Clare Castle, Suffolk
by Miriam Bibby & Elizabeth Craig-Johnson
The remains of a medieval castle, motte and bailey. A motte and bailey castle was built shortly after the Norman Conquest by Richard Fitz Gilbert, cousin of William the Conqueror. The site had previously been the location of a feudal manor and barony. It was the de Clare family that replaced that first wooden structure with a stone keep in the 13th century, and later the castle became the home of Elizabeth de Clare, one of the richest women in England. As her main home, the castle was substantial, luxurious and surrounded by extensive grounds including a water garden and a deer park. Elizabeth required a large staff and is known to have imported luxury items such as wines, spices and fur.
The motte is particularly prominent as it is 100 feet (30 m) high, with a base that is 850 feet (259 m) across. The remains of the 13th century keep, consisting of parts of a round tower and wall fragments, are still visible on top of the mound. The motte was surrounded by a double bailey, probably linked by a causeway, or possibly a drawbridge. After passing to the Crown, the castle fell into disuse and little remained by 1600. The construction of the Great Eastern Railway destroyed most of the inner bailey. The remains are a scheduled monument and a Grade II* listed building. They form the centrepiece of a public park.
Drawing of Clare Castle, 1849