17 Facts About Rochester Castle | The Ultimate List (2023)

This great fortification is one of the most strategic castles in English history.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Rochester Castle.

Table of Contents hide

1. Rochester Castle has a strategic location

2. Rochester Castle dates back to the 11th century

3. The Bishop of Rochester built the first stone castle

4. It was built on the current location of the castle

5. A part of Gundulf’s castle survives today

6. Gundulf was a great architect

7. The keep was built shortly after the wall

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8. When was the keep completed?

10. King John besieged his own castle in 1215

11. The repair of the castle cost much more than its fortification

12. Another siege saw the castle destroyed in 1264

13. The castle deteriorated for over a century

14. The castle played no role in the British Civil War

15. The castle’s ruin became a tourist attraction

16. The Corporation of Rochester bought the castle

17. The castle is a Scheduled Monument

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1. Rochester Castle has a strategic location

Rochester is a town located in Kent, in the southeast of England. This is the exact area that was used to invade England in the Middle Ages, and therefore, this royal castle served as the first line of defense to protect the southeast coast of England.

The castle stands on the east bank of the River Medway in a loop of the river, which is similar to the location of Warkworth Castle in Northumberland.

It’s also built along Watling Street, a route that was first paved by the Romans. This road ran from southeast England all the way to “Viroconium,” a Roman town in the area of Wroxeter, a small village just west of Birmingham.

This road is now known as the “Great Dover Road” and starts as another important castle that was referred to as “the key to England,” Dover Castle.

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2. Rochester Castle dates back to the 11th century

The first castle in the area which is now referred to as “Boley Hill” was built in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

One of the most interesting facts about Rochester Castle is that this initial castle only played one prominent role before it was abandoned.

The original castle was given to Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, who probably commissioned the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

After William died in September 1087, he divided his territories between his two sons who subsequently fell into disagreement.

William Rufus, the youngest of the two sons became King of England, but this wasn’t to the liking of Robert Curthose, the other son, who had become Duke of Normandy.

Bishop Odo supported Robert’s cause in an attempt to claim the throne of England and therefore reunite Normandy and England.

To no avail as the original castle was successfully besieged in May 1088.

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3. The Bishop of Rochester built the first stone castle

After the siege, the original castle was instantly abandoned and William Rufus demanded £100 from the Bishop of Rochester, Gundulf (1024-1108), to reclaim ownership of the manor he was given by William the Conqueror.

This was obviously too much, and as a compromise, he promised to build a fortified stone castle that would help to protect the southeast coast of England from invasion.

This stone castle was built directly after the siege had ended in the late 1080s.

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4. It was built on the current location of the castle

The castle that Bishop Gundulf built cost about £60, which is the equivalent of over £120,000 today while keeping inflation in mind.

The castle was built adjacent to Rochester Cathedral, which was also owned by the Bishop of Rochester. This fact makes it one of the best examples of a closely linked castle and religious building.

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5. A part of Gundulf’s castle survives today

One of the most remarkable facts about Rochester Castle is that some of the old structures, originally built by Bishop Gundulf of Rochester, still survive today.

One of those structures that survived from the early 12th century is the fortification commissioned by the King, the Western Curtain Wall all alongside the river.

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6. Gundulf was a great architect

Gundulf of Rochester was not just a Bishop, but also a very well-respected architect. In fact, he was one of the most prominent architects of William the Conqueror.

Apart from building Rochester Castle and restoring the Cathedral of Rochester, he was also the one overseeing the construction of the White Tower, which is the central tower, and the old keep of the Tower of London which opened in the year 1097.

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7. The keep was built shortly after the wall

One of the most prominent features of the castle is its keep. Unlike many other castles, the keep was one of the first things to be built after Gundulf fortified the castle.

King Henry I had granted the Bishop of Canterbury, William de Corbeil, the Castle and allowed him to fortify it with a stone keep. This happened in the year 1127.

The keep of Rochester Castle is one of the oldest and best-preserved medieval keeps in all of England and France!

The keep has a total height of 113 feet (34 meters).

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8. When was the keep completed?

It’s not known exactly when the keep of the castle was completed. What we do know is that its construction advanced at about 10 feet (3 meters) per year and that it was definitely completed in 1141, and most probably even before Corbeil died in the year 1138.

The keep became one of the most important symbols of Rochester. To emphasize its importance, it even got added to the town’s seal in the 13th century.

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9. The castle got another serious upgrade

In the early 13th century, King John as becoming increasingly worried about an invasion of the French. This happened after the fall of Normandy in the year 1204 to the French forces of King Philippe II.

Shortly after, the king decided to spend about £115, which was double the amount the castle cost to build in the first place, on the reinforcement of the castle. This included ditches, an enhanced defensive wall, and an upgrade of the castle’s keep.

