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Saltwood Castle
The history of Saltwood Castle is full of incident, for the importance of the position for coastal defence was early recognised.There are signs that, at the head of an inlet of the sea here, the Britons threw up earthworks, which later the Romans strengthened. As their line of communication with Rome lay through this part of Kent, the Romans clung to it after all else was lost. But their desperate resistance to the Saxons was in vain,and A.D. 488 Osric, the son of Hengist, built a fort here.
In the time of Canute and in his presence, Haldane, a Saxon thegn, gave the manor of Saltwood, with Hythe as an appanage, to the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury (1026), and the close connection with See continued till Cranmer's day. Lanfranc, dividing the property of See, kept Saltwood Manor; it became an "honour" held under the Archbishops by different knights. Hugo de Montfort repaired and strengthened it; Henry of Essex, Barn de Raleigh and Constable of England, rebuilt it in Henry 11's day (1154). The walls of his chapel still stand, showing traces of the windows on the south side, while other architectural remains indicate its ecclesiastical nature. The stone-ribbed ceiling of his gate-house, the portcullis grooves, the hook-stones and hooks for the gates may still be seeing the back room in the gate-house. Raleigh was Warden of the Cinque Ports and also Hereditary Standard bearer to the King, but for cowardice and treason, in the Welsh wars, forfeited his lands, and the King then seized the Castle of Saltwood, which he granted to Randulph de Broc. Thus Saltwood Castle became associated with one of the most striking and lurid incidents in English history.

Becket, on becoming Archbishop, claimed Saltwood as an ancient possession of See, and thus roused de Broc's undying enmity. When in 1174 the four knights, impelled by Henry's frenzied words against Becket, rushed homewards from his presence (1174), it was by arrangement with de Broc that, after landing , two at Dover, two at Winchelsea, they met at Saltwood Castle. The spiral stone stairs and the lower rooms in the square portion of the gate-house are of previous date, and may therefore be connected with this portentous meeting, when, the candles being extinguished, in the darkness of the long winter night of December 28th, they and their excommunicated host concerted the murder. Early next day they galloped the fifteen miles along the straight line of the old Roman Stone Street to Canterbury, and there, one of the de Brocs who had charge of the Archbisop's palace, during his absence, guided the four murderers to the fatal deed. Then by the red glare of aurora borealis, the four knights rode back that stormy night to Saltwood Castle.
As de Broc forbade the monks to lay the Archbishop amongst his predecessors, he was buried in the crypt of Canterbury. It was believed that "a new burst of miraculous power had broken out at the tomb", and for three centuries his body lay amongst treasures of art and devotion, a centre to which streamed a constant succession of pilgrimages from all parts of Europe. Many of the devout pilgrims from north-east Europe landed at Hythe and passed under the walls of Saltwood Castle on their way, by bridle-path over the downs or along old British roads through Stowting or Wye, to the shrine of de Broc's victorious victim.
The Archbishops soon regained possession of the castle, for King John granted "Saltwode" afresh to See. They frequently resided here, and later on a chapel in the castle was dedicated to "St. Mary and St. Thomas."
Many are the entries relating to Saltwood in the archiepiscopal registers. In 1286 a "mandamus", relating to Romsey Abbey, is issued by Archbishop Peckham from Saltwood Castle.About 1347 the Archbishop pays "aid" for Saltwood when the Black Prince was knighted. Archbishop Whittlesey, also in Edward 111's reign, makes Simon de Burgh Constable of Saltwood at a salary of £20 per annum, payable at the Feasts of Easter and St. Michael.
In 1382 Archbishop Courtenay sold material of "Brockhull", the old de Broc house close by, together with that of other manor houses, to defray the expense of the additions which now form the bulk of the present castle. Courtenay incorporated much of Raleigh's buildings in his, and built a larger chapel near the "sally-port" and the keep wall, outside which remains of masonry show the probability of a wooden foot-bridge across the moat, to serve the village people on their way to Mass. The chapel must have been built over a crypt, since the position of the piscina shows that it was on a level with the large hall standing next to it. This Hall of Audience was erected above the strongly vaulted cellar, the roof of whichis of the same date as that in the lower portion the gatehouse built by Raleigh.The well in the centre of the inner bailie, is 62 feet deep and 8 feet square. Two square towers are found within the keep wall, the lower storeys of each having formed dungeons without light or ventilation. Courtenay, at the time of his death, was adding four bays to the front, to meet his circular towers, with new drawbridge, gates and portcullis; and had this been completed, and the old front opened to it, a fine drive would have been carried through to the inner bailie. Guard-rooms and little cells occupied the ground floor of the towers, which stand nearly 80 feet high. Two shields above the front door show Courtenay's arms alone, and impaled with those of the see.
Archbishop Arundel held here an examination of the famous Lollard, William Thorpe, who was "confined and grievously tormented" in the dungeons of Saltwood. He writes himself: "Some counselled the Archbishop to burne me by and by, and some counselled him to drowne me in the sea, for it is neare hand here"; and later, "Then was I led forth and brought into a foul unionist prison where I never came before".
Edward 11 and Queen Elizabeth 1 both visited the castle, and about 1540 Cranmer conveyed this manor to King Henry VIII and his successors.
An earthquake in 1580 did much damage; and during the restoration in 1882 working men's tokens, bearing German inscriptions, were discovered, showing by the date that German skilled labour was then employed for repairs. Further earthquakes and the neglect of man gradually completed the ruin of the place.
Changes of owners and reversions to the Crown were many, of note, Charles 1 settled a fee-farm of £24 8s 4d out of the Manor of Saltwood as a dower for Queen Henrietta Maria.
From about this date it was held by Sir William Boteler and his descendants till 1712, when Brook Bridges of Goodnestone bought it. In 1794 William Deedes of Sandling, after his marriage with sophia Bridges, exchanged lands near Goodnestone for the Saltwood Castle estate.The gatehouse was then used as a farmhouse, and fel into still greater decay, until it was saved from complete ruin by William Deedes, grandson of the first and uncle of William Deedes. This restoration, begun in 1882, was carried out on the lines of the original building by the well known architect Mr. Frederick Beeston.
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Saltwood Castle - Conservation


