About Mountfitchet Castle
Mountfitchet Castle is a unique time capsule. With its commanding position overlooking the Stort Valley, the Castle is situated on its original site which is steeped in history.
Formerly an Iron Age hill fort, this historic site was also a Roman signals fort and later a Saxon and Viking settlement before being attacked in 1066 by William the Conqueror who built a wooden Motte and Bailey castle here.
Mountfitchet Castle was also briefly used by the Royalist Army to King Charles in the English Civil War (17th C). The Royalist forces held out at the castle when they were laid Siege to by Cromwell.
Soon after, the Motte and Bailey castle lay in ruins and the site was taken over by nature and became covered in dense scrub, trees, brambles and bushes and laid totally forgotten until 1975 when the owner, Alan Goldsmith, had a dream to rebuild and restore the castle to its former glory.
The grounds were cleared to reveal the original earthworks and mounds and after years of battling with planners, in 1980 the work began to reconstruct Mountfitchet Castle. After many years of work, the restoration of Mountfitchet Castle was complete and was opened to the public in 1985 and is unique as being the only wooden Motte and Bailey reconstruction on its original site anywhere in the world.
This historic castle enables the visitor to travel back in time to 1066 Norman England. Explore the Castle and roam through the Norman Village hidden behind the castle walls, wander in and out of the many houses and view the scenes, smell the log fires burning and experience the ambience of an ancient bygone lifestyle. A living history, hands-on and interactive experience.
Come and mingle with the animals that roam freely throughout the castle grounds and listen out for the echoes of long-forgotten voices…………..
Mountfitchet Castle is a national Historic Monument, protected by the Department of the Environment.
It is believed to have been an early Iron Age fort and Roman, Saxon and Viking settlement. Artefacts found on the site from these periods support this belief.
In 1066 the site was attacked by the Normans and Robert Gernon, the Duke of Boulogne, built his castle here, making it his chief seat and the head of his Barony. There is some evidence that Robert Gernon was a close relative of William the Conqueror.
Robert Gernon (or Robert Greno as he is referred to in the Domesday Book) came over from France with William the Conqueror, and was rewarded with this Lordship and several others in the County.The male line of the Gernon family continued for only five generations.
The time of Robert Gernon’s death is unknown. William, his son and heir, dropped the name of Gernon and took the name of Montfitchet, which was used thereafter by his descendants.
William founded the Abbey of Stratford Langthorne in West Ham. Of William’s son, Gilbert de Montfitchet, little is known. Gilbert’s son, Richard, held the office of Forester or Keeper of the Forests of Essex, with the custody of the King’s House at Havering and other houses in the Forest, given to him by King Henry II.
In 1203, Richard died, leaving his son Richard II a minor. He became a royal ward of King John and was placed in the care of Roger de Lacey, Constable of Chester and, subsequently in 1211, became a ward of his mother.
As soon as he became of age (the exact date is unknown), Richard de Montfitchet II seems to have joined the Baronial opposition to the King.
His motives and the order of events are both obscure. The opposition to King John seems to have begun with a number of north country Barons who “then made common cause with a group of magnates, drawn together by family ties or by private or public grievances, whose sphere of influence was chiefly centred in Essex”.
King John and Mountfitchet Castle
These disaffected Barons include the son of Richard’s former guardian, two brothers-in-law and a cousin which would give some reason for young Montfitchet being drawn to this group. But King John was swift to react when it was in his power to do so. Two of the rebel leaders, Eustace and Fitzwalter, were in 1212 found guilty of treasonable designs and outlawed. King John followed this up by destroying as many of his opponents’ castles as he could and Mountfitchet Castle seems to be one of these.
When the Barons gained their seeming victory at Runnymede in 1215, Richard de Montfitchet II, in spite of his youth, was one of twenty-five Barons chosen to enforce the observance of Magna Carta.
Henry Laver in his article on The Castle at Stanstead Mountfitchet describes Richard de Montfitchet II as the youngest, yet one of the three bravest Knights in England.
Richard died in 1258, having regained royal favour under Henry III, who restored all his estates, but he lacked heirs as he apparently never married and the Montfitchet possessions were divided among his three sisters, thus bringing an end to the reign of the Montfitchets.
After the attack on the Castle around 1215 by King John, the stones were taken by the villagers to build their houses and the castle site lay overgrown and forgotten for over 700 years until its re-construction today.
Discovery of Mountfitchet Castle
After the attack on the Castle around 1215 by King John the castle was left to lay in ruins for many years and over time the stones were stolen by the villagers to build their houses. As you travel around the village of Stansted today you can still see flint walls and houses made from the Castle’s stones.
This Motte and Bailey castle site lay forgotten for over 750 years and was soon taken over by nature and covered in dense scrub, trees, brambles and bushes and was totally hidden until 1975 when the owner, Alan Goldsmith, had a dream to rebuild and restore the castle to its former glory.
