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Lympne Castle from Stutfall Castle, Kent, UK
Strategically located as a former coastal defence, Lympne Castle is a relatively small, medieval castle that has been extensively remodelled since it was first built in the 12th century. There are indications that suggest the original castle would have been much larger, but what we see today dates mainly from c1360. However, materials used in the construction of Lympne Castle include stones found from the ruins of a Roman Fortress that previously occupied the site.
Lympne Castle is an imposing, two-storey castellated mansion, formerly the home of the Archdeacon of Canterbury, and features a Great Chamber at either end of the building with a Great Hall situated between them. The Vaulted Chamber, located in the Square Tower, would probably have been occupied by the Bailiff, and the Crown Post Chamber used by the Archdeacon. Particularly impressive is the Great Hall, with part-panelled walls, wooden roof beams, Gothic arched windows and doors, and a fireplace built in Tudor Times to replace the central hearth.
Built on rock foundations at the edge of an escarpment along Romney Marshes gave Lympne Castle the benefit of the numerous springs that ran down from the rocks – one right through the wall of the castle. A section of the rampart wall was built up to form a high parapet wall (Chemise) that provided protection for the windows in the Great Hall. Defence became less of a priority as time passed, and Lympne Castle was gradually altered in keeping with the emphasis on providing more comfortable accommodation.
For many years, Lympne Castle was managed as a farm, and it was only upon the death of Archdeacon Croft in 1860 that Lympne Castle was no longer in the ownership of the Archdeaconry – the first time since the Norman Conquest. By the beginning of the 20th century, Lympne Castle was near to ruins, but in 1905 Sir Robert Lorimer was commissioned to restore the property. Many of the old features were preserved and incorporated in the rebuilding of this hall-house castle.
Lympne Castle has experienced a chequered and, perhaps, uncertain past with a variety of interesting conflicts. From persistent struggles between the excise and the notorious smugglers along the Kent Coast, to an important role in the Second World War when a concrete observation post was built atop the East Tower. Although incongruous with a medieval building, the views it allows of Romney Marshes, the Royal Military Canal and even the French coast on a clear day, influenced the decision that it should remain.
Although still catering for wedding and corporate functions Lympne Castle is currently not open to the public. However, ‘open days’ in the summer months may well be a possibility in the future.
Stutfall was a Roman Saxon Shore fort built at the end of the 3rd century. At that time it would have been by the sea, which has now retreated beyond Romney Marsh. Some stonework is still standing but the position of the walls has changed over the years since it was built as a result of landslides. Unlike some of the other forts e.g Pevensey and Portchester it was not re-used after the Norman invasion. Instead Lympne Castle was built at the top of the cliff