Essex castle has starring TV role

AN ESSEX castle, besieged by King John and boasting one of the best-preserved Norman keeps in England, is to take a starring role in a major new television series.

AN ESSEX castle, besieged by King John and boasting one of the best-preserved Norman keeps in England, is to take a starring role in a major new television series.

Hedingham Castle, which was built in 1140 by the famous medieval family of the de Veres, Earls of Oxford, will feature in Channel 4's Castle which begins on Thursday.

The new six-part series follows medieval historian Marc Morris as he travels the length of Britain to tell the story of the nation's castles.

He begins by charting the history of these magnificent buildings, consulting the Bayeux Tapestry and archaeological evidence to discover how they evolved over a 600-year period.


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A spokesman for Hedingham Castle said: "Castles are the most distinctive and impressive monuments in the land and within their walls lie some of the greatest stories from medieval history.

"To understand castles, who built them and why, is to understand the forces that have shaped medieval Britain."

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From the mighty Dover Castle, overlooking the English Channel, to remote Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness in Scotland, Morris explores castles as symbols of power as well as sumptuous homes for the rich and famous.

The story begins in the 11th century, when castles were introduced to Britain and ends in the 17th century when they were largely abandoned.

In many respects, the tale is an epic one, driven by characters like William the Conqueror, Bad King John and indefatigable castle builder Edward I. But it is also a story about the adventures, struggles and ambitions of lesser-known individuals and how every aspect of their lives was wrapped up in the castles they built and lived in.

Hedingham Castle, which is still owned by the descendents of the de Veres, was besieged by King John in his war with the barons in 1216 but regained the following year by Robert de Vere, the 3rd Earl of Oxford.

It was also visited by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and today is approached by a Tudor bridge, built in 1496 to replace the drawbridge. It possesses four floors, a banqueting hall with a minstrels' gallery and Norman arch.

Visitors had a chance to relive the stirring events of history when they were treated to a spectacular medieval jousting tournament, courtesy of the Knights of Royal England.

The Knights, who stage more than 60 shows each year, demonstrated their abilities on horseback in full regalia and put their combat skills and medieval weapons and armoury to the test.

Participants were also able to try their hands at archery with the Norfolk Longbowmen and watch displays by falconer Gordon Hiscock and his birds.

n Castle begins this Thursday on Channel 4 at 8pm.

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