Norman Sites in Britain

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In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, became William I, king of England, known as William the Conqueror. This heralded the start of the Norman period and the building of some of Britain's most impressive castles and strongholds. Whilst some are in ruin and others have been altered significantly, there is no doubt that the strength of Norman construction has formed the foundations for many of the country's most important sites.  From castles such as Pevensey, Hastings and Rochester to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, Norman times left  a solid imprint on British soil. To begin your journey exploring Norman Castles and sites in the UK you can view our editor’s selection of top picks below as well as checking out a host of other locations which you definitely won’t want to miss.

Where are the best Norman sites in Britain?

1. Rochester Castle

One of the best-preserved Norman fortifications in England, Rochester Castle was built at a strategic crossroads in the years following the Norman Conquest. The castle saw several early iterations during the sometimes-tumultuous years after the conquest and it was in 1127 that a more permanent fortification was constructed. King John besieged Rochester Castle during the uprising of the barons, with the castle suffering significant damage in the conflict. The castle was also damaged a century later during the Peasants’ Revolt. Over the centuries that followed Rochester Castle remained as an active fortress until the sixteenth century when it fell in to disrepair. Today the castle has been largely restored and is open to visitors under the custodianship of English Heritage.

2. Pevensey Castle

Pevensey was the site where William the Conqueror landed in Britain on 28 September 1066 and the first castle he built. Originally a timber structure, this was replaced by stone in the 12th century, the beginnings of the Pevensey Castle we see today. With an imposing gatehouse, bailey wall and square keep, this became a mighty fortification that survived several attempts to breach its walls, most notably in a siege carried out Simon de Montfort against the sheltering supporters of King Henry III in 1264. It was reinforced several times over the centuries, its picturesque ruins now under the remit of English Heritage.

3. Hastings Castle

Hastings Castle was originally built as a timber structure a short time after the Norman invader William the Conqueror landed in England in 1066. This was not far from the site where, shortly afterwards, William decisively defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, thus achieving the conquest of England and being crowned King William I. However, it was only in 1070 that the Norman king gave orders to transform Hastings Castle into a fully fledged stone fortified castle, the ruins of which can be seen there today. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, today, Hastings Castle is open to the public, who can tour its ruins and enjoy a short presentation on its history.

4. Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle is a beautifully preserved Norman stronghold with a rich history dating back to Roman times. Built from 1076 (some say from 1069) and completed in around 1100, it was constructed under the order of King William I for use as a royal fortress. Colchester Castle would go on to serve several other roles, including being besieged in 1215 by King John and becoming the site of interrogation and jailing of “witches” in 1645 by a self-proclaimed Witchfinder General called Matthew Hopkins. It was also a private home and a library at different times. One of the most fascinating aspects of Colchester Castle is its keep, which is said to be the largest example of a Norman keep Britain. The grand size of this central tower is a legacy from Roman times as it was built on the foundations of a vast Roman temple known as the Temple of Claudius (said to date back to the 1st century AD).

5. Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire is a picturesque ruined Norman Castle which was originally built to help secure Norman control of the North of England. The castle was built and strengthened throughout the Norman period with Henry II and Henry III extending its fortifications. It’s thought that the castle fell out of active use in the 14th century and slowly fell to ruin. Despite this, the castle has more surviving 11th-century architecture than any other castle in England, including its impressive Norman keep.

6. Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is the stunning ruin of a castle which has been everything from a royal residence to a military stronghold and even a prison. It was built by William the Conqueror in around 1066, although even before this, the site was of great historical importance, Indeed, it is said that King Edward the Martyr was murdered here in a plot to position Ethelred "the Unready" as monarch. Corfe Castle was expanded and altered several times, especially in the 12th to 13th centuries under King John. Not only did he further fortify the castle, he also used it as a prison and even a home. Sold by Elizabeth I in 1572, it became the grand private home. The demise of Corfe Castle and the cause of its current ruined state came with the English Civil War, when it was demolished by the Parliamentarians.

7. Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire is one of the most picturesque medieval ruins in the UK. The first recorded structure to be built on its site was constructed in the late 11th century by an Anglo-Saxon thegn who retained his lands after the Norman Conquest. However, it is believed that the site may have been used as a fortification for far longer. The original wooden structure was replaced by a stone fort in the mid-12th century and the living quarters and fortifications of Goodrich Castle were extended over the next 100 years. Goodrich Castle is perhaps best known for the part it played during the English Civil War, when it became the focus of a bitter siege between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces. Whilst not destroyed after the war, it was intentionally damaged to ensure it could no longer serve as a stronghold. By the late 18th century, Goodrich Castle was seen as a idyllic ruin and was therefore never fully restored.

