Sir Edward Dalyngrigge – Soldier, Politican, Courtier and Builder of Bodiam Castle


Bodiam Castle, Sussex. Built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge between 1385-1388.  Photo History of Bodiam Castle. 

Bodiam Castle.  What a beauty and is it possible to find an even finer epitome of a medieval English Castle?  The builder was Sir Edward  Dalyngrigge –  also spelt Dallingridge  –  (c.1346-1393),  the son and heir  of Roger Dallingridge (c.1311-1380) of Dallingridge and Alice Radingden, daughter and heiress of  Sir John Radingden of Radynden, Sussex.  In the early 14th century the Dallingridge family had originally been minor gentry who rose through the ranks after making several lucrative marriages.  Edward’s grandfather John (d.1335) through his marriage to Joan, daughter of Sir Walter de la Lynde, a wealthy Lincolnshire man,  acquired the manor of Bolebrook in Sussex as well as a moiety of that of Laceby in Lincolnshire.  RogerEdward’s father,  would continue the trend when he married Alice Radingden.  When Sir John Radingden died in 1359, Alice’s inheritance included five manors including  Sheffield (the one in Sussex and not the one up north!) and Fletching, 25 miles east of Bodiam.  Fletching being the principal seat of his parents was probably  where Sir Edward spent his childhood.  In Fletching church there is a fine brass to a knight and lady from the Dalyngrigge family and although its been identified as Walter, Sir Edward’s younger brother, it is more than likely their parents, Roger and Alice.  Note the lady’s headdress fashionable c.1375-1380 and that Roger’s death occurred in 1380.


Dalyngrigge brass in Fletching Church.  Possibly that of Roger and Alice, Sir Edward parents.

On Roger’s death all these inherited lands would pass to Edward, who had already made his fortune from his  time spent in France.  His wealth had already been further bolstered  when he too adhered to family tradition and made an ‘opportune marriage’  – arranged by his father –  when in about November 1364 he married Elizabeth Wardieu/Wardedieu (b.c.1347-d.1383) daughter of John Wardieu of Sywell, Northants and importantly Bodiam.   When Elizabeth’s father died in 1377 she  inherited the manors at Bodiam and Hollington as well as 750 acres of land elsewhere in Sussex, a number of properties in Kent, and the manors of Sywell, Hannington and Arthingworth in Northamptonshire although her entitlement to certain estates in Leicestershire and Rutland was disputed.  However, quelle surprise,  the  Dalyngrigges triumphed.  Added to this Sir Edward, now one of the wealthiest landowners of his county would add to his ever growing lands and properties by  further purchases such as the manor of Iden.  However he would make Bodiam his principal residence. (1).

There is a beautiful  but damaged brass in Bodiam church of a man in 14th armour identifiable by its heraldry as being  that of a member of the Wardieu family.  It has been suggested it is Sir John Wardieu, Elizabeth’s father,  but it appears to be of an earlier date and possibly of her grandfather. 


Effigy of a member of the Wardieu family in 14th century armour in Bodiam church – possibly Elizabeth’s father or grandfather. 


Sir Edward has been described as a ‘successful career soldier, politician and courtier’.  He seems to have been successful at every stage of his career although of course in those frequent tricky times things did not always go according to plan and one could easily find oneself getting into scrapes.  And indeed our Sir Edward, who had close links to the Earl of Arundel,  finding himself on the wrong side of John of Gaunt ended up in prison not once but twice when in June 1384 in a culmination of the long running feud between him and Gaunt,  he was summoned to appear in court during a special commission of oyer and terminer at the suit of Gaunt. (2).  The tribunal was ‘strongly biased in Gaunt’s favour’ and Sir Edward ‘treating the case as a matter of honour’ appears to have gone full tonto, throwing his gauntlet down according to some accounts, and answering the charges ‘with a wager of battle ‘ as you do.  Obviously this did not pan out well for him and he was committed to custody for contempt of court (3). His patron the earl of  Arundel managed to sweet talk the king, Richard II,  into releasing him on the 26 July  while the king was a guest at Arundel castle and Gaunt otherwise preoccupied – well he was abroad at the time basically.  On Gaunt’s return in October he rectified the matter,  well to his liking,  and had Sir Edward rearrested and this time he stayed that way until the following January when he was released, his skills being urgently required to supervise the fortification of Rye and Winchelsea in the face of threats of a French invasion.  I do wonder if this stuck in Gaunt’s craw? (4). 