Rochester Castle became one of the most important castles to defend the southeast coast of England in the early 13th century.

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10. King John besieged his own castle in 1215

In a strange turn of events, King John found himself besieging the castle he fortified himself in 1215. It turned out the French weren’t the only people he should have feared.

Just before the siege, the barons in the north of England turned their back against their king and after a peace treaty signed in June of the year 1215 failed, rebels managed to take control of Rochester Castle.

King John head over the Rochester in October of the same year, entered the city by surprise, tore down the bridge to avoid reinforcements from London to come, and besieged the castle.

The royal forces were able to mine their way through the outer wall and eventually the southeast wall of the keep where the rebels were now hiding. When starvation kicked in, the rebels that took over the castle surrendered.

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11. The repair of the castle cost much more than its fortification

King John wasn’t able to fully enjoy his successful siege because he died the year after in 1216. His son Henry was only 9 years old when he became King of England, referred to as Henry III.

Between 1217 and 1237, about £680 was spent on renovations of the castle and the keep, as well as adding a huge complex of residential buildings inside the bailey.

because of these extensive renovations, the castle became one of the favorite spots for the royal family halfway through the 13th century, who visited it frequently.

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12. Another siege saw the castle destroyed in 1264

The happy days of family visits were permanently over for the royal household after a siege, under the command of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and barons rebelling against the king in 1264.

Many structures of the castle were burned including the King’s hall and many other residential buildings in the bailey.

The rebels weren’t able to take the keep though and were forced out of Rochester after a relief force from the king arrived. This garrison was subsequently defeated, and no restoration was done to the destroyed castle this time.

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13. The castle deteriorated for over a century

After the siege of 1264, the castle was basically left to the elements, which meant it was turned into a ruin that couldn’t serve as a royal residence anymore.

Apart from being used for administrative purposes and barracks, the castle was pretty much worthless as anything else.

The first major renovation came again because of attacks on the southeast coast of England by the French during the Hundred Years’ War. Richard II invested £500 for renovations and built a tower on the north end of the castle which served as a lookout towards the bridge over the River Medway.

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14. The castle played no role in the British Civil War

After the final work to somewhat renovate the crumbling castle, nothing really happened in the upcoming centuries.

Queen Elizabeth even ordered in the second half of the 16th century for the stones of the outer curtain wall to be removed to build a new castle at Upnor.

Even though the Royalists captured Rochester in 1648, there was no sign of any fighting at the castle itself, which kind of proved that the castle had become absolutely redundant by this time.

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15. The castle’s ruin became a tourist attraction

By the 17th century, many of the English castles now lay in ruins, which actually meant they started serving another purpose: tourism!

Samuel Pepys wrote about the condition of Rochester Castle in one of his diaries in the 17th century, and so did Charles Dickens in the 19th century. Dickens described the amazing view he had from the top of the keep for example.

Charles Dickens also made one of the characters in one of his books describe the castle as:

glorious pile– frowning wall– tottering arches– dark nooks– crumbling stones.

The castle described in one of Charles Dickens’ books.
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16. The Corporation of Rochester bought the castle

More attempts to preserve the castle were being done in the 19th century. Some repairs were made and in 1870, the castle was leased by the “Corporation of Rochester,” who intended to restore the castle and open it as a public park.

The Corporation that leased the castle eventually bought it in 1884 for £6,572 (the equivalent of over £3.5 million today) and got really serious with renovations afterward.

The castle and its gardens were transformed from a ruin into an amazing place to spend a nice afternoon!

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17. The castle is a Scheduled Monument

The Ministry of Public Building and Works took over guardianship of the castle from the Corporation of Rochester in 1965 and subsequently did the same when English Heritage took over in 1984.

Since 1995, however, the caste is being managed by the City of Rochester and is both a Scheduled Monument and a Grade I listed building that is open to the public.

This means the castle is a “nationally important historic building andarchaeological sitewhich has been given protection against unauthorized change.”

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What is Rochester Castle famous for? ›

The castle endured three sieges, including a famous assault by King John in 1215, when one corner of the keep was destroyed. Although it became redundant as a royal stronghold in the late Middle Ages and fell into ruin in the 17th century, it remains a potent symbol of medieval secular power.

How old is the Rochester Castle? ›

Who built Rochester Castle facts? ›

Rochester Castle was originally constructed by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, in the 1080s. It is one of the earliest Norman stone keeps to be built in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. In 1127, Henry I instructed Archbishop of Canterbury, William de Corbeil, to build a great stone keep.

How many floors does Rochester Castle have? ›

The Castle Keep

The tower, with three floors and a basement, was 34.4 metres (113 ft.) high with smaller corner towers rising above the wall walk by another 3.7 metres (12 ft.).

