Hedingham Castle, Essex
Photograph: B. Cox (1974)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Around 1140, the Norman lord Aubrey De Vere II decided to improve his family fortress at Hedingham. The site was promising, raised above the River Colne. His plan was to create a great stone tower or keep, the heart of the castle, protected by two outer circuits of wall.
Constructed of finely-worked Barnack stone, this keep was extremely expensive, a building only a great noble like De Vere could afford. Undoubtedly his idea was to equal, if not better, the great royal stone castle at Colchester nearby. The message to the surrounding population, and his rivals, was that the De Veres were here for good!
This photograph reveals the enduring quality of De Vere’s vision. Hedingham remains strong, eight centuries after first being built. But it also suggests the difficulties posed when using antiquarian prints. How different this appears to Britton’s 1840’s engraving. Despite the lack of dramatic lighting, if anything, Hedingham here looks more menacing. Its windows are smaller, less decorated, its walls sheer. And no-one has strayed into this photograph, making this more ominous.