Ring motte and bailey first mentioned 1160, with later stone keep probably built between 1152 and 1217. Only foundations of the keep survived in the early 19th century but partial reconstruction has occured since. Outworks have been partly damaged by modern building. Excavations have identified a Medieval hall. It has been suggested that it was the principal castle of Richard Fitz Gilbert, and that the earthworks around the castle may represent a campaign position of the Norman army in the winter of 1066-7.
The ruins stand in the grounds of a Victorian house (originally known as Castle Hill) built in about 1860, by Mr John Norris. It was the main house of a sizeable estate, whose ancillary buildings and farmland can still be seen to the south.
A major portion of the house was demolished in the early 1950s, and the remaining building was renamed Castle Place, the name it retains to this day. It has been converted into flats.
This castle stood at the W. extremity of the town, where now is a wood, upon the bold brow of a hill commanding extensive views over Holmsdale. It is said to have been a stately fortress, and pleasantly situated.
The manor at Domesday was in the possession of Richard de Tonbridge, one of the Norman warriors who came to the conquest of England kith Duke William, whose half-brother he was, being born of Arlotte, the same mother, as the Conqueror. He was the son of Gilbert Crispin, Earl of Brionne, the son of Jeffrey, natural son of Richard, first Duke of Normandy, the great-grandfather of Duke William ; hence they were also second cousins. His usual name was Richard FitzGilbert, and he had from his brother twenty-four manors in Surrey. He was killed in Wales about 1090. This Richard was made Earl of Clare, and his descendants retained their property for nine generations. He is the reputed founder of Bletchingley Castle, the original fabric of which had not a long existence, for the revolt of Gilbert, the Red Earl (see TONBRIDGE, DENT), who fought against Henry III. at the battle of Lewes, brought about its demolition.
‘The king’s troops quartered in Tonbriclge, hearing of the Royalist defeat there, sallied out to attack the Londoners, who, having been dispersed early in the day by Prince Edward, were collecting their shattered forces at Croydon ; on their way thither, these Kings troops took Bletchingley, and destroyed it, probably as far as fire would burn.
In later times this same Red Earl, marrying Joan d’Acre, the daughter of Edward I., had to surrender all his castles and manors to that King, receiving them back again. This manor afterwards followed the fortunes of Tonbridge and Clare (q.v.), until it became forfeit to the Crown in 1521 by the execution of Edward, Duke of Buckingham, under Henry VIII., who, in 1523, granted it to Sir Nicholas Carew, of Beddington, Surrey, his Master of the Horse, and K.G. Sir Nicholas was charged ill 1539, together with the Marquess of Exeter and others, with conspiring to place Cardinal Pole upon the throne, and was beheaded in March of that year, when Bletchingley fell to the Crown again. Two years after, Henry settled it on Anne of Cleves for her life, and she lived at the manor house of the property. At her death, the estate .vent to Sir Thomas Carwardes, an official in high favour with the king, who, in 1560, sold it to William, Lord Howard of Effingham, the Lord High Admiral, whose granddaughter, the beautiful Elizabeth Howard, brought Bletchingley in marriage to John, Lord Mordaunt, created Earl of Peterborough in 1628. She was a hot Parliamentarian, and her son, the second Earl, a strong Royalist; but he had, in exile and poverty, to pull down the manor-house and sell the estate, whereupon Bletchingley, in 1677, went to Sir Robert Clayton, whose descendant sold the reversion of the manor to a relative, John Kenrick, whose family resold it. In 1835 it came to the Perkins family, and it is now the property of Mr. Norris.
In 1673 Aubrey saw a piece of the old castle wall, which had been pulled down during the Barons’ War ; it stood upon an eminence, but at the present day nothing is to be traced but foundations. The lines of both the inner and outer moats can be seen very clearly, and a part of the walls has been exposed by digging, with the foundations of a tower. The castle is said to have been rebuilt after the battle of Lewes, but there exists no record to tell when it was deserted or pulled down, or when separated from the manor.
An old drawing shows the plan of the moats to have been somewhat in the form of the letter A, having two sides inclining together, the keep standing in the small enclosure with other buildings. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)
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