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Bramber Castle is probably at its most impressive when seen from the village.

The one remaining wall of the combined Gatehouse and Keep still looms over the settlement and, along with the little Norman Church tucked in below it, gives a good idea of how imposing it must have been.

Closer to, things are less impressive. Apart from the Gatehouse, the only visible masonry remains are a few short sections of the curtain wall and the base of a smaller tower.

Entry is currently free. For further information please check English Heritage's official site.

Near the centre of the site, hiding in the trees, is a motte. This may have had a wooden structure on the top, but it was soon abandoned in favour of the stone Gatehouse. The latter was better positioned to control the causeway and bridges that formed what was the lowest crossing point over the River Adur until a wooden bridge was built at Old Shoreham in 1781.

The castle was constructed soon after the Norman Conquest by William De Braose, one of William the Conqueror's feudal barons. Most of the surviving masonry dates from this time. It led an uneventful life, until subsidence on a large scale led to its ruin in the 16th century.

Circumnavigating the castle by the path in the bottom of the ditch, it struck me how similar Bramber was to an Iron Age hill fort. However, unlike at say Old Sarum, no evidence of Iron Age occupation has ever been found here.

Untouched by the Romans and their newfangled rectilinear forts, the Normans still used the same ancient technique: find a pointy-shaped hill and dig a ditch round it. The only real innovation was the motte. That and the use of stone.

Incidentally there is a path around the back of the most substantial section of the curtain wall from where you can get a good look at the impressive height of the earthworks.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Bramber Castle
      English Heritage handbook entry
    • History of Bramber Castle
      A history of the castle from English Heritage

St Nicholas' Church


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Just down the hill from the castle entrance, St Nicholas Church has survived rather better.

Dating from 1073, making it the oldest post-conquest church in Sussex, it was originally built by William De Braose as a small cruciform chapel for a college of secular canons. By around 1250 in had been become a parish church, due to the college becoming embroiled in a dispute between Fécamp Abbey at Steyning and Sele Priory at Upper Beeding.

Along with the castle, the church fell into ruins in the late sixteenth century, and remained so until 1783, when the Rev Thomas Green created a rather different church out of what remained. He removed the ruined chancel and transepts, and created a new chancel in what had been the crossing. Confusingly, he then added a low and unroofed tower over the crossing/chancel.

In 1931 a small combined entrance and vestry by W D Caröe was added to the west end.

External Links and References