Eynsford Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Sevenoaks (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 54162 65818

Reasons for Designation

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Eynsford Castle survives well, having remained almost completely undisturbed since its partial destruction in the 14th century. The site is unusual in being an early example of an enclosure castle as well as being of a rare form. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the site contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence which relate to the construction, use and eventual destruction of the castle as well as giving an insight into the economy and way of life of its inhabitants.


The monument includes an enclosure castle situated on the east bank of the River Darent, the valley of which cuts through an area of gently undulating chalk downland. The castle has an inner ward constructed on a low oval platform, enclosed by a curtain wall with a moat to the north, east and south. The central platform on which the castle buildings were constructed is c.2m above the surrounding ground level and measures 61m north-south and 40m east-west. The curtain wall survives as upstanding masonry c.8.8m high, constructed of coursed flintwork c.1.8m thick at the base. The north west segment has collapsed but remains where it fell. Within the ward are the ruined remains and buried foundations of a 12th- century hall block, the undercrofts of which still survive. This was a free- standing building, 22m east-west by 13m north-south, in the northern half of the ward and was mainly constructed from reused Roman tile probably brought from Lullingstone or Farningham. A stair and porch were built on the south side of the building and a later kitchen was constructed between the hall and the curtain wall to the north. The 12th-century kitchen was located in the west corner of the ward and a gate-tower was situated on the south east side at the main entrance to the castle. To the north, east and south of the curtain wall lies the moat which, although having become partially infilled over the years, is visible as an earthwork feature up to 16m wide and 1.5m deep. To the west the castle was protected by the river. Access to the castle was gained by way of a bridge leading across the moat in the south east to the gate-tower. The curtain wall is believed to have been constructed c.1090 by William de Eynsford, possibly on the site of an earlier earthwork castle with a timber watch-tower. Although such a site is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, traces of a central wooden building, contemporary with the early phase of the curtain wall, have been discovered during excavations. The hall, gate-tower and heightened curtain wall are ascribed to William II in c.1130, with the reconstructed hall and new kitchens dating to c.1230. Documentary evidence records a complaint about the doors and windows of the castle having been broken down, damage committed and stock let loose. This resulted in the dismantling of the structures inside the curtain wall in or just before 1312. Partial excavation took place in 1835 and further excavations were carried out between 1953 and 1971 during the conservation of the monument. These revealed the internal structure and accommodation areas within the curtain wall as well as confirming the 14th-century destruction of the castle. Excluded from the scheduling are the modern buildings, works sheds, rubbish bins, wooden benches, paving, wooden bridge and fencing, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Rigold, S E, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Eynsford Castle and its excavation, , Vol. 86, (1971), 109-171
Ordnance Survey, TQ 56 NW 11, (1964)


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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