Two castles existed at Buckenham
- Norman castle within possibly earlier earthwork. Abandoned 1146 when granted to the Priory of Buckenham, the keep being used to provide building material for the latter. Map
- Remains of castle earthworks, moat and keep. Built circa 1145-50 by William II de Albini to replace Old Buckenham Castle (TM 09 SE 4). It comprises an inner bailey and two outer baileys, all with earth walls. The circular keep is the earliest in England. Its walls are 11 ft thick at the foot and the total height of the keep may have been as much as 40 ft. The castle was demolished in the 1640’s. Map
The site of the new castle is understood to be freely accessible during the day.
Three miles S.W. of Attlehorough is the village of Old Bukenham, near which is the site of a priory founded before 1136 by William d’Albini, to build which he utilised the site of a castle of his, standing within an oval enclosure on the N.E. of the church, and still traceable by its large rampart and ditch. The date of the erection of this castle is unknown, and the sole relic of it is a stone sewer into the ditch on its W. side. (Harrod.)
Here stood, no doubt, the timber fortress of Ralph Guader, the Saxon Earl of Norfolk, who fled the country at the Norman invasion, and whose lands the Conqueror bestowed on William d’Albini.
Shortly before 1136 this d’Albini’s descendant removed the castle to a new site, lying about 11 miles off, on the W. of the village of New Bukenham, in a higher and healthier situation. “This second castle, built by William d’Albini, descended, like Castle Rising, through that family until the death of Hugh d’Albini in 1243, when in a partition between four co-heirs Bukenham fell to Robert de Tateshall, who made it his chief residence. After him it came to five namesakes, the last dying a minor in 1310, when the property passed by females to the Cliftons, with whom it remained till 1447, in which year the only daughter of Sir John Clifton brought it to Sir Andrew Ogard, Knight. He died s.p. in 1454, and Bukenham went by marriage to Sir James Knevet, Knight, in whose family it continued till Sir Philip Knevet sold it in 1649 to Hugh Audley, having first demolished the castle.
The earthworks here resemble in plan those of Castle Acre, but the absence of any mound is an unusual feature in ancient bank and ditch fortresses, in which respect they also resemble the works round Rising. It has therefore been stated that the whole is the work of William d’Albini the second, called William of the Strong Hand.
Passing from the cross-roads through an ancient outer ditch, one enters a large circular enclosure by a modern brick bridge thrown across the ditch which encircles the work, by an opening in the huge rampart, where once stood the gatehouse. The diameter of the ring space within is 216 feet, and on the top of the surrounding bank there was evidently a stone wall, which has disappeared, though traceable all round. All the .rest of the stonework has vanished likewise, with the exception of the substructure of a circular tower at the S.E. side, built of rubble 11 feet thick, and divided by a cross wall. This basement has neither window nor staircase, and may have served as a dungeon, and the tower was, perhaps, one of two or more, forming the main defences. Outside this chief portion, on its E. side, is an outer earthwork of horseshoe shape, like that al Castle Acre, surrounded by its own ditch, and with a similar bank. The whole fortress is now covered with trees.
On the road S. of the castle can be seen the remains of the chapel of St. Mary, now a barn, at the W. end of which are the ruins of a brick house, built by the Knevets in the sixteenth century. Its E. end had an apse, and at the W. end was an original bell-cot, altered into a chimney. (Harrod.)
We know little about the occurrences that took place during the 500 years of this castle’s life; except that in the reign of Henry III. it was held by Sir Robert Tateshall for the King, and stood a siege by the Barons’ forces under Sir Henry Hastings. But the Kings side was popular here, and Tateshall was supported by the county with arms and supplies, so that Hastings was forced to raise the siege, and in revenge marched his troops to other properties of Sir Robert, where he burned and destroyed as much as he could of them. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)