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Bungay Castle

Bungay castle is a ruined fortification in the historic Suffolk town of Bungay. The name is thought to come from Le Bon Eye, meaning good island. The town is half surrounded by the Waveney and marshes.
The first fortifications were Saxon Link later incorporated into the outer bailey of the castle.
The Bigod family, who assisted King William of Normandy with the Conquest of England in 1066 were rewarded with manors and lands throughout East Anglia, including Bungay and FramlinghamLink.

The family lands were inherited by the famous Hugh Bigod in 1120 after the death of his Brother in the sinking of the 'White Ship'. He was a bold and strong leader using Bungay as his main base. He was friends with Henry 1st , becoming constable of Norwich in 1122, however by 1135 Henry 1st had died. Matilda (Henry's daughter) and her uncle fought for the throne. At first a supporter of Stephen in 1136 Hugh raised an army against King Stephen and seized the royal castle of Norwich. In order to subdue him, Stephen decided to march upon Bungay in 1140 however negotiations followed, Stephen rewarded Bigod with the title of Earl of Norfolk in order to win his future loyalty. Matilda had the army plus some barons' support resulting in the capturing of Stephen in February 1141, her advantage lasted until July 1141, Stephen was released and given the throne after Matilda's son was made heir to Stephen. With the death of her greatest supporter and half brother Robert of Gloucester she fled to France. Henry, Duke of Normandy came over to gain the throne off Stephen, with the support of Hugh Bigod in 1153.
Hugh held Ipswich while Henry held Stamford, both falling to Stephen. However Stephen has no power to punish them, negotiations lead to Henry being crowned in December 1154. The now Henry 2nd started to restore law and order to the independent barons, Hugh being marched upon in 1157.
Bungay and Framlingham being confiscated off him.
By 1163 Hugh was deemed no longer posing a threat, his properties were returned to him. This was the time when construction commenced on the stone keep at Bungay, which is estimated to have taken about ten years to complete. Not massive compared to other but its walls were between 5 - 7 metres thick it stood 33 metres high (taller than the tower of St. Mary's church Link.
Construction of Orford Castle Link Henry the 2nd's fortress near Framlingham started in 1165, being completed by the time of the rebellion (see below).
With Bungay and Framlingham Hugh was a very powerful man, in 1173 Hugh joined forces with the Earl of Leicester to fight against Henry II. Henry the young king (Henry II's son), who lead the rebellion promised Hugh Norwich Castle. This was along with other reasons including a horrid tax on vessels in lieu of military service and barons wanting to return to a more feudal system. Flemish mercenaries were hired, The Earl of Leicester landed at Walton, in Suffolk, on 29 September 1173 marching to Framlingham to meet with Hugh; together they captured the royal castle of Haughley. However there were unsuccessful attempts to seize Dunwich and Norwich, the unfortunate result for them being Henry's mustering of a massive army against them, which camped at Syleham, near Diss. The Earl of Leicester was captured returning to Framlingham.
Hugh was forced to meet with the king at Syleham, and submit. He was declared an outlawed traitor, his armies were disbanded, and all his properties surrendered. The king arranged to have both Framlingham and Bungay castles destroyed, mining galleries being constructed Link. Eventually Hugh managed to save it from destruction on payment of one thousand marks to the King.
Hugh lived in peace with the king, fighting for him in the Crusades, where he is supposed to have died in Palestine c 1176-1178.
Henry II took the estates from the family, the earldom was disputed. Roger was the son of Hugh's first wife, his stepmother tried to get the title for one of her sons. However Richard I saw that Roger was the true heir. Roger Bigod got the title in 1189 but the family restored Framlingham. The original castle was mostly demolished. Roger's first son Hugh inherited the estates and title 3rd Earl of Norfolk, he died in 1225. His son, Roger 4th Earl of Norfolk died in 1270 being childless. The earldom passing to his nephew Roger Bigod (son of the Hugh the 3rd Earl of Norfolk) in 1269 thus becoming the 5th Earl of Norfolk, who died in 1306 with no heirs. However Roger (the 5th Earl) was to have the most influence deciding to renovate the stronghold, erecting a gate-house, and high curtain walls to encircle the original keep. He couldn't appreciate the work for long, dying soon after the renovation was completed in 1297.

After Roger died in 1306 and the castle passed to the Crown. It then passed into the hands of many different owners but remained unoccupied. In 1483, it passed into the possession of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk, and the family continued to own it, apart from brief periods until the late 20th century.
Dr. Leonard Cane became the Town Reeve of Bungay in 1934, organising a series of excavations and repairs. In 1987 the castle was officially presented to the town by the Duke of Norfolk for preservation. Being owned by the Castle Trust, the Castle Visitors' Centre “Jesters” was opened in 2000 providing a permanent centre for visitors, complete with cafe and gift shop. The site is open for free at reasonable times.
by Ashley Dace

Created: Thu, 29 Jul 2010, Updated: Sat, 31 Jul 2010


18 images use this description:

TM3389 : Mining Gallery by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle Outer Bailey by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Keep by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle Towers by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle Outer Bailey by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Site of Castle Remains by Geographer
TM3389 : Mining Tunnels in Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bigod's Castle by Richard Croft
TM3389 : Bungay Castle Keep by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bigods Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Inside the Keep by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Bungay Castle Keep by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Outer Bailey Bungay Castle by Ashley Dace
TM3389 : Brick Door to the Keep by Ashley Dace


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