Tonbridge and Castle

14th November 2010
After chatting with a friend, I discovered the Tonbridge, has a castle. In all the years that I’ve lived in Kent, and travelled down to Tunbridge Wells and other places, i never knew that there was a castle. So, on Thursday 11th November, i decided to visit Tonbridge Castle.

I found the castle, next to the River Medway, which created a beautiful backdrop for photos. After parking the car in the pay and display car park, I attempted to find the castle entrance, which i have to admit was very hard to find. You walk underneath the Gatehouse, and you are met by a grassed area, and to your left, a more modern building called "Gateway". In here is the Tourist Information Centre, but this is only found out once you enter the building. There was very little information as to where to buy tickets to enter the castle, or whether it was even open. I asked the lady that was behind the desk, and she informed us that the castle was open (only after asking her colleague), and that we bought tickets from her.

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I was given an audio tour handset, which had a key fob attached to it, which is how you gain entry to the inside of the castle. I was warned that a lot of the tour would be dark and there would be uneven walking ground and steps. The inside of the castle is beautiful, and has been kept in keeping with the era of the castle, without becoming to 'touristy'. There are a lot of steep steps, which lead you all the way to the top, where you can admire the view of Tonbridge and its surroundings.

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After finishing the tour, I ventured around the castle grounds (which are free to enter). I was met by lots of squirrels, who were very friendly and came quite close. I then walked into the busy town and found some lovely views of the river and the bridges that cross it.

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The simple wooden Motte and Bailey castle was built in 1070, soon after the Norman Conquest by Richard Fitz Gilbert, to guard the crossing of the River Medway. In 1088, the de Clare family (descendents of Fitz Gilbert) fought against King William II. His army seized the castle. After two days, the castle fell and as punishment, King William II had both the castle and the town of Tonbridge burnt to the ground. The castle was rebuilt after the fire, with a stone shell keep. During the thirteenth century, the castle was reinforced with the gatehouse and a stone wall was built around the town.

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The mansion that is attached to the castle was added in 1793, this and the castle are Grade I listed buildings. The site was purchased by the local council in 1900, who now use the mansion as offices, and making the grounds a public park.

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Links
Tonbridge Castle
Tonbridge and Castle on Flickr

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