How did Rochester get its name? ›

On July 12, 1854, George Head and his family laid claim to land that now forms part of Rochester's central business district. It was there that they built a log cabin known as Head's Tavern. Head named the city after his hometown of Rochester, NY.

Why is Rochester important? ›

The city's rich history as a center for civil rights and social justice remains an important element of Rochester's legacy and a continues to draw visitors to such places as the Mount Hope Cemetery, the final resting place of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Who destroyed Rochester Castle? ›

On the 11th October 1215, William de Albini and Reginald de Cornhill, accompanied by a large group of knights, defied King John. The siege lasted seven weeks whilst the King and his army battered the castle walls with a five stone-throwing machine.

What features does Rochester Castle have? ›

Rochester Castle is one of the best preserved and finest examples of Norman architecture in England. Its great keep, square, massive and one of the tallest in the country, measures 113 feet high, 70 feet square and has walls 12 feet thick in places.

Why is Rochester Castle closed? ›

The council confirmed the closure is in place after a piece of mortar from around a stone fell from the structure. It is believed specialists are now being brought in to assess the condition and safety of the building. It is anticipated the castle will be closed for a week while repairs and checks are carried out.

How old is Rochester UK? ›

The Norman's recognised Rochester's strategic importance and a castle was built here soon after William's Conquest of 1066. The city received its first charter, from King Richard I, in 1190. Over the centuries, many of England's Kings and Queens have visited Rochester.

Who founded Rochester? ›

35. Rochester is named after the city's founder Colonial Nathaniel Rochester when it only had a population of 15.

What is the oldest building in Rochester? ›

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Built in 1824, Rochester's Two Saints Church is the oldest public building in town.

Where is the Rochester family from? ›

The Rochester crime family was a criminal organization based in Rochester, New York that was part of the American Cosa Nostra.

Can you get married at Rochester Castle? ›

Set in the heart of historic Rochester, this exclusive venue is fully licensed, meaning you can hold your reception, wedding and civil partnership ceremonies in one place.

Is Rochester Castle good for kids? ›

Rochester Castle is a hugely impressive and evocative site and makes an ideal class visit for any schools studying medieval history: It includes a large open space that allows a good view of its features and makes it easy to manage groups safely.

Did Rochester lose his arm? ›

Here, she learns that Bertha Mason set the house ablaze several months earlier. Rochester saved his servants and tried to save his wife, but she flung herself from the roof as the fire raged around her. In the fire, Rochester lost a hand and went blind.

How big is Rochester? ›

When did Rochester go blind? ›

6. At the end of the book, Rochester is blind and maimed from the fire that ultimately destroyed Thornfield Hall and killed Bertha.

Is Rochester a good guy? ›

The point Charlotte Bronte makes abundantly clear is this: Rochester was a bad man. Jane was in danger whenever she was with him. He could not be trusted to look after her and keep her safe even though he purported to love her passionately. Jane's love and purity didn't purify Rochester as he hoped it would.

What are Rochester's goals? ›

Rochester's goal is self-transformation, a reformation to be enacted through his relationships with women. Longing for innocence and purity, he wants Jane to be the good angel in his life, creating new harmony.

Is Rochester good to live? ›

Considered one of the best places to live in New York State, Rochester is found in a desirable location and is the perfect option for those that want a more relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of life in New York City.

What is the oldest castle in England? ›

Windsor Castle

Just to the west of London lies the world's oldest and largest inhabited castle, having been a royal residence for around 950 years.

When did the Queen visit Rochester? ›

Royal visit: Shire of Rochester president James Sinclair and secretary Ron Westcott were responsible for hosting Rochester visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

How old is Rochester Cathedral? ›

Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest cathedral in England having been founded in AD 604. The present building was initiated by Bishop Gundulf in 1080. The architecture is Norman, Gothic and Early-English Perpendicular with a fine crypt, medieval wall paintings and a magnificent 15th century chapter room doorway.

What percent of Rochester is black? ›

Rochester is a city of 200,000 people, about 40 percent of whom are Black.

What does Rochester produce? ›

The combination of 1.5 million acres of rich, fertile land with access to an unlimited supply of fresh water gives the Greater Rochester, NY region an incredible supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, and wine. Approximately 44% of New York State dairy and crop output is produced by our area's 6,000+ farms.

Is Rochester a ghost town? ›

Rochester, Nevada, was a silver-mining town in Pershing County, Nevada, USA, approximately 110 mi (180 km) east of Reno. It is now a ghost town.

What is the oldest house in Rochester NY? ›

The Oliver Culver House is the oldest residential structure in Rochester. Constructed in 1805, the house was originally located on the southwest corner of East Avenue and Culver Road.

