Burwell Castle was begun in 1143 by King Stephen as part of a series of castles built to contain the rebellion of Geoffrey de Mandeville who had captured the Isle of Ely. Geoffrey was killed attacking Burwell Castle in 1144, rendering the castle unnecessary and it was left unfinished. The castle was excavated by T C Lethbridge in 1935.
Remains visible today include a series of impressive and well-preserved earthworks, including the motte (castle mound), an unfinished rectangular moat, defensive outworks and the earthwork footprints of medieval houses.
The site is accessible to the public.
On the E. side of the county, four miles from Newmarket.
In Camden’s “Britannia” this place is mentionecl, “where was a castle, which in those troublesome times of King Stephen, was bravely attacked by Geoffrey Mandeville, Earl of Essex (a person who lost much honour by his unjust invasions of other mens’ rights), till an arrow, shot through his head, freed those countries from the fears and terrors they had long been under.”
The castle is said by Lysons to have belonged to the Abbey of Ramsey; and the family of Tiptoft (Tibetot), Earls of Worcester, possessed the manor in 1277.
Little is preserved concerning the history of this fortress, a sketch of which is preserved in a MS. in the British Museum. In Lysons’ time the remains of it consisted of a piece of ruined wall, and a rectangular trace of extensive earthworks, situated in a close a little to the W. of the church, within the manor of Ramsey. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)