A brief History

Roman Rochester was a walled Town built where Watling Street bridges the River Medway.Going west along Watling Street leeds to London and then on to other Roman settlements in Britain.Going East along Watling Street from Rochester leeds to Canterbury and then on to Dover.

The Castle is just South of Watling Street(now the High Street) with the West Side on the River Medway and Esplanade and the East Side facing the Cathedral.

The first actual Castle built at Rochester was built at the time of the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book(1086). Then it was rebuilt for William Rufus by Gundolf,Bishop of Rochester between 1087 and 1089,and was one of the earliest castles in this country fortified in stone.In about 1127 (Reign of King Henry I) the existing Keep was built by Archbishop William de Corbeil .

The Siege of 1215

There has been 3 Sieges of Rochester Castle,In 1088,1215 and  1264.The most amazing of these Sieges i feel was the Siege of 1215.

Rebels Siezed Rochester and control of Rochester bridge,On hearing this King John came from Dover where he had been staying.the King's men managed to gain control of the Bridge and then they had to Siege the Castle.It took about 2 months to capture the Castle.It is thought King John may have set up his command headquarters on Boley hill during this time.the forces erected 5 great Stone throwing engines to pound the defences as well as small-arms of Bows and Arrows.However this wasn't enough and King John's men finally managed to gain entry into the Bailey (Castle grounds) by undermining the Castle wall.Meanwhile The defenders retreated into the Keep.

King John ordered his men to dig a mine under the South-East angle of the keep.They shored up the undermined Keeps foundations with wooden pit props.This was in a time before Gunpowder and they used the fat of 40 Pigs to help burn the pit props.It was succesful and a whole section of the South-Eastern Tower came crashing down.With the Keep breached King Johns men gained access.the Defenders withdrew behind the cross-wall of the Keep but were soon captured and tortured.

More History

In 1217 Henry III (King Johns Son) came to the the throne at the age of 9 and over the following years repairs and improvements were made to the Castle.Including digging a deep ditch outside the castle walls,building of a drum Tower at the junction of the South and East walls,and the rebuilding of the South-Eastern corner on the Keep of a cylindrical turret which was thought to be of a stronger design.There was another Siege in 1264 and the Castle started to deteriorate but eventually 100 years later repairs were made by Edward III.

After the end of the 14th Century no more work was carried out on the Castle and by the 16th Century it was in a state of decay.The Castle remained in private hands up untill the 1870s when the Corporation of Rochester obtained a lease of the castle grounds and turned them into a pleasure garden and then acquired the freehold in 1884 for about £6572.they carried out much needed work on the Keep and curtain wall and even made a new entrance into the Castle grounds via the North Bastion from the Esplanade.Since 1984 the Castle has been in the hands of English Heritage.

The 113 ft Keep,plus another12 ft with the Turrets on the Parapet.The additional bit on the Left of it is the Forebuilding which is the Keeps original entrance.


Castle from the Easten side,with the Drum Tower on the Left and Southern Murial Tower on the Right.just in front of the red wall is part of the remaing Ditch.


The Drum Tower built by Henry III,with 2 tiers of Arrow loops.


The Eastern Mural Tower rebuilt by Edward III (1367-70).It has in modern times been converted into a cottage.


Castle Gardens with the River Medway and Rochester Bridge in the background.The Medieval Bridge was a little left of the present one so it was nearer the Castle.


Arches on the West Curtain wall,which are all that remains of an important 13th Century building,possibly a Hall or residential complex.


Inside the Keep looking up.


The Well-Head on the 1st Floor,It was rebuilt in 1826.The Well-Shaft continues up through the Keep with access on each Floor.


An incomplete Arch shows where Henry III's masons repaired the breach caused when this corner of the Keep was undermined by King John.


Looking across from the top of the Keep showing the Wallwalk that runs around the top of the Keep and through the 4 Turrets.Also the Cross-Wall that divides the Keep.



The Castle today is well worth a visit and has far more History than described on this site.there are no main floors or roof in the Keep (except in the Forebuilding) only the outer stone walkways and Steep Spiral Stairways which means you get to view the inner walls,Arches and Basement area from every floor which is an interesting perspective.There is a small fee for entry into the Keep.also there is a gift shop and model of the how the Castle grounds used to look.