Bungay Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Bungay Castle, defined by Earsham Street to the north, Castle Lane to the west, and Market Place to the east and bisected by Castle Orchard.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Bungay Castle, defined by Earsham Street to the north, Castle Lane to the west, and Market Place to the east and bisected by Castle Orchard.
East Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Medieval Castle at Bungay, initially built as a motte and bailey by William de Noyers with stone fortifications added in mid-C12. From 1165 a major phase of development took place with the construction of the stone keep on the motte and in 1294 Roger Bigod was granted a license to crenellate the castle and it is believed that the gate-house, the curtain wall and the inner bailey wall date to this period, together with a reduction in height of the keep and renewal of its external masonry. In mid-C18 the castle is depicted with a dwelling between the gate-house towers but this was removed in 1841. In C17 and C18 the expanding town encroached on the outer ditch particulalrly on the northern and eastern edge and this continued in to the C20 with the southern side of the outer ditch and outer bailey most affected at this time.

Reasons for Designation

Bungay Castle, Suffolk, an early medieval fortress dating from the early decades following the Norman Conquest, and further developed and enlarged over the next two centuries, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Archaeological potential:

* for the good survival of standing, buried and earthwork remains with potential to considerably enhance our understanding of the castle and the place it held in the wider landscape;

Diversity of features:

* for the broad diversity of surviving features including the keep, curtain wall, inner bailey, outer bailey earthworks and buried archaeological deposits of the interior of the bailey;


* as an example of an early medieval military site retaining evidence of key phases of development, from the motte and bailey form of the early castle to the advanced and permanent arrangement of a stone keep set within curtain walls with mural towers and a gate-house, and an inner bailey enclosed within a continuous masonry wall;

Documentation and group value:

* on account of the historical and archaeological documentation which highlights the close and continuous association of the site with the Bigod family, members of which held both Bungay and Framlingham castles in Suffolk, and who were granted the title of Earl of Norfolk. The association survived into the modern era, with the gifting of the castle site to the townspeople of Bungay in 1987.


Prior to the Norman Conquest, the land of which Bungay Castle stands formed part of estates held by Stigand, Anglo-Saxon archbishop of Canterbury. Post-Conquest, it was first held by William of Noyers, then, in 1103, the site was bestowed by Henry l on Roger Bigod, beginning a tumultuous phase of ownership by the Bigod family. The first development of the castle site is thought to have been initiated by William de Noyers, with the construction of a motte and bailey with a timber hall and defensive palisade set within surrounding ditches, and it was not until 1140 that more permanent structures in the form of stone fortifications appear on the site, begun by Hugh Bigod, the youngest son of Roger Bigods’s heir, William.

Hugh Bigod had rebelled against King Stephen in 1136, but following negotiations, he was granted the title of Earl of Norfolk and was permitted to retain Bungay Castle and the much larger Framlingham Castle. Hugh rebelled against Stephen once more in support of Henry I’s daughter Matilda, and following the accession of Henry II, was deprived of both Bungay and Framlingham castles. These were not restored to him until 1163, despite his having been allowed to retain the title of Earl of Norfolk, but the restoration triggered a major phase of development at Bungay with the construction of a massive stone keep on the castle mound established by William de Noyers. This is thought to have begun around 1165 and took a decade to complete. In 1173, Bigod once more rebelled against the monarch in support of Henry II’s son, the Earl of Leicester. Despite Leicester’s defeat at the battle of Fordham St Genevieve, Bigod continued his campaign against the king, who subsequently laid siege to Bungay Castle. Bigod capitulated before serious damage was done to the castle, and Bungay survived the king’s requirement that both Bungay and Framlingham castles be destroyed, Bigod being required to pay a huge fine of a thousand marks in order to retain Bungay. Both Bungay and Framlingam castles were restored to Hugh Bigod’s son Roger following the payment of a further fine of a thousand marks, but there was no further development at Bungay until 1294 when a descendant of Hugh’s son Roger, also Roger, as the 5th Earl of Norfolk, was granted a licence to crenellate the castle, after more than a century of neglect following Hugh Bigod’s capitulation in 1174. It is thought that the gate-house, the curtain wall surrounding the keep and the inner bailey wall date to this period, together with a reduction in the height of the keep, and the renewal of its external masonry. Upon Roger’s death in 1297, there being no direct heir to the Bigod estate, it reverted to Crown ownership, and thereafter to a succession of owners until described in 1382 as ‘old and ruinous and worth nothing a year’. In 1483 it was acquired by the Duke of Norfolk, and for most of the next five centuries remained part of the Norfolk estate. Little or no maintenance or repair took place for over two centuries, the decline of the site being recorded in a series of illustrations of the site in 1746 (Joshua Kirby), 1748 (Joshua Kirby), 1800 (unknown) and 1827 (Henry Davy). A number of these illustrations show the castle gate-house with a dwelling located between the gate-house towers, the 1748 engraved print also depicting other small dwellings built against the curtain wall to the south-east of the towers. Further damage occurred after 1766 when the site was sold to Robert Mickleborough who quarried the keep and curtain walling for road building materials. A more benign ownership followed in 1792 when Daniel Bonhote purchased the site, which was subsequently popularised by the two-volume novel ‘Bungay Castle’ published by his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Bonhote. The site was sold back to the Duke of Norfolk around 1800, and little further repair to, or interest in the site took place until the C20, apart from the removal, in 1841, of the dwellings built there.