8. Kenilworth Castle

It was King Henry I's treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built the vast Norman keep of Kenilworth Castle in the 1120s. Kenilworth earned the status of royal castle over the coming centuries and underwent a series of changes, both under the remit of Henry II and under King John, who put into place greater fortifications from 1210 to 1215, solidifying its role as a stronghold. In fact, so impenetrable was the stronghold by this point that when it underwent a great 6-month siege by Henry III in 1266, its resident rebels only faltered when they ran out of food. Bothoth Lancastrians and Tudors alike enjoyed time there while, under Elizabeth I, Kenilworth Castle became the property of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the Queen’s one true love. He made extensive changes to the castle to make it fit for his queen and her entourage. Kenilworth Castle finally met its decline after the English Civil War.

9. Castle Rising

Castle Rising is a ruined Norman fortification in Norfolk which is now one of the best preserved castle-keeps in England. First constructed by the Anglo-Norman lord William d'Aubigny in 1138, it later became the palace of Queen Isabella, widow of Edward II and mother of Edward III. Surrounded by twenty acres of expansive earthworks, the castle would have been the very symbol of a medieval fortress. Within the castle can also be found the remains of an early Norman Church. Castle Rising passed to the Howard family in the 16th century and though it remains in their ownership today it is periodically open to the public in partnership with English Heritage.

10. Durham Castle

Durham Castle was originally commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1072, intended to ensure Norman control in the North of England. Once under Church control, each bishop, on his appointment, would put his own stamp on the castle, and duly altered it to reflect his own glory. However, despite the many changes, Durham Castle retains the layout of a Norman motte and bailey castle. It has a well preserved Norman chapel, dating from 1080, and many other features of interest.

Full list of Norman Castles and Sites in Britain

Beyond the most famous Norman places in Britain there are many similar sites to visit, including Kenilworth Castle, Castle Rising and Durham Castle to name but a few. In fact, our list already runs to 44 and counting! This list of Norman castles and ruins in the UK covers a number of impressive sites to visit and you can view the current selection below.

Arundel Castle

Originally built in the 11th Century, Arundel Castle is the historic home of the Dukes of Norfolk and has been continually occupied and renovated over the centuries.

Ashby Castle

Ashby Castle was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle is a grand structure which looms high upon a crag overlooking the coast of Northumberland.

Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle contains the ruins of a Norman stronghold which was later owned by Richard III.

Battle Abbey and Battlefield

Battle Abbey and Battlefield is an iconic site in England, being the location of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle was originally built nearly 1,000 years ago, but since then has undergone a number of changes and has been the site of many interesting – and sometimes bloody – events.

Canute's Palace

Canute's Palace in Southampton, England, is the name given to the ruins of a Norman merchant's house dating from the late twelfth century. Despite its name, the building has no connection with Canute the Great, nor was it a palace.

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Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle is a medieval complex comprised of a range of styles and with a diverse history dating back to the Romans.

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman-built fortification which was in continual use as a military stronghold for over 700 years. Today a number of exhibitions about the history of the castle and the local area are on show within the castle itself.

Castle Keep

Castle Keep in Newcastle upon Tyne is one of the city’s most famous attractions and one of the best preserved Norman fortifications in the country.

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is a 13th century castle with a diverse history.

Dover Castle

The medieval Dover Castle is one of Britain’s most significant fortresses and has a fascinating and diverse history.

Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle is a ruined Norman motte and bailey castle which is now open to visitors and also hosts the popular Dudley Zoo within its grounds.

Fotheringhay Castle

Fortheringhay Castle was the birthplace of Richard III and site of execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey is one of the most important historic abbeys in Britain and the legendary burial place of King Arthur.

Haltwhistle Castle

Haltwhistle Castle Hill is a ruined Norman earth and timber ringwork fortress in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, England. There are no extant stone remains.

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Kenfig Castle

Kenfig Castle is a ruined castle in Bridgend County Borough in Wales that came to prominence after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Wales in the late 11th century.

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Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle is a Norman masterpiece which still stands majestically in the calm Welsh countryside as a reminder of the tumultuous Anglo-Welsh past.

King John's Palace, Southampton

King John's Palace is a ruined Norman merchant's house in Southampton, England. Incorrectly believed for a period to have been used by King John, resulting in its modern name, the west wall of the house was converted to form part of the city's defensive walls in the early 14th century and its archways contain what may be Britain's earliest surviving gunports. The structure now forms part of the Tudor House Museum in the city and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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King Johns Palace

King Johns Palace is a ruined Norman townhouse built around 1180AD, the remains of which are now open to the public.

Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle is located in the town of Launceston, Cornwall, England. It was probably built by Robert the Count of Mortain after 1068, and initially comprised an earthwork and timber castle with a large motte in one corner. Launceston Castle formed the administrative centre of the new earldom of Cornwall, with a large community packed within the walls of its bailey. It was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century and then substantially redeveloped by Richard of Cornwall after 1227, including a high tower to enable visitors to view his surrounding lands. When Richard's son, Edmund, inherited the castle, he moved the earldom's administration to Lostwithiel, triggering the castle's decline. By 1337, the castle was increasingly ruinous and used primarily as a gaol and to host judicial assizes.

