Visiting Castle Acre Castle
Castle Acre Castle stands to the east of Castle Acre Village, bordering on the River Nar and overlooking a broad valley. Built in 1066, this fine example of a motte and bailey castle is now in ruins. Though only walls and ramparts remain, visitors are free to explore the castle and its lovely views.
Visitors will find a small car park designated for the castle, which they may access from Pye's Lane. There is a £2 fee for non-members, which one may pay via text. Parking is free to members with a valid English Heritage sticker on their cars.
The Castle Acre castle is open year-round, and you may visit at any reasonable time during daylight hours. Please note that there is a £2 fee for using the designated parking area if you are not an English Heritage member.
English Heritage is the custodian of the Castle Acre site, which is freely accessible in daylight hours.
Location and Access
Visitors will find Castle Acre Castle in the Castle Acre Village centre off Pyes Lane, about 16 miles (25km) east of King's Lynn on the A47. The physical address is:
If you wish to access the castle without using Pye's lane, you may use the footpath of Bailey Street (between the Old Red Lion and the Old Chapel. This route will lead you directly to the castle's west gate, which opens into the outer bailey.
Visitors' access paths have chipped bark, but there are grassy areas, so visitors should take care of their flooring in wet weather. The Bailey Street path is step-free but is prone to muddiness in wet months.
Know Before You Go
- The castle and bailey gate is near the Castle Village centre with a few shops, cafes, and a pub.
- Visitors should wear sensible shoes as there are narrow stairs and slippery pathways in wet weather.
- Visitors may access toilet facilities at the Castle Acre priory.
- Dogs on a leash are welcome. w
Places To Stay Nearby
The Ostrich Inn Pub in Castle Acre has stood on the village green for over four hundred years. And it is only two minutes from the castle site. With its skew ceilings and walls, this piece of heritage is a great place to unwind after you explore the castle. You can also use the old inn to spend a relaxing night after exploring the many attractions of Castle Acre.
History of Castle AcreCastle (Time Line)
Castle Acre Castle has stood its vigil over River Nar since it rose as a Saxon fortress of earth and timber in 1070. The castle grew extensively in the 12th century, when the great hall became a stone keep. Castle Acre Castle fell into ruin in the mid 1400s.
-1066 (Norman Conquest)
Norfolk was a thriving and densely populated community, and a Saxon landowner named Toki owned the Castle Acre settlement. After the Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings, they deprived Toki of his estates and granted the property to a Flemish warrior named Gerbod. Gerbod then passed the land on to his daughter Gundred.
Willam de Warenne married Gerbod's daughter and assumed control of the Castle Acre and estates. A favoured follower of William the Conqueror, Warenne built the first ringwork fortification with no keep or motte and constructed instead of a circular inner bailey with a stone house in the centre.
The fortification offered a base to administer his extensive estates, with easy access to Peddlers Way, a major Roman road. The site also provided easy access to the River Nar, which helped him control the area around the fort.
Warenne also established a small number of Cluniac monks on his estate, which formed the beginnings of the later Cluniac priory.
William II de Warenne succeeded his father in 1088 and also had an impressive military career. It was under his largesse that the monks began building the Castle Acre Priory.
-1138 (Improved Defences)
Another William succeeded his father, namely William III de Warenne. William III de Warenne was born to politically sensitive times where Matilda, daughter and rightful heiress of Henry I, fought for control of the Crown against her cousin King Stephen. Due to the political tension, William III de Warenne improved the fort defences and raised the earth ramparts, and strengthened them with stone.
He then set about converting the once two-story residential house into a defensible military tower. He is also presumed to have fortified the surrounding town with substantial earthworks and ditches.
William de Warenne III died in the Crusades and left the Castle and lands to his daughter. She married twice, and her second husband was Hamelin Plantagenet, half brother to Henry II. Historians credit Hamelin with the building of the two gatehouses.
Hamelin's heirs also reached political and military prominence in their own right, entertaining royalty at Castle Acre Castle, including King Henry III and Edward I.
The last of the direct line of de Warenne heirs, John the 8th Earl, dies, and Richard Fitzalan takes control of the castle and lands. His descendants kept ownership of Castle Acre Castle until 1158, although historical records indicate the castle was in a state of decline as early as 1397.
Edward Coke, a successful lawyer and political figure, then bought the castle, which was in a state of ruins.
