A quadrangular castle situated within a sandstone valley on the southern side of the River Eden. The castle buildings, which were constructed upon a roughly square, artificial island of 0.8 hectares, survive mainly in the form of buried foundations and associated archaeological remains. The castle is a grade II Listed building, an ancient Monument of the county of Surrey and a scheduled National Monument. Only the moat remains of the original c.1342 castle.
Originally called Prinkharn, this castle was in the E. corner of the county, upon the frontier of the kingdom of Kent, and seems to have had a foundation as early as the time of the Heptarchy. (Salmon.) The manor-house of the property was made into a castle (temp. Edward III.), but no remains of it exist at the present day.
The common ancestor of the Surrey and Kent branches of the Cobham family was John, a justiciar itinerant in the reign of Henry III., who died in 1251, having purchased Couling and Westcheltre in Kent. By his second wife, Joan, daughter of Hugh de Neville, he had five sons, of whom John, the eldest, was ancestor of the Cobhams of Cobham and Couling ; and another, Reginald, married Joan, daughter of William de Hevere or Evere, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Reginald, born about 1295, who was an illustrious character, eminent in the reign of Edward III., and founder of the Surrey branch of the Cobhams. He was employed in the French wars, where he probably acquired much wealth ; and, being created baronet in 15 Edward III., obtained a licence to crenellate his house at Prinkham, named thenceforth Starborough, from the star badge of the family. He was called to Parliament as Lord Cobham of Sterborougb, and was one of the chief leaders at the battle of Crecy, when the King committed to his care and to that of Sir John Chandos and the Earl of Warwick, the young Black Prince, then making his first essay in arms. After Crecy he was appointed, with Sir Richard Stafford and three heralds, to number the French slain, with two priests to record the names, when they found eighty standards, and the bodies of eleven princes, 1200 knights, and 3000 men-at-arms. At Poictiers Lord Cobham acted as marshal of the van to Edward the Black Prince, and there saved the life of the King of France from his would-be captors (see Froissart, ii. 167). To support his dignity he was granted the mill at the castle of Oxford and the King’s mede there ; he was also admiral of the King’s fleet, with a grant of £500 a year for life, and, in 1352, was elected Knight of the Garter, being the fourth knight on the list. His plate is still to be seen in the ninth stall at Windsor. At his death he was seised of the manors of Oxsted, Prinkham, and Langley Burrell, with Lye in Wilts, and Northey in Sussex, and many others in Kent. Lord Sterborough died of the pestilence in 1361, and his tomb is to be seen in the parish church of Lingfield. He had married Joan, daughter of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, by whom he had Reginald, second Lord Cobham, born 1348. He served in the French wars of 1 Richard II., and 3 Henry IV., and was a friend of the poet Chaucer ; he died 1403, and was buried in Lingfield, where is seen his tomb, with his effigy in marble. His son Reginald was never summoned to Parliament, and was called Sir R. de Cobham ; to him was en¬trusted the keeping of the Duke of Orleans, (afterwards Louis X11.), taken prisoner at Agincourt, and released after twenty years’ imprisonment, for an enormous ransom. He died in 1446, and his tomb, in company with his second wife, to whom he left Sterborough, is near those of his father and grandfather; his figure is in complete and ponderous plate armour, while his father wears armour of light mail and leather.
The second son of this man succeeded as Sir Thomas Cobham of Sterborough, and died 1471, leaving only a daughter, Anna, married to Sir Edward Borough, a descendant of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent (temp. Henry III.), and this family lived here—a Sir Thomas Borough dying, seised of it, in 1551. The place passed, in the reign of Elizabeth, to William, Lord Borough, whose title becoming extinct in 1602, at the death of a child, Lord Robert, Sterborough fell to three granddaughters of the last lord, and was by them sold to Sir Thomas Richardson, Chief Justice of Queens Bench. He died 1634, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The old castle was purchased in 1793 by J. Turton, created baronet 1795, who added dining and drawing-rooms to the building, and improved it generally.
The castle was in sufficiently good repair during the Civil War of the seventeenth century, to receive a garrison of the Parliament; but, as all that part of the country was in their power, nothing of note took place here. In 1648 the House of Commons directed the Committee at Derby House to have regard to Sterborough Castle, and “to put it in such a state that no use might be made of it to the endangering of the peace,” which led to its demolition. Manning speaks of a sketch of this castle, by which it appears to have been rectangular and built round a central court, with round towers at the corners, surmounted with domes, the whole surrounded with a moat, enclosing 1½ acres, and having a drawbridge. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)