

Anyone arriving at the castle had to cross over the moat on a wide wooden bridge. The moat around the castle made it impossible for enemies to dig under or climb over the walls.

 The unicorn crest of Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, above the entrance of The Gatehouse

Coats of Arms

Look up at the The Gatehouse wall to see the coats of arms and a helmet with a unicorn. The unicorn was Sir Edward’s badge and he wore a helmet like this when he went into battle.

Visitors on the north side of the approach to the Gatehouse at Bodiam Castle, East Sussex.

The Octagon

In the middle of the moat on the north side, is the Octagon. It was originally reached via a bridge that came across the moat, from the North West. The foundations still survive, preserved beneath the water. Visitors now reach the Octagon via a bridge from the north side of the moat.

Bodiam Castle Barbican

Barbican

On a rectangular island to the south of the Octagon is the Barbican, the remains of a fortified outbuilding that protected the main Gatehouse. This two-storey structure was occupied by a guard and had its own portcullis.

Bodiam Gatehouse and portcullis

The Gatehouse

The Gatehouse has massively thick walls to give the impression of being impenetrable and a crenellated parapet that could conceal archers. For defence there are gun loops to house hand-held canons. There were originally three portcullis gates, with the original outermost gate still remaining. The vault above features ring-bosses (or murder holes) through which missiles could be dropped on attackers.

Bodiam Castle's Postern Tower

Postern Tower

The Postern Tower was the tradesman’s entrance and was once used for delivering goods, via a drawbridge. It also once had a portcullis.

Bodiam Castle Courtyard

The Courtyard

Today the courtyard presents an array of irregular, ruined walls, where once there were neat facades of stone-built lodgings. Interpreting the layout requires some speculation but the essential framework remains clear.

Bodiam Castle The Screens Passage

The Screens Passage

Just off the central courtyard is the Screens Passage which divided the house between the service end and the principal lodgings. The three doorways once led to the Buttery, Kitchen and Pantry.

Bodiam Castle Kitchen fireplace

Kitchen

The Kitchen was reached through the central arches of the Screens Passage and has a huge roasting hearth in the south wall and a second hearth in the north, inset with bread or pastry ovens.

Bodiam Castle the great hall

The Great Hall

Once used for the daily communal meals of the household. The servants sat at benches with tables set lengthways down the hall. The Dallingridges were provided with a stepped dais so they sat facing the entire room.

Bodiam Castle The Well Room

The South West Tower

From the Kitchen, steps lead down into the south-western turret to a pool, probably fed by a spring. There is much speculation on what this pool was used for; a well to supply drinking water or a source of water for cooking, a place to hold fish or even for the Lords and Ladies of the castle to bathe in. The upper levels of this tower comprise fine accommodation for a kitchen steward rising to a dovecote with nesting boxes.

Bodiam Chapel Window

The Chapel

The Chapel’s main entrance was from the courtyard up steps to a space with cream and green Flemish tiles and divided by a fine screen carved in chalk. There was a room above the Chapel called an Oratory where Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth would sit, being the most important people in the castle, with the idea they were higher up and therefore closer to God.