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Guide based on information gathered by the Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society
Berkhamsted Castle is said to be unique for a motte and bailey castle in having a double moat. The outer defensive wall once enclosed the castle along a raised bank between the two moats. Today, visitors can walk along the path on top of the bank and this is a good place to see the concentric moats.
On the North and East sides of the castle are eight large earth mounds. It has been claimed that these earthworks were constructed by the forces of the Dauphin of France to act as platforms for mangonels (catapults) when they besieged the castle in 1216. This seems unlikely considering the short time that the attackers were in the area. It is more likely that it was King John who had these earthworks constructed and a second ditch dug when he had the castle defences strengthened in 1215-16 in view of the pending threat from the Dauphin and the English barons. John also had trees cut down to make palisade fencing round these bastions
In the inner bailey, a small circular fence cordons off the main well of the castle. This well served the everyday needs of the castle inhabitants. A second well existed in the keep to serve the garrison if it had to withdraw there in times of siege.
Just beyond the hearths a wall runs off at right angles from the East Wall. This was the dividing wall between the inner and outer baileys. At the base of the wall is part of a layer of ashlar. This was often used to line flint walls. However, it is unlikely that all of the castle walls were lined with ashlar - when the ruined castle walls were re-used to construct Berkhamsted Place in the 1580s, ashlar was used very sparingly, which suggests that it was not plentifully available here.
Further on are three more hearths which mark the site of the kitchens.
This small red brick cottage dates from the 19th century and serves as the keeper's house.
The Official Guide to Berkhamsted Castle offering a guided walk for you to explore the castle ruins in detail.
On sale at the castle visitors’ centre,
Berkhamsted Castle Trust
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