Bramber Castle, West Sussex
by Miriam Bibby & Elizabeth Craig-Johnson
This early Norman motte and bailey castle was built by William de Braose around 1075, and remained in the ownership of the de Braose family for over 250 years. The castle was the caput (head) of the barony of Bramber, one of the feudal administrative divisions of Sussex, and occupies a site with commanding views across the River Adur and the surrounding countryside. The original design was a classic motte and bailey with timber defences on top, using a natural knoll on which to construct the 10m (30 foot) motte. The material for the motte, which is now visible as a tree-covered mound in the centre of the site, was provided by digging out a defensive ditch. The surrounding bailey seems to have been substantial.
The timber construction was soon replaced by a stone castle, and it is the remnants of this construction that survive today. These remains include sections of rubble curtain wall and one wall of a square gate tower, which rises straight into the air at the entrance to the site, providing a clue to the original scale of the castle. Since Bramber is believed to have been completed before 1100, the castle layout that is visible today is therefore important in providing information on early Norman construction, despite its damaged state.
The de Braose family suffered during the war between King John and the barons, and the wife of the 13th century William de Brose died of starvation in captivity along with her two sons. The castle was eventually returned to the de Braose family, whose name was associated with Bramber until the 14th century. Bramber was besieged by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, when cannons set up in the nearby church fired down onto the castle. The church itself suffered extensive damage at this time and only the nave and some of the crossing arches have survived.