The ruins of a small 12th-century Norman keep, with panoramic views over the Weald.
Sutton Valence was another of the fortresses placed near the important road running from Rochester towards Winchelsea, the scanty remains of which are upon the hill near the church. Philipott says that William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, was lord of the fee, “and certainly founded the castle that now looks with such venerable magnificence down on the plain.”
This William was half-brother to the King, Henry III., for on the death of King John, his widow, Queen Isabella, had married her first love, Hugh le Brun, Count de la Marche, a gallant troubadour, whose songs are still extant (Blaauw) ; and on the death of the queen dowager, their children were sent over to the care of King Henry. William, the eldest, was, in 1247, made governor of Goodrich Castle, and married to Joan de Monchensi, a great heiress, who brought him the Pembroke estates, from which he afterwards acquired the title of Earl of Pembroke; he adhered to his brother’s side throughout the Barons’ War, and fought at Lewes. When Aymer de Valence died sp. male, his daughter and heiress Isabel, married Lawrence, Lord Hastings, who then became Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Sutton Valence, and from him the property descended to his grandson, John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, the last of that name, who transmitted his title of the place to Reginald Gray and Richard Talbot (temp. Henry IV.), for they held the manor (14 Richard II.). Afterwards the Cliffords, of Bobbing Court, were proprietors, until Nicholas Clifford died, leaving an heiress, Mildred, who was married to four husbands ; Sutton going to the family of her first husband, Sir Edward Harper, who sold the property to Sir Edward Hales, and his family long continued there.
There is a fragment existing of the wall of the keep, being First Pointed work of Henry III. In the wall, at some height above the ground, are several curious cells, contrived in the thickness of the wall, the use of which has not been explained. Two separate rooms of the ivy-covered keep may still be discerned; the loopholed walls of it are 20 feet high, but seem to have had another storey; it is built of freestone and flints, with some tile and thin bricks interspersed. It stands high, commanding extensive views to the southward. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)
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