The great keep of Rochester Castle towers over the River Medway, dominating the skyline together with its inseparable twin, the magnificent cathedral.
Rochester Castle is one of the best preserved and finest examples of Norman architecture in England. Its great keep, square, massive and one of the tallest in the country, measures 113 feet high, 70 feet square and has walls 12 feet thick in places. It was on or close to the present castle site that the Romans built their first fort to guard the bridge carrying their legions over the river on their way from Dover to London and beyond. Centuries later, in 1087, Bishop Gundulf – one of William the Conqueror’s finest architects – began the construction of today’s castle, making use of what remained of the original Roman city walls. The great keep was built by William de Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom Henry I granted custody of the castle in 1127.
The castle has a chequered history, having been subjected to siege three times and in 1215 partly demolished by King John, who gained entry by undermining the south-east tower, using the fat from 40 pigs to set fire to the pit props.
Today, visitors can see the rebuilt round tower, contrasting with the square towers of the original Norman castle. A model has been installed in the castle’s chapel showing how the castle would have looked in the 14th century.
For a guided tour, an audio guide interpretation is available at a nominal charge of £1 and is available in English, French, German and Dutch.