Hastings Castle is situated in the town of Hastings, East Sussex, overlooking the English Channel. The castle exists today as a ruin of the original structure, comprised of a keep and bailey castle. It was built as Britain’s first Norman castle by William the Conqueror in 1067 in the aftermath of the Norman invasion. Initially the structure was a prefabricated wooden fortress that the Normans built to take advantage of the hill that overlooked the port. Following the conquest, it was then rebuilt in stone.
The ruins that you can visit today are the remains of the stone fortress that was built after William of Normandy’s coronation. Less than half the structure remains today as the castle has experienced damage in various events and storms throughout the years. The building has been reconstructed numerous times after damage, however a lot of the original structure has fallen into the ocean. In 1287 the cliff beneath the castle’s south wall collapsed causing the wall and keep to fall into the North Sea.
In 1337 and 1339, Hastings Castle was attacked by the French, eventually causing the castle to fall into disrepair and become ruins. It was repurchased by a private family to primarily use the grounds for farming over the next few centuries. After going under reconstruction, the castle became a tourist attraction. In the 1870’s the dungeons to the castle were rediscovered.
In 1966 a plaque was unveiled, to commemorate the Battle of Hastings. Each year on October 14th, a replica of Williams flag, the Gonfalon, is flown from the castle. Remains of the east gate and east wall, which served as the foundation for the two towers, can still be seen today. The motte, located on the northeast corner of the castle, no longer has the original extensive stonework due to the relocation of the keep in the 12th century.
The castle resides high atop a cliff overlooking the old town of Hastings and the North Sea. It is a local treasure to the town and from the grounds you can not only soak up all the fascinating history, but also enjoy the beautiful coastal views. You can reach the castle by driving through back streets, or you can use the public parking near the seaside and take the West Hill Cliff Railway from town to the top of the cliff. It makes a great day out for all of the family and is a perfect opportunity to take in some local history.