How did Rowlands Castle get its name?
The origin of the name Rowlands Castle is a mystery. There are several myths surrounding the evolution of the name starting with rolokescastel from Saxon times meaning Red Clay found in the area. The ancient castle was supposed to have occupied the site at a Roman or Saxon Entrenchment. Romantic legends tell of a brave Giant Orlando Roland who “swam” across the Channel to rescue a maiden abducted from France who had been locked up shrieking in a castle turret! Another suggestion is that the area was frequented by many “forest free booters” knights and brave soldiers looking for hunting and a castle to live in. One Roland was credited with the building of a castle. There was also a “Knight or “Paladin” at the time of Charlemagne whose name was…Roland! He we killed while fighting in 778 and was featured as a hero in a ballad of the time called Le Chanson de Roland… An early pop star. Ties with France were strop in those days and what better way to honour a national war hero than to name castle after him!
This is an imaginative model of Rowlands Castle perhaps made by an apprentice of the Brickworks. It is now in the Bursleldon museum.
On the left we see an impression of the castle as it would have been in the time of Henry II.
Stephen and Matilda were contesting heirs of Henry I and either of them could have been instrumental in fortifying the castle during the civil war between them.
Historians tell us that Henry II stayed there in 1177, he loved hunting and would not have wanted to destroy the castle. Suggestion is made that an earthquake helped the castle’s demise and that it fell into disrepair around 1400.
The embankment holding the railway line runs over the site of the castle and nothing remains of its walls and stone work which was obliterated by the building of the railway which cut through the “Dell” of the 1850s. The building of the principal Victorian residence “Deerleap” behind what is now Rowlands Home Hardware covered up any further remains of the castle. The flint wall bordering the property was built later, some think using flints from the castle. Behind Deerleap there is a flag pole on a grassy mound which marks the spot as an ancient monument, a Motte and Bailey castle, despite the impossibility of visiting it.
“This article is taken from the booklet written by Mary Jane Lomer entitled ‘Round and About Rowlands Castle’ 2015, for which she retains the copyright.”