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Rochester castle

Rochester castle (Kent) stands above the river Medway whose crossing it controlled. The first castle on the site was an enclosure within the Roman city walls. The present castle, also originally a ‘ringwork’, was begun by Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, for William Rufus 1087–9. The castle was transformed by the addition of a tower keep built 1127–40, after Henry I had granted the castle to the archbishop of Canterbury and his successors. The keep, which is 70 feet square and rises to the height of 113 feet to the parapet, was designed to be the defensive heart of the castle and also to contain the best residential accommodation, which is arranged on three floors above a basement. The grandest suite, presumably intended for the archbishop himself, is on the second floor and has its own chapel. The defensive strength of the castle was demonstrated in 1215 when rebel barons held it against King John. The royal forces took the castle only after they managed to dig a mine under the south-east angle tower, which caused the tower to collapse.

Lynda Rollason

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