Description of Berkhamsted Castle

Berkhamsted is a typical motte-and-bailey castle, with a tower or keep built on an earthern mound surrounded by a defensive enclosure.

Berkhamsted Castle seen from the air
Berkhamsted Castle seen from the air © Skyscan Balloon Photography


Berkhamsted Castle was extremely well defended, with two ditches and three sets of earthworks around the oblong bailey, and a further ditch around the motte. Although no worked stone remains on the curtain wall, its flint rubble core survives for amost the full circuit of the bailey.

The outer defences also survive well, although the railway, built in 1838, has cut through the outer gate and earthwork defences.

The castle bailey seen from the motte
The castle bailey seen from the motte

Keep and Bailey Buildings

Access to the site is now from the south-west, but the castle’s main entrance was to the south, and would have opened to a wooden bridge across the moat. The remains of some of the structures that occupied the bailey, one of which was probably a chapel, survive on the west side.

The substantial motte stands at the north-east corner of the enclosure, and commands impressive views over the surrounding area. On the top are the foundations of the circular keep, 18 metres in diameter. Within the keep is a well.

Plan of the earthworks at Berkhamstead Castle
Plan of the earthwork defences at Berkhamsted Castle


The text on this page is derived from interpretation panels at the site. We intend to update and enhance the content as soon as possible to provide more information on the property and its history.

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