Posted on 22/05/2019
It was the Normans who first brought the castle to Britain in 1066, a ‘motte and bailey’ fortress comprising an earthwork mound with a wooden or stone structure on top. In Bishop’s Stortford, on the marshy banks of the River Stort, all that remains of Waytemore Castle is the earthwork mound and some remnants of the castle walls.
The etymology of the castle’s name has been debated over the years, but a recent suggestion is that ‘Wayte’ is a corruption of the Old Norse word thwaite, meaning forest clearing. ‘More’ is believed to derive from another Old Norse word marr, meaning boggy place.
It’s believed that the castle was originally a Saxon fort on the frontier of Viking Danelaw and the Kingdom of Wessex, then later appropriated by the Normans. It would have been surrounded by stables, barracks, a chapel and workshop, now the peaceful green space of Castle Garden Park, which has a play area, flower borders and tennis courts. It’s also host to a Parkrun every Saturday morning.
There are refurbishment plans underway to make the ruins more of a focal point of the park, to build a community space and café, and a new bridge over the river linking the two green spaces Castle Garden Park and Sworder’s Field. There are also plans to improve the waterway habitats for local wildlife, which include otters and water voles.
You can enjoy the beautiful river and park on a five-mile walk from Bishop’s Stortford to Sawbridgeworth, a route once teeming with barges of grain being carried to the local malt mills, now a haven for coots, moorhens and little grebes.