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Castle Hedingham, Essex, United Kingdom
Hedingham Castle dates from shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was built by Aubrey de Vere, one of William I's barons, who chose the location from the extensive lands granted by the king in lieu of services provided.
A large ditch was cut through a natural spur into the Colne Valley in order to form a ringwork and inner bailey, whilst an outer bailey extended south, further into the valley and into what is now the modern village of Castle Hedingham.
In 1133 Aubrey de Vere, a descendant (son, or, more probably, grandson) of the first Aubrey, was created Lord Great Chamberlain of England by King Stephen. He chose to modernise the castle he had inherited by commencing work on stone keep. This survives in a very good state of preservation to this day, and is open to the public.
The keep stands approximately 35m high, and commands the countryside around it from its elevated position atop the ringwork. It is constructed from flint rubble bound with lime mortar, but, very unusually for an Essex castle, is faced with ashlar stone, which had to be transported from Barnack in Northamptonshire.
The keep has four floors, including a fine hall known as the Great Hall or Banqueting Hall. The top floor was possibly added around the 15th century, replacing what was probably an impressive pyramid shaped roof in order to provide extra accommodation.
The castle was only besieged twice, in 1216 and 1217, during the dispute between King John and the barons. Two of the original four corner turrets are missing, but it seems more likely that their demise was a result of an attempt to demolish the building for materials than through military action.
The keep is the only mediaeval element of the castle to have survived, the hall, drawbridge and outbuildings all having been replaced during the Tudor period by structures which - with the exception of a fine late C15th brick bridge - have now also been lost. A country mansion was built by the Ashurst family during the early C18th, and this survives.
The castle was held by the de Vere family, who were granted the earldom of Oxford in the C12th by Empress Matilda, until the late C16th. Among the more famous earls are Robert de Vere, 9th earl of Oxford, John de Vere, 13th earl of Oxford, and Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.
The castle and estate are now owned by the Lindsay family, who are descendants of the de Veres.
Innes-Smith, Robert (2000) Hedingham Castle, Essex (official guidebook), English Life Publications, Derby
Anderson, Verily (1993) The De Veres of Castle Hedingham Terence Dalton Publishers, Lavenham (Suffolk)
RCHME (1995) Hedingham Castle - An Archaelogical Survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England RCHME October 1995
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