The Castle of Brymmburgh

I live in the slightly rural village of Steyning, on the south coast of England. It is an area of lovely walks, and I’m lucky enough to be able to go for one on the way to my boyfriend’s house (he lives a couple of villages away).

To get to his house, I get to walk around a moat. Alas, it is the moat of a completely ruined castle (and thus empty), but this does make it fun to swing across.

This castle is Bramber castle. Apparently, though I didn’t know this until today, its name was originally Brymmburgh, which is a Saxon word meaning “fortified place”. I have no idea why it has a Saxon name, considering that William de Braose, its maker, was one of the Normans who came over with the Conqueror. Maybe he was just very uncreative and left it up to his tenants (who were also uncreative – fortified place? really?).

In any case, writing this blog for all you lovely (and currently non-existent) people has made me look up Bramber castle, and I found out a sad and horrible tale about it. In the years leading up to Magna Carta, in the reign of King John, the Barons were one of his main concerns and so he took hostages from them to ensure their good behaviour. A later William de Braose who still owned Bramber realised that his family would be taken from him, and he fled to Ireland with them. Regardless, they were all captured except for William’s adult son, and were taken to Windsor Castle. They were locked up in a single room there, and left to starve to death. According to Medieval Bramber Castle is haunted by the ghosts of de Braose’s children, but this didn’t stop a number of families living in the castle until the Civil War.

The Internet seems to be having an argument over why Bramber Castle is a ruin. It seems to me that since there were guns set up in the nearby church to fire on the castle, it must have been the cannon fire which put paid to its defences. Incidentally, these were Roundhead guns, meaning that the inhabitants of the castle were Royalists so after a couple of decades they had the last laugh. However another line of argument says that one wall of the castle sank into a ditch in the 1500s, which rendered the castle unlivable. Even if that is the case – and it is a much better story to have a proper Civil War battle going on in my own neighbourhood – at least I can say that in the right location it would have been a castle that sank into the swamp.


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