01 March 2018

Beautiful Bodiam

We had a cracking blue-sky day for our visit to Bodiam in East Sussex, and the castle, surrounded by its moat, looked picture-postcard-perfect!

The lord of the manor was soldier and knight, Sir Edward Dallingridge (or Dalyngrigge) (c.1346 – 1393), who had the castle constructed around 1385, in theory as a defence against local rebellion and possible invasion by the French but probably also a statement piece: ‘Look at how rich and powerful I am!’ As a power statement it certainly works.

And I imagine you would feel quite secure in a place like this, regardless of who was trying to attack. The original approach bridge over the moat was to the side, ensuring invaders made easy targets for the castle’s archers; the portcullis was so sturdy that parts of it still survive; and there are murder holes above the entrance porticos, meaning residents could pour hot tar and boiling oil on the uninvited.

Sir Edward gained the manor of Bodiam by marriage. Having accumulated wealth and reputation through fighting as a mercenary in France, he returned to England and wedded the heiress to Bodiam, Elizabeth Wardeux (or Wardedieu).

Dallingridge subsequently served as the equivalent of Member of Parliament for the local area, was made responsible for fortifying various areas of coastal Sussex, and became the most influential member of the local gentry.

The castle’s interior was likely dismantled during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) but you can still get an idea of the opulence enjoyed by Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth, though I don’t think National Trust have done a very good job with their displays and storyboards, especially compared to other castles I have visited (see the magnificent Caerphilly here and here). The exhibition in the nearby pavillion was also undergoing refurbishment so I felt a reduction in the entrance fee would have been appropriate under the circumstances For the stiff-kneed also, a warning, the spiral staircases were steep, but the views from the towers and battlements were worth the effort.

All in all, a stunning property: the type of building every child imagines when they draw their first castles, and a dream for photographers, if you go right on opening time, to avoid the crowds. I’d love to see it again shrouded in brooding winter mist and a blanket of snow, or with autumn colour in its stately trees.

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