The expansion of the town, particularly in the C17 and C18, saw the construction of many buildings on the site of the castle, particularly around the northern and eastern edge, with many buildings erected facing Earsham Street, Market Place and St Mary’s Street. Subsequently, incremental development has seen the expansion of the town onto the castle earthworks with C20 development being most obvious along Castle Orchard and Priory Lane on the site of the outer bailey.

In 1934, the Bungay Town Trust leased the site from the Norfolk Estates, and archaeological excavation and repair works were carried out, supervised by the architect and archaeologist Hugh Braun, until 1935. Responsibility for the castle remains later passed from the Bungay Town Trust to the Bungay Castle Trust, and the site was gifted to the town by the Duke of Norfolk in 1987. In 1999, the Trust acquired land to the west of the castle remains which previously had formed the castle’s inner bailey.

Bungay Castle was first scheduled in 1915 and later listed at Grade I in May 1949. Castle Hills (part of the castle's outer bailey), to the south of the standing remains, was scheduled in its own right in 1925. The area of protection for the castle was extended in 1982 to include the earthwork remains of the western inner bailey wall and any surviving remains of the outer ditch adjacent to it.


Principal elements: the medieval castle at Bungay sits higher than, and forms the focus of, the current village. The existing street pattern respects the layout of the former castle ditch, particularly around the northern and eastern edge where later properties, built on the outer edge of the castle ditch, radiate from the castle. For many the rear property boundaries are formed either by the curtain wall or inner bailey wall. The castle survives as a combination of standing, earthwork and buried remains including the castle keep, curtain wall, inner bailey wall, the earthwork remains of the inner and outer bailey defences and the remains of the external ditch, which survives primarily as a buried feature. Buried archaeological deposits within the inner bailey have also been recorded through geophysical survey.

Description: the extensive ruins of Bungay Castle are the key focal point of the existing village, comprising the substantial remains of the C12 keep built by Hugh Bigod, and the C13 curtain wall added by Roger Bigod, together with the remains of the wall which originally enclosed the inner bailey. The core element of the standing remains of the castle site is the square base of the keep, attached to the south wall of which are the remains of the forebuilding. Surrounding the keep are the curtain walls, which are roughly octagonal on plan, and which incorporate the twin, semi-circular towers of a gate-house to the west of the keep. The inner bailey wall extends from the castle’s curtain wall and encloses a roughly rectangular area to the west of the castle. It survives as a standing structure extending westwards from the castle curtain wall, approximately adjacent to the north-west angle of the castle keep. This section of the structure forms the rear wall of Keepers Cottage, and runs east to west through the middle of No 35a Earsham Street. Adjacent to this property a small section of the wall has collapsed into the ditch. Beyond No 35a Earsham Street to the west, the wall is only evident as low garden walls or as earthworks in the rear gardens of various properties on the south side of Earsham Street, but in an outbuilding to the rear of No 55 Earsham Street the wall reappears and abruptly returns southwards. South of the return, the wall survives as a standing structure within a lean-to forming part of a property known as The Iron Works, and in the outbuilding of No 4 Castle Lane standing in excess of 3m high here. The wall then continues southwards, surviving as a steep earthwork up to 5m in height but with no standing remains evident above ground on this stretch. Close to the north-west corner of the property boundary of Castle Lodge the inner bailey wall turns eastwards where the rubble core of the wall survives as a standing structure up to approximately 1.5m high. The wall originally turned north-east to reconnect with the curtain wall a short distance from the southern tower of the castle gate-house, but in this area does not now survive above ground. This section of the wall once incorporated a gateway, (thought to be the second of a series of four entrances to the castle site), and crossed the inner ditch before leading into the inner bailey. This gateway and wall section is no longer evident on the surface but is likely to survive as buried archaeological deposits.