This was not Sir Edward’s first experience at finding himself on the wrong side of the law for in the autumn of 1370 he had been ‘ …arrested and brought before Edward III’s council for having failed to embark for France in the major expeditionary army commanded by Sir Robert Knolles after receiving an advance payment of his wages’ (5). However as far as I can tell he appears to have emerged from that unscathed and on the best of terms with Sir Robert – indeed Sir Robert’s arms were carved above one of Bodiam’s gates.  

Here is just a very brief curriculum vitae of some of the posts Sir Edward held:

Steward to the widowed Countess Warenne in the 1350s.  After her death in 1361  transferred his services to her heir Richard, Earl of Arundel.

Over a 30 year period covering 1359-89 he served in many of the major expeditions against France.

Master forester at Ashdown Chase 13 Aug. 1381-6 Sept. 1383.

Represented Sussex in Parliament on 4 occasions between 1360-1377 (6).

Served in the retinue of the Earl of Arundel during Gaunt’s expedition to France 1369

Served in the retinue of Edward, Lord Despenser 1373 and 1375

Served as a commissioner of array in 1377, 1385, 1386 and 1392

Member of Richard II’s council 4 May 1389

Ambassador to France 12 Apr – 15 July 1390

Keeper and escheator of the City of London 25 June-22 July 1392

For those who would like to delve further into Sir Edward’s career the best and fullest account I have come across is that to be found on the online The History of Parliament.  I found another useful account in Dan Spencer’s  Edward Dallingridge: Builder of Bodiam Castle.


We have seen from above how Bodiam came into the possession of Sir Edward who abandoned the Wardieus’ original manor house – which stood at the northern end of the village –  to build his new castle lower down by the River Rother.   He was granted a licence to crenellate on the 20 October 1385:

 ‘The King to all men to whom etc greeting.  Know that of our special grace we have granted and given licence on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, in so far as in us lies, to our beloved and faithful Edward Dallingridge Knight, that he may strengthen with a wall of stone and lime, and crenellate and may construct and make into a castle his manor house of Bodyham,  near  the sea,  for the defence of the adjacent country and resistance to our enemies, and may hold his aforesaid house so strengthened and crenellated and made into a castle for himself and his heirs for ever,  without let or hindrance of ourselves or our heirs, or any of our agents whatsoever.  In witness of which etc.  The King at Westminster 20 October’ (7). 

Nevertheless since the 19th century it has been hotly debated by both architectural and military historians whether Bodiam was ‘essentially a fortress with residential provision built to defend the country from French attack or whether it was primarily a residence built in a fortified style’ (8). Architectural historian Anthony Emery has suggested that the castle was Sir Edward’s ‘belligerent response to his wounded ego’ having been ‘bested in his quarrel with John of Gaunt’s agents in Sussex during the early 1380s’ (9).    So a kind of defiant ‘up yours’ maybe?  And we do know how very fragile the egos of these members of the medieval aristocracy could be.    Bodiam has also been described as having serious military vunerability’ such as an easy to drain moat and badly situated gun ports.  Its also been suggested it may have been ‘an old soldier’s dream house –  although I would argue with that comparison – Sir Edward was neither old and although dying at home in his own bed, this veteran of the Hundred Years War was surely the absolute epitome of a medieval warrior as far as I’m concerned and remained so until the day he drew his last breath (10).   Anthony Emery has also opined that Bodiam was ‘a house of swagger with the architectural trappings of defence set in a deliberately conceived landscape, yet it is also markedly impressive irrespective of its owners intent for mindset’ (11).  But therein lays the exquisite, unique beauty of Bodiam Castle which lacks the foreboding appearance of many castles such as Conwy, Caernarfon or Goodrich for example although to be fair they were earlier.  Bodiam looks sublime, almost welcoming,  in a glorious setting and on a misty day or in a certain light has the appearance of floating above the water of the moat, a romantic and atmospheric ruin.  


