Tudor bridge at Hedingham Castle


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1122960

Date first listed: 21-Jun-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Apr-2016

Statutory Address: Hedingham Castle, Castle Hedingham, Essex, CO9 3DJ


Ordnance survey map of Tudor bridge at Hedingham Castle
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Statutory Address: Hedingham Castle, Castle Hedingham, Essex, CO9 3DJ

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

County: Essex

District: Braintree (District Authority)

Parish: Castle Hedingham

National Grid Reference: TL7875435888


Bridge built in the late C15, attached retaining wall to north-west, and attached revetment to south-east of probable C18 date.

Reasons for Designation

The Tudor bridge built in the late C15, attached retaining wall to north-west, and attached revetment to south-east of probable C18 date, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it is a well-preserved example of a multi-span Tudor bridge that retains a significant proportion of original fabric;

* Historic interest: it dates to the major phase of rebuilding in the late C16 and is the only above ground structure to survive from this period;

* Documentation: our knowledge of the bridge and the attached retaining wall from the former tennis court is enhanced by significant documentary evidence. Hedingham Castle has been mapped, surveyed and illustrated in the C16, C17 and C18, and these works are invaluable in helping to interpret the bridge and wall within the wider context of the castle;

* Group value: it has strong group value with the scheduled elements of the castle, and with the four listed buildings on the site, namely the C12 Keep, the C18 house, stable block and dovecote. Altogether these form an ensemble of structures dating from each key phase in the nine hundred year evolution of the site, thereby encapsulating important aspects of the historical and architectural development of England.


Hedingham Castle is a large earthen ringwork castle with two baileys built probably in the late C11 by Aubrey De Vere on land granted to him after the Conquest. The principal building was the Castle Keep which was probably built between c.1125 and c.1160. Other buildings would also have existed but no sign of these remain today. In the early C13 King John laid siege to Hedingham Castle and took it, although it was recaptured shortly afterwards by French soldiers. Little is known of the castle in the following 200 or so years until the accession in 1461 of John, the 13th Earl. As a Lancastrian he fought at the Battle of Bosworth, and his lands (which had been confiscated by Edward IV) were returned to him by Henry VII, along with the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain and many new titles and honours. The 13th Earl was responsible for a great rebuilding programme at Hedingham Castle in or around 1496 which included the bridge. This linked the castle mound with the inner bailey and probably replaced an earlier drawbridge. The results of the rebuilding programme can be seen on a survey by Israel Armyse, dated 1592, and on an unattributed survey of the early C17. These show that in the dry moat between the ringwork and inner bailey there was a tennis court and archery butts, to the north and south of the bridge respectively, although the bridge itself is not shown on either survey.

The condition of the castle between the later C16 and early C18 is far from clear but the sources indicate several instances of destruction and, by inference, rebuilding. It appears that after the visit by Elizabeth I in 1561 the 17th Earl had ‘committed great waste upon the castle hill, and, by warrant from him, most of the buildings, except the Keep, were razed to the ground’. Aubrey, the 20th Earl, was the last to hold the title and upon his death in 1703 the Earldom became extinct. In 1713 the estate of Hedingham Castle was sold to Sir William Ashurst who proceeded to build himself a large house in the inner bailey. In order to do so he demolished the existing buildings of the inner bailey and levelled the area around the Keep, re-using some of the materials. The house, which is listed at Grade II*, was completed in 1719, the year of Sir William’s death, and his son Robert probably completed the laying out of the gardens. The short section of revetment extending from the south-east corner of the bridge is similar in style to the brickwork of the bridge but could be C18 work forming part of the revetment for the bridge. An unattributed view of 1719 depicts the new house and the Tudor bridge.

Between 1766 and 1785 the estate passed by marriage to the Majendie family who during the 1890s tried to sell it on at least three occasions but it never reached its reserve at auction and was withdrawn. The castle was used during World War I as a training camp and the Keep acted as a lookout post. The bridge has been restored recently by Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and may also been repaired when the present house was built. The estate is now in private ownership but the castle is open to the public (2015).


Bridge built in the late C15, attached retaining wall to north-west, and attached revetment to south-east of probable C18 date.

MATERIALS: red brick including some modern brick introduced during the late C20 restoration.

PLAN: the bridge links the castle mound on the east side to the inner bailey on the west side. The retaining wall from the former tennis court extends from the north side and the revetment extends from the south-east corner.

EXTERIOR: the four-span bridge has four-centred arches of two chamfered orders with arch rings of brick stretchers. There are cutwater piers on the south side that extend up to the base of the brick parapet. The parapets have square pilasters on the inner and outer faces, aligned with the cutwater piers, and are stepped as the bridge ascends the higher ground westwards to the castle mound. The central pier is pierced by a small four-centred arch. Later work to the bridge includes the blocking of the east and west spans on the north opening, the addition of square pilasters to the north piers, and coping.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: on the north side of the bride, the retaining wall extends from the pier between the third and fourth arches. It is 2.9m high with a slightly battered plinth. During the recent site visit (June 2015), the wall was being cleared of creepers which had caused some damage to the brickwork.

Extending from the south-east corner of the bridge is a short section of brick revetment, 5.9m long and up to 0.8m high, mostly laid in English bond. The lower courses of the middle section consist of headers laid haphazardly. The southern end has been either rebuilt or extensively repaired, and is partly laid in a herringbone bond.


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

Legacy System number: 114522

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Pevsner, Nikolaus , Bettley, James , The Buildings of England: Essex, (2010)
Moraig Brown, Hedingham Castle, Essex: Archaeological Field Survey Report, RCHME, 1995

End of official listing