Eynsford Castle, Kent

Dating back to the 11th century, the remains of one of the earliest stone castles in England can be seen in the picturesque little village of Eynsford. The man-made site had been in use during Saxon times, but work on Eynsford Castle did not begin until 1088 when William de Eynsford inherited the manor from his father.

Simple in plan, the original castle consisted of a stone structure located within a bailey, and fully enclosed by a flint curtain wall. Various 12th century buildings were contained in the bailey, but the most important comprised the living accommodation, with a private solar, and a large hall situated on the first floor. The hall was gutted by a fire in the early part of the 13th century, and a major re-building of Eynsford Castle took place soon after. Much of the debris from the fire fell through the floor of the undercroft and, when this was reconstructed, the builders simply raised the floor level to contain the waste material. Today, only the massive walls of the undercroft remain. At the same time that these building works were being carried out, a main gatehouse was added. Only fragments now exist and it has been difficult to determine the exact appearance from the evidence, but it has been suggested that it was a rectangular, single storey building.

Despite an obviously busy period of re-building, Eynsford Castle had become deserted less than one hundred years later following deliberate destruction of the living accommodation. The estate was sold to the Harts of nearby Lullingstone Castle in the early 16th century, and it was their descendants who converted the ruins of Eynsford Castle for use as stables and hunting kennels in the mid 18th century. By the end of the 19th century preservation work had begun but, unfortunately, the castle ruins were largely unrecognisable through natural decay and neglect.

Vast craggy sections of the curtain wall have survived, some standing to a height of 30ft (9m), and evidence of the latrines can be found along them. The stone gate tower to the south of the building dates from the early 12th century, but all other fragmentary remains date from the 13th century 'new building'. Yet among these long-abandoned, rugged stone structures, Eynsford Castle manages to cling onto an air of romanticism.

Perhaps this is due to the idyllic, and unlikely, setting in the middle of a peaceful Kentish village, or maybe the undiscovered secrets held within its ancient walls give the site an enchanting atmosphere.

Lullingstone Castle
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Manor HouseLullingstone Castle
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