Why is Rochester no longer a city? ›

Why was our city status lost? In 1998 Rochester upon Medway City Council and Gillingham Borough Council were abolished and a new unitary authority – Medway Council – created for the whole of the Medway Towns.

How big is Rochester UK? ›

As well as the historic centre, the suburbs of Borstal and The Delce are also part of Rochester, which in turn forms part of the Medway Towns urban area with a population of about 250,000.

How many people live in Rochester UK? ›

Rochester population statistics

In 2020, there were 668k residents in Rochester postcode area with an average age of 39.9 years. Population density was 632 residents per square kilometer. Population grew by 18.5% since 2002 and population average age increased by 2.1 years in the same period.

What spider man was shot in Rochester? ›

Downtown Rochester hosted the filming of chase scenes for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from Tuesday, April 30 to Thursday, May 9. Action sequences included car chases and other special effects were filmed on Main Street, including the area adjoining Eastman Theatre.

What is the nickname for Rochester? ›

Rochester was first known as "the Young Lion of the West", and then as the "Flour City". By 1838, it was the largest flour-producing city in the United States. Having doubled its population in only 10 years, Rochester became America's first "boom town".

When was Rochester created? ›

Is Rochester a big city? ›

What famous people lived in Rochester? ›

A partial list of its famous residents is provided below.
  • Susan B. Anthony.
  • John Jacob Bausch.
  • Hartwell Carver.
  • Emma Lampert Cooper.
  • Adelaide Crapsey.
  • Algernon Crapsey.
  • Frederick Douglass.
  • Thomas B. Dunn.

What is the oldest pub in Rochester? ›

A Little Pub History

The Coopers Arms finally opened its doors as an Inn in 1543 and has been serving fine cask beers ever since. Over the years the inn has undergone many such changes but still retains its original charm and character.

What does the last name Rochester mean? ›

Early Origins of the Rochester family

The first reference refers to the Briton name that was derived from "duro" meaning "fortress" or "bridge" while the second reference is derived from the Old English word for "roof".

What is Rochester slogan? ›

In 1851 Rochester adopted its motto Meliora—a Latin word for “ever better.” It's more than a motto for us.

How many Rochester's are there? ›

I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume everyone knows about Rochester, Minnesota and Rochester, New York. But did you know there are also 15 other Rochesters across the country? That means a total of 17 Rochesters are spread out around the US.

Does Rochester Castle have a cafe? ›

Food And Drink

Although there is no café on the site, the shop sells a selection of drinks and snacks.

Why does Rochester Castle have one round tower? ›

The round tower replaced the original square one, which was demolished by King John when he layed siege to the castle in 1215. His army tunnelled under the tower and set light to "the fat of forty pigs", which weakened the foundations and caused the original tower to collapse.

What region is Rochester in? ›

The Finger Lakes region of New York State is comprised of nine counties: Monroe, Wayne, Seneca, Ontario, Yates, Livingston, Wyoming, Genesee and Orleans. There are four major cities including Rochester, the third largest city in the State, as well as Geneva, Canandaigua and Batavia.

What happened at Rochester Castle? ›

Rochester Castle is an English castle on the banks of the River Medway in Rochester, England, that during the first Baron's War was captured by baronial forces and stood against King John in a bloody siege.

What do you do with kids? ›

100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap
  • Have a reading marathon.
  • Write stories together.
  • Play soccer.
  • Paint or draw together.
  • Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
  • Play board games.

Why is Rochester Cathedral famous? ›

Rochester Cathedral is England's second oldest, founded by Bishop Justus. The present building dates back to the work of the French monk Bishop Gundulf in 1083. The glorious Norman architecture of the nave, parts of the crypt, as well as one of the finest Romanesque facades in England.

What makes Rochester NY unique? ›

Nicknamed “The Flour City,” Rochester is best known for its unique and impressive history, educational resources, and industry leaders in manufacturing. Recognized as a great place to raise a family, Rochester is notorious for its low cost of living and top-rated schools.

How long did it take to build Rochester Cathedral? ›

Building work on eastern area of the Cathedral at Rochester began in around 1200 and continued until 1227.

What was invented in Rochester? ›

1884: Invention of the First Kodak Camera, 1884-1888, George Eastman, Rochester, NY. The invention of Roll Film and later invention of Motion Picture Film, 1884-1885, came from David Houston and the patents were purchased by George Eastman.

What food is Rochester known for? ›

Rochester's food scene has a strong history that ties back to ground rounds (burgers) and hots (hot dogs) and that date back to the 1940s with restaurants along the shores of Lake Ontario. With a nod to our gastro roots, many modern restaurateurs have elevated the standard burger or hot dog with gourmet options.


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