Although England’s wettest winter since the reign of King George III has seen thousands of homes flooded out and billions knocked off the economy, it hasn’t all been bad news for Eynsford Castle.
After centuries of being surrounded by nothing more than a dry ditch, the ancient ruined fort is reliving its heyday with the unexpected return of its moat – courtesy of storm waters from the swollen River Darent, a Kentish tributary of the River Thames.
The stone castle was built around 20 years after the Norman Conquest by Sir William de Eynsford, a Sheriff of Kent, and covered the site of an earlier wooden fortification built by the Saxons. Both structures would have been protected by a moat fed by the river. The castle was left to decay from the 13th century following a feud over ownership, and probably started to lose its moat around three to four hundred years ago.
Local historian Rod Shelton told the Sevenoaks Chronicle: “It was probably very shallow and swampy in the 1600s but more than likely the main river was already being ‘helped’ to avoid the moat by the late 1600s. There was some business that needed water downriver – Eynsford Mill, just half a mile away, needed a good head of water to fill its leat or mill stream to give it the 8ft drop to its great 18ft wheel. I would think that by the end of the 1700s, the moat was little more than a damp depression.”
Hopefully the castle’s return to its glory days will be short-lived, as the only invaders being repelled by the modern moat are hordes of tourists – English Heritage have been forced to close the site for safety reasons.