Castle Acre Castle

Much can be said about this site, but in reality the massive earthworks present astound one’s mind and are, therefore, indescribable. The image here is taken from the motte and looks toward the outer bailey with another set of earthworks to the very left representing the inner bailey.

Earthworks of the inner bailey to the left and the outer bailey to the right

The scope of the earthworks is staggering, and the great tower which once stood is also remarkable. Starting from the 1070’s, William de Warenne and his descendants built a stone house and over the next two centuries transformed this into a mighty great tower that was at least 19 metres high. Yet, this place was never besieged and the town was allowed to dwindle into lesser relevance once de Warenne’s influence declined.

Nevertheless, the unique combination created by the Priory, the town and the castle, illustrates an Anglo-Norman world like so few other places. The Priory, with its slower pace of chance, represents one of the three pillars of the Medieval society (those who pray) while the town (those who work) and the castle (those who fight) complete the triumvirate. Also, comparing the scale of Castle Acre to those of other local castles leaves this one standing very proud: though the motte is quite small, the two baileys enclose a considerable area.

However… What’s there to see and feel?

I think the idea of how we have affected landscapes around ourselves is very important. We know of the Romans having done so (the limes for one) and the Saxons were no worse (Offa’s Dyke as the most obvious option). The Normans saw no benefit in constructing structures that would span tens or hundreds of miles; what was of interest to them was controlling the population and earning revenues, and for this the castle and town combination was perfect. I think this sense comes through in this place — it was built to enhance the prestige and economic welfare of its lord, and the fortunes of Castle Acre were the fortunes of the de Warenne’s.

And I have veered off describing what was actually important. Perhaps the scope of this place is so immense my mind does not want to help me capture it?

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