Castle Rising



' Rising was a sea-port town, where Lynn was but a marsh,

Now Lynn is a sea-port town, and Rising fears the worse.'


The magnificent keep at Castle Rising was built in c1140 by William d'Albini II to celebrate his marriage to the widow of Henry I and his acquisition of the earldom of Sussex and was modeled on the keep at Norwich, built by Henry I. At its building it was the largest in the country and was later particularly noted for its highly decorated forebuilding and its staircase approach, which even today is still in pretty good condition.

The castle itself, with its man-made earthbanks and ditches, covers an area of 12 acres with its strong, yet beautiful keep within. It soon became one of the most important in East Anglia, boasting a large list of several Lords and Ladies, from the de'Albigny Earls of Sussex to the Howard Dukes of Norfolk, with Isabella, Queen of Edward II, being its most famous resident.

The Doomsday Book (1086) shows that before and after 1066, Rising was a mere outlying member of the great manor of Snettisham. The Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand held it, from 1052 until his overthrow by the Normans in 1070. It was then handed by William the Conqueror to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent, his half-brother, on whose orders the Bayeux Tapestry was made.

Castle Rising was held by him until his fall from favour in 1088, whereby it came into the possession of William Rufus, whom he opposed. Rufus then gave it to the newly arrived William d'Albini, a grant later confirmed by Henry I. On his death it was brought by his Son William II, who two years later married Alice of Louvain, Widow of Henry I. It was after this that the beautiful keep we see today was built.

Early in its life, at about 1140, a mint was established and continued to produce coins for several years. Rising remained within the de'Albigny family for the next 200 years, after which, several leading families held it until it came into the hands of the Crown by its sale. A royal ownership followed lasting until the 16th Century. This was to be the brightest period in the castle's history with Kings, Queens and Princes all staying at the keep.

The Castle Entrance

First, in 1331 was Isabella, Daughter of King Phillip IV of France and wife of Edward II, King of England. In 1327 she was an accomplice in her husband's murder along with her lover Mortimer and was sent there on the orders of her son, Edward III. She was in no way a prisoner at Rising, and led her life like any dowager Queen. With £3000 a year through her revenues and lands, she moved with her retinue and household of 180 people from one residence to another. There is plenty of evidence of her frequent and prolonged stays at Rising with visits from Edward III, her son and his Queen, Philippa in 1342,1343,1344 and 1349. She was to retain Castle Rising until her death in 1358. During this period extensive reworking of the Castle was done as the records show.

In 1337, by Charter dated 1st October and enrolled upon the Charter Rolls, Edward III altered the terms of the original Montalt conveyance of 10 years before. He granted the Castle and Manor to Edward, Black Prince of Wales, along with the newly created Duchy of Cornwall. Ownership of the Castle was to take effect after the death of Isabella, and remain, with the Duchy, to be passed on to its heirs, or in the event of no heir, reversion to the Crown. Edward, Black Prince of Wales, added it to his vast possessions and retained it until his early death in 1376. During his ownership, and after, much money was spent strengthening the fortifications in case of a landing from the French, and were several times put on a state of alert. The Famous Bishop of Winchester, William Wykeham supervised this work, who was at this time Clerk of the King's Works. Two early canon found at Castle Rising date from this time and can now be seen at the Tower of London. By the end of the 14th Century, Castle Rising was in excellent structural order.

Queen Isabella returns to England

Over the next few years it changed hands several times whilst being held by Richard II. Its owners include John, Duke of Brittany, husband of the King's sister Joan, the Fair maid of kent. Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, the King's uncle, and another uncle, Edmund, Duke of York. From 1403 until 1544 the castle was again back in the hands of the Duchy of Cornwall, held by the Duke and Prince when there was one, and by the King when there was not.

In 1461, during the War of the Roses, the castle was once more put on a state of alert, when the Yorkist Edward IV was about to displace the Lancastrian Henry VI. The kings' men of Norfolk were ordered to take over the Castle and hold it with sufficient Men-at- Arms. This was to be the start of the decline of Rising. An interesting fact about Castle Rising which has recently been brought to my attention is that in 1469, Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester, accompanied the King on his progress through Norfolk. While staying at Castle Rising he wrote the earliest letter of his that has survived. If anybody wishes to see a transcript of the letter - E-mail me.( Thanks Laura )

A reconstruction of the castle entrance by Alan Sorrell

It was maintained of sorts until 1544, when small sums of money were spent doing minor repairs. It was at this time that Henry VIII swapped the manor of Rising, along with several others to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, for Walton, Falkenham and other Suffolk Lands.

The last call, so to speak of the Castle was in 1572, when a survey describes to the Queen, Elizabeth I, that it was;

" Erected at the first but for the speare and shield, and for that force it may be maynteynde if it please her Majestie to be at the charge, 'This charge they estimate at £2000. 'And further, 'if the same castle should be taken downe and sold for benefitt, it is so greatlie decaied as the same will not yeald above one hundred markes" ( £66-67p )

Fortunately the Castle was not pulled down, though increasingly in ruin. It remained with the Howard family until 1968 when custody was passed to the State.

Much work has been done to restore what has remained and is now managed by Mr Greville Howard

© MWC1998

Castle Rising from the Gatehouse

Additional Site information.

Open all year round.

1st April to 30th September 10am to 6pm

1st October to 31st October 10am to 5pm

1st November to 31st March - Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & Boxing Day.


Adults - £3.25, Children (5-15 years) - £2.50

Concessions - £1.60, Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children) - £9.00 and £1.00 for each further child.

Parties of 11 or more 15% discount and 1 free ticket

Free entry for pre-booked school parties

Telephone 01553-631330.

Bus - First Eastern Counties No 410/1 King's Lynn - Hunstanton.

Rail Station - King's Lynn.

Os Map 132 ref TF 666246.


Castle Rising

Castle Rising lies in the County of Norfolk, 5 miles to the northeast of King's Lynn, near the Norfolk coast of the Wash, just off the A149. The site is suitable for people with disabilities but access inside could cause problems because of stairs and low ceilings in places. Dogs are allowed on leads in certain areas.

There is a good car park at the site and entrance is gained via the shop, which is small, but well stocked with books, postcards and other gifts. Included in the price of admission is a free taped tour of the castle, which I can thoroughly recommend. It gives a good history of the castle during its occupation and takes you back to its most famous occupant's time at the castle, Queen Isabella.

I found my visit to be a most enjoyable experience. It was not crowded at all, even on the public holiday weekend I visited. The castle has some charming secrets to offer and although the floors inside have long collapsed, with the taped tour guide a good idea of the workings and celebrations of the castle can be pictured. The area surrounding castle has some excellent places of interest to visit if you have the time. I shall feature some in the coming months.

Information on Castle Rising was obtained from

Medieval England - Nigel Saul.

Castles in Medieval England and Wales - Colin Platt.

Plantagenet Encyclopedia - Elizabeth Hallam.

The Crecy War - Lt-Col Alfred H. Burne.

Edward III - Michael Packe.

The Three Edwards - Michael Prestwich

Oxford History of Medieval England - Nigel Saul.

Castle Rising, Norfolk - R Allen Brown.

English Castles - R Allen-Brown.

Castle Rising - H.L.Bradfer-Lawrence.

English Heritage Handbook - 1998/9.

The Road to Bosworth Field - PW Hammond & AF Sutton.


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