The grounds were cleared to reveal the original earthworks and mounds and after years of battling with planners, in 1980 the work began to reconstruct Mountfitchet Castle.
Leading historians, archaeologists and craftsmen were drafted in from all over the country to make the castle as accurate and authentic as possible.
The English oak for the palisade and village buildings was sourced from Suffolk and the reed for the roof makers (Thatchers) came from Norfolk. The roofs were constructed of wood, turf and wheat straw, all of which was used by the Normans.
Authentic wattle and daub plaster was recreated using pigs manure and horse hair and applied to all the buildings.
Specialist Blacksmiths and Carpenters were employed to recreate the metal work and woodwork that was involved in the reconstruction of all the buildings and accessories including intricate wood carvings, metal chains, railings, gates, pins, hinges, shackles, cut nails, armour and tools to mention a few.
A geophysics survey placed where high nitrogen deposits were found indicating a dwelling or an activity over many years. The houses were placed carefully upon the ground so as not to disturb the archaeology.
After many years of work, the restoration of Mountfitchet Castle was complete and was opened to the public in 1985 and is unique as being the only wooden Motte and Bailey reconstruction on its original site anywhere in the world.
The animals that roam freely through-out our 10 acre site are of the breeds the Normans would have kept within the Castle’s grounds.
Deer, goats, sheep, domestic fowl, rabbits and fresh fish and oysters were all invaluable to the Normans diet.
Not only were the Fallow deer kept for food but were also a huge status symbol for the resident Baron, the more deer he kept, the higher his status became.
Domestic fowl were also a huge commodity; excellent sources of meat, eggs and feathers, even their bones were used for tools and jewellery!
Fish and oysters were kept in the Carp and Eel ponds and were also sourced from the river at the foot of the castle hill.
Authentic Materials were used in the reconstruction of Mountfitchet Castle.
English Oak was sourced from Suffolk for the palisade and buildings, Norfolk reed and wheat straw was used for thatching and to make the authentic wattle and daub plaster our specialists used pigs manure and horse hair.
The cloth used for clothing is as near to original material as possible – to ensure this we employed a period and textile specialist and we also had a live-in blacksmith.
Mountfitchet Castles Haunted History
This privately owned castle has baffled scientists who have been trying to research the supernatural happenings and events that have been occurring on this ancient site since the 1920s.
Over the years many spooky happenings have been witnessed and reported at Mountfitchet Castle, which is not surprising considering its brutal and gruesome history.
For over 3000 years many battles have been fought with thousands of lives lost on these very grounds. This Norman village contains a medieval torture chamber complete with nasty devices, therefore during the castle’s long and eventful life, awful things have happened that are bound to leave a mark…. now for the spooky bits.
Clearsight Paranormal Investigations team spent an all night vigil at the Castle on 8th August 2008. Their findings were incredible; click here to read their official report.
The most exciting evidence is of a ghostly apparition that was captured on 18th July 2010 at approximately 11.25pm and was taken inside the Grand Hall.
After our night watchman had commented, on several different occasions, about feeling incredibly uncomfortable and ‘not alone’ whilst checking the vicinity of the Grand Hall it was decided to set up a time delay camera in there.
Three weeks passed and the only interesting items caught on film were Orbs until 18th July when this photo was captured.
This ghost has never been witnessed or recorded before and therefore a very exciting new addition to our already long list of known spirits to inhabit Mountfitchet Castle.
By far the most active and haunted area within the castle walls is in the vicinity of the Grand Hall located in the Inner Bailey. Many have reported feeling a huge temperature drop and hearing faint medieval flute music, clashing of swords, voices and soft chanting presumed to be monks. Others have felt a great sense of foreboding and ‘presences’ and seeing fleeting wisps of eerie mist swirls.
Most Orbs are captured on camera within this area compared to the rest of the castle grounds within the palisade walls.
Many unofficial sightings have been reported of the torso of a ghostly Knight clad in chainmail and helmet always in or behind the Grand Hall, and always in the afternoon. Staff members and visitors have both seen this apparition but have never felt uncomfortable during their experience with him.
We also have a Monk spirit that is often felt by mediums and psychics but has also been witnessed a few times by our night staff members. Clad only in a cloak with no facial features ever seen.
There is one area located between the Church and the Surgeons house the castle’s resident animals avoid and will not linger and the ground staff often feel very ‘unnerved’ whilst there.
Night time vigils with cameras often capture three orbs floating in this area, always three together — one large and two smaller ones.
One thing is for certain, a place such as Mountfitchet Castle with such a turbulent, tragic and macabre history, is sure to continue to provide ghostly tales and spectral sightings for a long time to come! Check out the video.
Orbs are believed to be ghosts in the form of balls of light. They are life forms that travel in groups and are believed to be the human soul or life force of those that once inhabited a physical body here on earth.
Ghostly orbs are the most photographed anomalies caught on film by ghost hunters and are quite photogenic (when they want to be).