Antiquarian Henry Harrod noted that the townspeople had so recklessly plundered the castle ruins that almost every house had part of the castle's stone.
The Fifth Earl of Leicester placed the castle in state guardianship, and the castle Grade I listed buildings in Norfolk.
Johnathon Coad and Anthony Streeten conduct extensive excavations of the castle site.
Today, the Castle is a Grade I listed monument, and English Heritage UK is the custodian of the castle ruins.
Castle Acre Castle Occupants
For most of Castle Acre Castle's lifespan, the castle grew as de Warenne family descendants rose to significant political and military might. However, after the 1300s, interest in the castle began to decline as a primary residence. The most notable residents include the following.
11th Century Occupants
- 1070: Willam de Warenne married Gerbods, daughter ánd assumed control of the estates. He then erected the first ringwork fortification on the Castle Acre site
- 1088: William II de Warenne succeeded his father in occupying the castle until his death.
12th Century Occupants
- 1138: William III de Warenne succeeds Willaim II de Warenne and resides and fortifies the Castle Acre Castle. He lost his life fighting in the Second Crusade.
- 1148: William de Warenne III died in the Crusades and left the castle and lands to his daughter, Isabell de Warenne, who inherited her father's lands and Castle Acre Castle. She married twice and resided in the castle with her second husband, Hamelin Plantagenet, half brother to Henry II.
13th Century Occupants/Royal Visits
- The 1200s: Hamelin's sons and grandson occupy the Castle Acre Castle and become prominent political figures entertaining royalty at the castle, including:
- Henry III
- Edward I
14th Century Occupants
- 1347: John the 8th Earl dies, the last of his line and leaves the castle and lands to his nephew Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel.
- 1558: The heirs of Fitzalan inherited the castle and grounds until 1558, but by 1397, historical records document the castle as in a state of neglect and somewhat derelict.
Images of Castle Acre Castle
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Castle Acre Castle Facts
Castle Acre Castle is one of the finest examples of a well-preserved motte and bailey castle and an excellent example of Norman earthworks. The first stone building constructed in the centre of an inner bailey was a two-story residential building. It stood in a courtyard, protected by a ditch and bank which survives buried beneath later earthworks.
Around 1140, William III de Warenne began converting the house into a keep. He also set about to strengthen the surrounding defences, enlarged the ditch, raised the bank, and began constructing the curtain wall.
Later, the second fortification period raised the perimeter bank and built a second curtain of flint on the existing curtain wall. Builders added the east and western gatehouses to provide entry to the outer bailey.
Archaeologists believe that the foundations that remain in the outer bailey are evidence of a great hall, separate kitchen, and a chapel. Experts also believe that the hall replaced the original house in the inner bailey after converting it into a keep.
Castle Acre Castle Q&A
What Kind of Castle Is Castle Acre?
Originally a Saxon fortress made of timber and earthworks, the medieval fortress was made of a high motte at the north end and an extensive outer bailey to the south, and a smaller bailey to the east.
Builders covered earthwork ramparts with stone walls and transformed the original stone domestic building into a keep in the 12th century. The occupants surrounded the castle in earthwork defences and added stone gatehouses of which the Bailey Gate still stands.
How Big Was Castle Acre?
The settlement of Castle Acre was 225 by 188 meters (738 by 617ft) and covered an area of some 10.5 acres (4.25 hectares) the surviving ditch is around 17 metres wide (56ft) and 3 metres deep (9.8ft) later Builders also raised the banks to a height of 3 metres (9.8ft).
Location of Castle Acre Castle
Castle Acre Castle ruins lie in the southern part of the modern village of Castle Acre, Norfolk. The castle site did not move from its 12-century earth and timber origins but grew organically as the need for fortification and advances in masonry gradually extended the structure.
Other Places To Visit Near Castle Acre Castle
Castle Acre Priory
The breathtaking ruins at Castle Acre Priory have a history entertained with that of the Castle Acre. William de Warenne, the Norman builder of the castle, was the first to establish a community of Cluniac monks on his estate. Under his son William II de Warenne, the monks thrived and began building the monastery in 1089.
A little further out but essential not to miss is Castle Rising Castle. The castle is a remarkably well-preserved and stunningly decorated keep in the UK and surrounded by 20 acres of earthworks. The castle, built in 1138, was once home to Queen Isabella, the alleged murderess of Edward II.