Where walls do survive as standing structures they mainly consist of flint rubble core material, bound in lime mortar, with almost all former dressed stone or flint facing material now lost, apart from the retained ashlar work to the base of the gatehouse towers. There have been extensive repairs to the inner bailey wall immediately to the west of the castle remains, some of considerable age, using facing brickwork in some instances. In the northern section of the inner bailey wall enclosure, some areas of walling have collapsed and become detached from the main masonry body, and have settled below the line of the outer face of the wall in the area of the former ditch.

One of the other two entrances is thought to have extended from the south-west corner of the inner bailey wall providing a crossing from the inner to the outer bailey. The fourth gate extended from the south side of the curtain wall (south of the keep), extending southwards across the outer ditch to the outer bailey bank, terminating close to where the Visitors Centre now stands. No remains are visible from the surface but it is highly likely that buried remains of both entrances survive. Originally the outer bailey comprised a substantial earthwork bank and external ditch which formed a rectangular enclosure extending to the south of the outer castle ditch. Buildings constructed on the eastern side of the outer bailey have obliterated any surface remains but on the west side the earthworks survive up to around 2.5m high. This area is known as Castle Hills and is an integral component of the early castle defences.

Detailed geophysical surveys were carried out in the area of the inner bailey in 2017 (see sources) revealing a complex series of buried features of significant archaeological potential, likely to span several phases of the castle’s evolution. Features include structural remains such as walls, floors and a potential brick-lined well surviving to a depth of approximately 2.5m. Anomalies indicative of robbed-out or service trench runs, rubbish pits, demolition or levelling deposits, were also recorded. In-situ structural remains were recorded on two different orientations indicating that there could be at least two different building phases present below the surface of the bailey. Different widths of the structures suggest these represent both internal and external wall remains. Associated with the walls are remnant structural remains that are likely to consist of highly-compacted deposits, potentially demolition rubble from former standing structures and/or floor surfaces.

Such good survival of the buried archaeology within the inner bailey implies that other relatively open areas of the bailey are likely to retain significant deposits. For example, historic sources suggest that the Great Hall stood close to the northern edge of the inner bailey wall in the region of No 47 and No 35a Earsham Street, so the potential for nationally important archaeology to survive beneath the surface in this area is very high. Equally, the buried remains of the outer ditch are likely to survive in the gardens to the rear of properties on Earsham Street, Market Place and St Mary’s Street. It seems probable that the construction of buildings on the outer edge of the castle’s ditch from C17 onwards will have required the levelling of the substantial earthworks, but the inner edge and silts at the bottom of the ditch are very likely to survive as buried deposits and have the potential to retain significant palaeoenvironmental information which, when scientifically analysed, can provide important information about the historic landscape in which the castle functioned.

Extent of Scheduling: The scheduled area begins in the north-west corner at the junction between Cameron House and the outhouse to the rear of 55 Earsham Street. From here it runs to the east following along the line of the outer bailey wall, through the gardens to the rear of properties on the south side of Earsham Street, until it meets the curtain wall of the castle keep east of Keepers Cottage. The scheduled area follows the outer edge of the keep around the east and south side until it meets the western edge of the car park to the former Kings Head public house. The scheduled area on the north and east side includes a 3m buffer zone beyond the outer edge of the wall which is thought necessary for the support and preservation of the monument.

From the western edge of the car park to the former Kings Head public house the line runs south to the rear of the café and visitors centre where it turns south-west across the path to the eastern edge of the property known as The Keep. Here it skirts around the north side of the property following the southern edge of the slope down from the castle mound. It continues to follow the lower edge of the slope behind Castle Lodge before turning south to follow the north-east edge of Castle Hill earthworks then the western edge of Castle Orchard. At the junction of Castle Orchard and Castle Lane the line turns northwards to follow the eastern edge of Castle Lane before turning east along the southern boundaries of the gardens to numbers three and four Castle Lane. Approximately 20m east of Castle Lane the line turns northwards to include the rear wall of an outbuilding to number four and the eastern wall of Cameron House. Before meeting with the northern edge of the scheduled area.

Exclusions: The scheduled area incorporates a number of buildings, some dwellings and some outbuildings. 47 Earsham Street, 25 Earsham Street and 12 Castle Orchard are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these is included. The rear wall of Keepers Cottage, the wall running through 35a Earsham Street and the rear wall of outbuildings to number 4 Castle Lane and the flint wall forming the east wall of Cameron House and its outbuilding all form part of the monument but are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these is included. All modern road and path surfaces, street lighting and benches are again excluded with the ground beneath them being included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
SF 1
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Braun, H, Bungay Castle Historical Notes and Account of Excavations, (1991)
Reeve, C, Bungay Castle Guide, (2001)
Bungay Castle, Bungay, Suffolk. Geophysical Surveys Report. SACIC Report No. 2017/078. Schofield, T. 2017


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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