This castle site commands the heights of Rockingham Hill, overlooking the Welland Valley. A fortified settlement of one kind or another has always been here, certainly since Roman times, probably to protect their Iron workings. In the same way the Saxons did, after them,
from Viking marauders who sailed up the River Welland.
Whether or not William the Conqueror saw any value in these iron workings is up for further investigation but he certainly had a motte and bailey castle built here while he was
consolidating his control on the country, shortly after 1066.
Later, the castle may have developed into a weekend-away break residence for the reigning monarchs, bearing in mind the hunting of wild boar and deer to be had in the forest nearby. It was here in 1095 that King William II (Rufus) had a confrontation with Archbishop Anselm which resulted in a trial before the King.
During King John’s rein c.1206 a new tower was built costing £200. This was probably
the shell keep that was later to be taken down from its motte.
Although detailed building information is very limited, it was in King Edward I’s reign that the only named craftsman is mentioned. A carpenter, Miles Carlton who was employed here in 1272. In the same period the twin Drum towered gatehouse was built. These seem to be of similar design to the Byward and Middle towers at the Tower of London which where designed and built by the King’s Master Mason, Robert Beverley in 1274.
Nearly a century later, King Edward III was the last monarch to visit the castle.
By the 15th century it had fallen into disrepair, until Sir Edward Watson aquired
the lease from King Henry VIII in 1544.
Early in the Civil War, the castle was garrisoned by Royalists but it was captured in 1643 by Parliamentarian troops commanded by General Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford.
By act of Parliament the castle was slighted in 1646.
Because the castle was not used regularly as a residence, there was no maintenance work done until 1836 when the new owner, Richard Watson embarked on a major modernisation programme, employing the services of the architect, Anthony Salvin.
Today the castle remains the private home of the Saunders Watson family and is open on certain days.
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