Evocative image of Bodiam Castle at dusk.  Photo thanks to Peter Blake at flikr.

Sir Edward was dead by August 1393, a comparatively short life, but he had been able to enjoy the newly built Bodiam castle for a time albeit short.  He would be buried next to Elizabeth in the Cistercian abbey at nearby Robertsbridge.  He would be succeeded by his son Sir John who would also go on to be a politician, courtier and royal ambassador.  Sir John would marry Alice Boteler/Butler in 1406 dying two years later childless.


As we see above Sir John married Alice Boteler/Butler nee Beauchamp, widow of Thomas Boteler/Butler of Sudeley who had died in 1398.  Going off on a total tangent here – but much too interesting to leave out –  is that Alice and Thomas were the parents of Ralph Boteler/Butler, Lord Sudeley, whose son, another Thomas,  was the first husband of Eleanor Talbot (c. 1436 – June 1468) daughter of the famous John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.   The widowed Eleanor would later marry Edward IV in a secret ceremony.   It was this secret marriage, known as a ‘precontract’, that made his later second – yet another secret  ‘marriage’  – to Elizabeth Woodville/Wydville bigamous.  Thus the children of this second clandestine ‘marriage’ were declared illegitimate in 1483 when Edward IV suddenly and unexpectedly died and the secret got out after Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells,  let the cat out of the bag.  This would, with all its tragic repercussions,  prove to be the catalyst for the destruction of the royal House of York culminating in the death of Richard III at Bosworth in 1485.  The two sons from this Woodville marriage were of course Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury – the missing princes.   But that, of course dear reader, is another story….

  1. The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe 1993.
  2. Edward Dallingridge: Builder of Bodiam Castle.   Dan Spencer.University of Southampton

  3. Ibid.
  4. DALLINGRIDGE Sir Edward (c.1346-1393) of Bodiam Castle, Sussex.  ed J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993.
  5. Lyte, Morris, Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1367-1370, p. 475.  See also DALLINGRIDGE, Sir Edward (c.1346-1393), of Bodiam castle, Suss History of Parliament online.
  6. The House of Commons 1386-1421 Vol 2. p.739.  Roskell.
  7. Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office: Richard II. A.D. 1385- 1389.
  8. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol.3 p.p 317-318.  Anthony Emery. 
  9. Lancaster – v – Dallingridge: a franchisal dispute in fourteenth century Sussex.  Sussex Archive Collection 121 (1983) p.p.87-94. S. Walker    
  10. D. J. Turner, ‘Bodiam Sussex: True Castle or Old Soldier’s Dream House? England in the Fourteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxtion Symposium, ed. by W. M. Ormrod (Woodbridge: The Boydell, 1986), pp. 267-277.
  11. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol.3 p.p 317-318.  Anthony Emery.

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Ralph Boteler, Lord Sudeley, father-in-law to Lady Eleanor Talbot.


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3 thoughts on “Sir Edward Dalyngrigge – Soldier, Politican, Courtier and Builder of Bodiam Castle

  1. I used to breeze over all these ancient titles and legalities , but now I would like to know more about what these job titles entailed . Apart from search engines , is their a dictionary or glossary to be found that would pour light onto this subject ?


    1. Not that I know of Lorraine. Sometimes if I have time I may research a certain title or post but usually in the middle of writing a post I just take them as they come only using reliable sources…


  2. Sir Walter de la Lynde, before 1348-1272 , born at Winterborne Clenston, Dorset, & died in Lincolnshire, whose daughter Joan married John de Dalyngrige is my 18th great grandfather.

    Winterborne Clenston is still owned by a branch of my family, as Sir Walter didn’t have any sons.


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