Sutton Valence Castle

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Sutton Valence Castle


Sutton Valence Castle.jpg
The ruined keep of the castle
Grid reference: TQ815491
Location: 51°12’45"N, 0°35’52"E
Built 12th century
Condition: Ruined
Owned by: English Heritage
Website: Sutton Valence Castle

Sutton Valence Castle is a ruined mediæval fortification in the village of Sutton Valence in Kent. It was built in the second half of the 12th century, probably by Baldwin of Bethune, the Count of Aumale. Overlooking a strategic route to the coast, the original castle probably comprised an inner and an outer bailey and a protective barbican, with a three-storey high keep on its southern side.

The castle was passed into the Marshal and de Montfort families, before being given by King Henry III to his half-brother William de Valence in 1265, from whom the castle takes its current name.

The castle was abandoned in the early 14th century and fell into ruin. Today the castle is managed by English Heritage, and the remains of the keep are open to the public.


12th – 15th centuries

Sutton Valence Castle was probably built in the second half of the 12th century by the Counts of Aumale, most likely by Baldwin of Bethune, but perhaps alternatively by William le Gros, Baldwin's father-in-law.[1][2][3] The castle was built on a commanding position overlooking the strategic route between the towns of Maidstone, Rye and Old Winchelsea. and the location was originally known as Town Sutton.[4][3]

The stone keep of the castle was built around 1200.[5]

In 1203, Baldwin gave the castle to his daughter Alicia on her marriage to William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, who later remarried, passing the property to his second wife, Eleanor.[6] After William's death, Eleanor married the infamous Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester.[6] Simon led a rebellion against King Henry III during the Second Barons' War, but was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, after which Eleanor was stripped of the castle.[6]

The King gave Sutton Valence to William de Valence, his half-brother, who had supported him during the conflict,[5] and under William, the castle acquired its current name of Sutton Valence.[3][7] Aymer de Valence, his son, inherited the castle in 1307.

The Valences travelled around their estates, increasingly focusing their attention on a handful of their various great houses, and stayed at Sutton Valence on at least several occasions.

After Aymer's death in 1324, the castle passed by marriage to Lawrence, Lord Hastings, and was held in the Hastings family until 1390, when Reginald Lord Grey de Ruthin acquired it.[8]

There are few historical records of the castle beyond this point, but it appears to have been abandoned in the early 14th century and by the 15th century had become ruined.[9][2]

16th – 21st centuries

By the end of the 18th century, the historian Edward Hasted described Sutton Valence Castle as being "now almost covered with ivy, and the branches of the trees which sprout out from the walls of it."[10]

Archaeological excavations were carried out at the site during the mid-1950s with the assistance of Maidstone Museum and the local Sutton Valence School, focusing on the castle keep.[11] The castle was placed into the guardianship of the state in 1976; it is now in the care of English Heritage. Conservation work was done on the ruins in the 1980s.[3] It is protected as a Grade II listed building and as a Scheduled Monument.


The remains of the ragstone and flint rubble keep

Sutton Valence Castle occupied a spur of the Chart Hills, adjacent to the village of Sutton Valence, and probably comprised an inner and an outer bailey and a protective barbican.[3][2] Visitors would have entered through an eastern barbican, coming through to an outer bailey; these features only survive as earthworks.[5] A dry ditch protected the inner bailey, which was approximately 1,000 feet by 110 feet across, positioned on the southern side of the site.[3]

The castle probably included a hall, chapel and kitchen, but only the castle keep now survives.[3] The keep is 36 feet square, with walls eight feet thick, built from ragstone and flint rubble and surviving up to 23 feet high.[3] It was originally 65 feet tall, with at least three storeys, and entered through an external staircase leading to a doorway in the first floor.[3] The building had a corner tower, in which was a spiral staircase linking the floors, and had clasping buttresses at the corners.[12]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Sutton Valence Castle)


  1. Pettifer 1995, p. 192; Sands 1907, p. 196
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sutton Valence Castle: History and research
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 National Heritage List 1013537: Sutton Valence Castle
  4. Grove 1957, pp. 202, 204
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Sutton Valence Castle
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sands 1902, p. 205
  7. Sands 1902, p. 205
  8. Sands 1902, pp. 204–206
  9. Pettifer 1995, p. 130; Grove 1957, p. 228
  10. Parishes: Sutton Valence in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5, pages 364–375
  11. Grove 1957, pp. 227–228
  12. National Heritage List 1013537: Sutton Valence Castle
  • Emery, Anthony (2006). Greater Mediæval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500: Volume 3, Southern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139449199. 
  • Grove, L. R. A. (1957). "Sutton Valence". Archaeologia Cantiana 71: 227–228. 
  • Pettifer, Adrian (1995). English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. ISBN 9780851157825. 
  • Sands, Harold (1902). "Sutton Valence Castle". Archaeologia Cantiana 25: 198–206. 
  • Sands, Harold (1907). "Some Kentish Castles". Memorials of Old Kent. London, UK: Bemrose and Sons. pp. 150–214.