Our first step in conservation of Saltwood Castle was a sensitive assessment of its history and merits. While promoting the use of traditional materials and skills we keep up with current technical issues, regulations and materials which may have both positive and negative implications when applied to this important Grade 1 listed monument. We place a high premium on the retention of all historic fabric through conservation, maintenance and repair.


Thorough measured survey with a tape, rod and level. Modern measuring techniques, such as photogrammetry (the use of aerial photographs to make maps and surveys) and a Geophysical report, have been used to increase accuracy. Once the measurement was completed, there was analysis of the structural stability of the building and its living pattern of movement.

Daily Examination

We use industry standard moisture meters, and other detection systems - dehumidifiers are emptied regularly, and a daily examination of the fabric of the building, leaking gutters, and water down pipes.

Weekly Examination

High level clearing of leaves and detritus from gutters, and air vents.
Careful monitoring of the castle and surrounding grounds by our experienced groundsmen, including farm stock, domestic animals and vermin.

Historic England

We work closely with Historic England, architects, surveyors, planners, buildings archaeologists, structural engineers, conservation officers, builders, craftspeople and other building conservation professionals, to ensure that this important scheduled ancient Grade 1 listed monument is preserved for future generations.
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Saltwood Castle - Open Days

The Castle has regular Charity fund raising events, on open days, and educational and private group tours. Twice a year there is an Open Garden and Plant Fair and Crafts in the historic grounds Saltwood Castle, Saltwood, with the kind permission of Mrs. Jane Clark.
The grounds of Saltwood Castle are not normally open to the public so this is a rare chance to see this romantic, medieval castle.

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