Sir Edward Dalyngrigge

Sir Edward Dalyngrigge (c1346 – c1395) was a 14th century knight who built the picturesque Bodiam Castle in Sussex.

Not much is known about his early life, but Edward Dalyngrigge was born around 1346 and came from a well-established Sussex family from Dalling Ridge near East Grinstead. He spend much of his early adult life fighting in France with Edward III, and returned to England in 1377 having accumulated much wealth and power following his time fighting the French. Upon his return to Sussex, he married Elizabeth, the heiress of the Wardedieu or Wardeux family, who had held the manor of Bodiam since before 1330. Through his new wife, Sir Edward acquired a moated manor house, which lay just to the north of Bodiam church. It is possible the Dalyngrigge and his new wife resided in this manor house until his new castle was completed, although he also held another house at his estate at Bolebrook, near Hartfield, Sussex.

Between 1379 and 1388, Dalyngrigge was Knight of the Shire of Sussex in ten parliaments and subsequently one of the most influential gentry of the county at that time. In 1380 he was made a member of the Commission considering the state of the realm and the possessions, expenses and revenues of the royal household. Also in that year, he was appointed to survey Winchelsea and to consider how the town should be fortified against attacks from the French. His concern over the defence of the coast is again evident in 1384-5, when he is called to be a member of a Commission to fortify the cinque port, Rye.

In 1384 the King's uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, tool out a lawsuit against Dalyngrigge to try to restrain him from interference with the Duke's recently acquired Sussex estates. Resentment of the powerful Duke of Lancaster and his estates was felt by many of the Sussex gentry, and Dalyngrigge was essentially representing their grievances. Dalyngrigge's behavious in court, where he appeared in his own defence, was violent and unruly and gives a good indication of his personality; twice during the proceedings, he threw down the gauntlet in court. His action seems to imply that he saw the case more as a matter of honour than of legality. His concern was fundamentally that his local standing was threatened by John of Gaunt's acquisition and authority over neighbouring estates. John of Gaunt won his lawsuit, but Dalyngrigge suffesred little harm as a result; his patron, the Earl of Arundel, interceded for him with the King and Dalyngrigge was returned to the Parliament soon after.

England had been at war with France on-and-off since the 1330s when King Edward III laid claim to the French throne. Due to a number of attacks by the French on towns on the southern English coast, there was a good reason for building a well-defended castle close to the south coast. At the time, the River Rother was still navigible as far as Bodiam and the French could have easily have sailed an invading or raiding force there. Consequently, King Richard II issued a Royal Licence to Dalyngrigge in October 1385 to crenellate his manor house at Bodiam. The licence, in Latin, stated:

"…that he may strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and many construct amd make into a Castle his manor house of Bodyham, near the sea, in the county of Sussex, for the defence of the adjacent country [France] , and the resistance of our enemies."

In addition to the licence to crenellate, Sir Edward was granted a royal licence to divert a stream from "Dalyngreggesbay", upstream in Saleshurst, to Bodiam to power a watermill. The mill was situated to the south of the site for Sir Edward's new castle between the castle and the River Rother, fed by a large mill-pond.

In 1386-7, Sir Edward was appointed Captain of Brest, and due to his having to spend his time in France is unlikely to have been present to oversee the first stages of his new castle.

By 1390 the threat of war with France has receded. Sir Edward was appointed to several commissions, such as to conclude a truce with France, to make conditions with the Earl of Flanders and with the people of Ghent, Bruges and Ypres, and to survey the castles and fortresses of Calais and Picardy. In 1390 he was one of the nine knights who attached their seal to a letter sent to the Pope deploring the excesses of the Church. Sir Edward's status in the country was further reflected in 1392 when he was elected as Lord Mayor of London.

By the time his castle at Bodiam was completed in about 1390, Dalyngrigge did not have long to enjoy it, as he died some time before 1395. He was succeeded by his son, Sir John Dalyngrigge.


* National Trust, "Bodiam Castle" - guidebook to the castle

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