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Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle in Kent was a twelfth century stronghold which has since served as a royal palace, a prison and as a stately home.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral was the home of the first Norman bishop.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle, the finest of medieval ruined castles, set in glorious Shropshire countryside, at the heart of this superb, bustling black

Manorbier Castle

Described as the most pleasant spot in Wales, Manorbier is a well preserved medieval castle located on the Welsh coast in Pembrokeshire.

Newark Priory

Newark Priory is a ruined priory on an island surrounded by the River Wey and its former leat (the Abbey Stream) near the boundary of the village (parish lands) of Ripley and Pyrford in Surrey, England.

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Norman House

Norman House on Steep Hill, Lincoln, England is an historic building and an example of Norman domestic architecture.The building is at 46–47 Steep Hill and 7 Christs Hospital Terrace. The architectural evidence suggests a date between 1170 and 1180.The building was known for many years as "Aaron the Jew's House", and appears as such in many references, as it was thought to be the former residence of Aaron of Lincoln (d.1186), although this is now considered incorrect.

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Norton Priory

Norton Priory is a historic site in Norton, Runcorn, Cheshire, England, comprising the remains of an abbey complex dating from the 12th to 16th centuries, and an 18th-century country house; it is now a museum. The remains are a scheduled ancient monument and are recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. They are considered to be the most important monastic remains in Cheshire.

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Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle was once Devon’s largest castle and was listed in the Doomsday Book.

Oxford Castle

A partly-ruined medieval castle built for William the Conqueror in 1071, Oxford Castle transformed into a prison after the English Civil War and visitors can immerse themselves in 1,000 years of mystery, intrigue, escapes, ghosts and brutal jailers as well as the origins of Oxford University.

Pontefract Castle

Originally a Norman structure, Pontefract castle played an increasingly important role in English Royal history for over 500 years. Today it lies in ruins but has much for visitors to enjoy, including its underground dungeons.

Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle has been a Roman fort, a Norman keep and even a wartime prison.

Restormel Castle

Restormel Castle sits on a site believed to have originally been home to a Norman castle.

Selby Abbey

In existence since 1069, Selby Abbey has been used for worship for over 900 years. In the heart of Yorkshire and often known as the hidden gem of the county, it is not especially well known despite being unmatched in its beauty and archaic stance.

St Bridget’s Parish Church

St Bridget’s Parish Church in the Merseyside town of West Kirby was founded by Irish Christian Vikings around the 11th century and amongst other treasures houses the 10th century Hogback Stone.

St Mary’s Abbey

St Mary’s Abbey is a picturesque ruined Benedictine abbey in York, located in York Museum Gardens.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a famous fortress and prison originally commissioned by the first Norman king, William the Conqueror.

Trematon Castle

Trematon Castle is situated near Saltash in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It was the caput of the feudal barony of Trematon. It is similar in style to the later Restormel Castle, with a 12th-century keep. Trematon Castle overlooks Plymouth Sound and was built probably by Robert, Count of Mortain on the ruins of an earlier Roman fort: it is a motte-and-bailey castle and dates from soon after the Norman conquest. It occupies a sentinel position one and a half miles south-east of Trematon village (grid reference SX41065801).

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Wallingford Castle

Wallingford Castle was a major medieval castle situated in Wallingford in the English county of Oxfordshire (historically in Berkshire until the 1974 reorganisation), adjacent to the River Thames. Established in the 11th century as a motte-and-bailey design within an Anglo-Saxon burgh, it grew to become what historian Nicholas Brooks has described as "one of the most powerful royal castles of the 12th and 13th centuries". Held for the Empress Matilda during the civil war years of the Anarchy, it survived multiple sieges and was never taken. Over the next two centuries it became a luxurious castle, used by royalty and their immediate family. After being abandoned as a royal residence by Henry VIII, the castle fell into decline. Refortified during the English Civil War, it was eventually slighted, i.e. deliberately destroyed, after being captured by Parliamentary forces after a long siege. The site was subsequently left relatively undeveloped, and the limited remains of the castle walls and the considerable earthworks are now open to the public.

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Westminster Abbey

William I was the first in the long line of monarchs to be crowned at the iconic Westminster Abbey.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of the 13th century church which belonged to a Benedictine abbey in Yorkshire.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world and the official home of the Queen.

York City Walls

The York City Walls are England’s most intact set of city walls and one of the city’s most popular attractions.

York Minster

York Minster is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in northern Europe, built by the Normans and expanded over the centuries.

Our database of Britain's Norman castles, sites and ruins is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other Norman locations you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.