When Waverley dowsers were invited to visit Betchworth Castle nr. Dorking, we all got rather excited, the owner of the site provided us with a list of things he would like us to investigate and so it was arraigned, unfortunately the weather fairly miserable and being only a few weeks before Christmas, not very warm on top, so the day was rather short and we didn’t get as much dowsing as was hoped for.

Here is our Geoff Mitchell’s write up of the day:

We attacked the courtyard area first and located the extent of the side wings and end building and the subsequent HaHa.    When you stand at the front door and look out over the garden, which replaced the courtyard, and on to the avenue of trees on the way in you can imagine the effect; very pleasing.   As yet we haven’t actually plotted the carriageway into the gatehouse, but suffice to say that the ditch of the Iron Age Fort along the Southern side was used to hide it from this view.

A couple of us have taken detailed measurements of the gatehouse arrangement and I’ll plot it all on the map when they send me a copy.  We have defined the courtyard/ garden, but again this will need plotting on the scaled map.

We also confirmed that there should be a well, about 5ft diameter roughly centrally placed in the cellar area that is full of backfill.   We cleared the brambles and ivy and trees which were building up in this area so that they would not damage the structure as they grew stronger.   If you could get permission to clear this second major cellar area (not really an excavation) then it would be great to see what is left of this well.   We also found what looks likely to be a rectangular area to the South of this well that was probably used as a clothes washing bench/ arrangement (hopefully still intact).   The more we detect the more we can refine our questions.

My remote map dowsing efforts put the well at 126ft deep with an original water level at 97ft below the cellar floor.   Flow rate was averaging 19 gallons per hour, but the water quality was not great…  fine for washing though.    This was probably a good excuse to fit a pumping station in the river..   By the way; if one does a quick calculation of how much rubble it would take to fill the well up it comes out at 70 cu.metres which is about 168 tonnes… Quite a useful hole when you need it?

Below you will find a basic timeline of the Site as it is currently known

Betchworth Castle – Timeline Info.

Iron Age: Possible Hill Fort

Early Medieval: Scale of Building not known.  Edward 1st. stayed hear 14th May 1294 suggesting substantial structure.

1379: First licence to crenulated. Tower from this period. The wall nearest the North Downs is part of this tower.

1570s: The majority of the surviving fabric probably dates from this time. The building had four ranges around an open courtyard.  The guardhouse faces Dorking.

1691: The Castle passes by marriage to William Fenwick, who demolishes the courtyard bridges, keeping the great hall and the.  This is the surviving section, with hall to the South.

1727-1777: Abraham Tucker landscapes the Deer Park.   He plants the lime tree avenue and formalises the lake below the Castle.

1798: Sir John Soane is commissioned to refurbish the Castle.  He converts the attached stables into living accommodation and builds new flint stables near the river below and to the North and are standing and in use as apartments today.   The arch of his new porch is all that survives of Soane’s work at the Castle.

1835: Henry Thomas Hope purchases the Castle for the land and removes the roof for a romantic ruin.   The public are allowed free to enjoy the site.  Henry Hope bought the whole of the Village of Brockham that same year.

1910: Betchworth Park Golf Course was laid out in the Deer Park.

2011: Conservation of the remains undertaken to make them safe.


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