This amazing location is linked to the Norman Conquest and William the Conqueror. With such a past, one can imagine the numerous tales of paranormal activity at the castle! It is also open for visitors during the day, a recommended day out as you will be able to grasp the amazing history of this venue (https://www.tonbridgecastle.org/ ). We first investigated Tonbridge castle in March 2017 with three teams of guests spread over four parts of the castle, including an area closed to the public. The location is a well kept castle with several below ground areas and mannequins as exhibits which in the dark can surely give you a scare! We are looking forward to adding content to this case file when we revisit later in the year.
Tonbridge’s first castle was a simple fort of earth and timber, thrown up – like hundreds of others – by Norman invaders for self-protection soon after they arrived in 1066. It stood on land overlooking the Medway crossing which William the Conqueror had given to his kinsman Richard Fitzgilbert. Local labour would have been used to shift the 30,000 tonnes of earth required to form the moat and the motte – the ’castle mound’ which still survives. A wooden keep would have been built on top of the motte, with an adjacent area, the bailey (now the Castle Lawn) protected by a fence of stakes.
The wooden castle probably only survived about twenty years. Descendants of Richard Fitzgilbert gradually replaced the earth and timber structure with stone, repairing the effects of decay, fire and warfare and reinforcing their stronghold against improved methods of attack. Their final castle had a noble gatehouse and was encircled by massive curtain walls connecting great towers at each corner, while a high shell keep crowned the motte. In places the castle walls were almost three metres thick, with sandstone facings from nearby quarries. Kings fought and were entertained at Tonbridge Castle, archbishops quarrelled over its guardianship, and Henry III’s niece and Edward I’s daughter were both mistresses of the castle. In Henry VIII’s reign the gatehouse was deemed to be “as strong a fortress as few be in England”.
In the Civil War the Castle was strengthened and garrisoned. Thomas Weller, who owned it at that time, was a Parliamentarian. He joined other West Kent gentlemen in opposing local unrest at Sevenoaks in 1643, and there was a three-hour skirmish on the outskirts of Tonbridge at Hilden Brook. The river crossing was fought over but not, it seems, the castle itself – though the Roundhead garrison wreaked havoc in the grounds. Later Weller was ordered to put the castle beyond military use by dismantling its defences.
In the 20th century the Castle became a place of recreation for Tonbridge people. A later owner, John Hooker, sold stone from the castle to build locks on the River Medway, and in 1791 his son Thomas took more stone from the ruined walls to build the residence that now adjoins the Gatehouse. What was left of the once-proud fortress became in turn a private home, a military academy and a prep school until in 1899 it was purchased by the Town Council. The residence became the Council Chamber and offices, and the grounds were opened to the public.
Nearly 900 years from its first construction, Tonbridge Castle saw military service once more, as part of a defensive line against possible German invasion in World War 2. Anti-tank defences and a machine-gun emplacement were constructed, and two pillboxes built into the 13th century walls.
Information from Tonbridge History.org
Team camera videos
Team Camera video June 2021
Team Camera video January 2020
Team Camera video October 2020