Strategically placed astride the London Road, guarding an important crossing of the River Medway, this imposing fortress has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. Today it stands as a proud reminder of the history of Rochester along with the cathedral and cobbled streets. Its Norman tower-keep of Kentish ragstone was built about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the encouragement of Henry I. Consisting of three floors above a basement, it still stands 113 feet high. Attached is a tall protruding forebuilding, with its own set of defences to pass through before the keep itself could be entered at first floor level. In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, the castle endured an epic siege by King John. Having first undermined the outer wall, John used the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine under the keep, bringing its southern corner crashing down. Even then the defenders held on, until they were eventually starved out after resisting for two months. Rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the 16th century.
Facilities – at a glance
Assist dogs allowed
- Parking nearby
- Wheelchair access restricted, 144 step spiral staircase to top castle and 50 step climb to shop
- Facilities: Tour transcript, torches, handrails, induction loop
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open all year daily, Apr-Sep check website for times; Oct-Mar, 10-4. (last admission 45 minutes before closing). Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan
Also in the area
About the area
The White Cliffs of Dover are an English icon – the epitome of our island heritage and sense of nationhood. They also mark the point where the Kent Downs AONB, that great arc of chalk downland stretching from the Surrey Hills and sometimes known as ‘the Garden of England’, finally reaches the sea. This is a well-ordered and settled landscape, where chalk and greensand escarpments look down into the wooded Weald to the south.
Many historic parklands, including Knole Park and Sir Winston Churchill’s red-brick former home at Chartwell, are also worth visiting. Attractive settlements such as Charing, site of Archbishop Cranmer’s Tudor palace, and Chilham, with its magnificent half-timbered buildings and 17th-century castle built on a Norman site, can be found on the Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional route for Canterbury-bound pilgrims in the Middle Ages.
In the nature reserves, such as the traditionally coppiced woodlands of Denge Wood and Earley Wood, and the ancient fine chalk woodland of Yockletts Bank high on the North Downs near Ashford, it is still possible to experience the atmosphere of wilderness that must have been felt by the earliest travellers along this ancient ridgeway.
Places to Stay
Restaurants and Pubs
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