Gilbert and Richard were the commonest forenames amongst the de Clares whose ancestor had come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror. The family became the noblest family below the king. The last male of their name died at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The chevron is the family emblem, in use by 1200, now used as the emblem of Clare Town Council. Properly described the de Clare coat of arms is described as or (gold), three chevrons gules (red). Over time the local colours of the emblem have shifted towards a deeper gold and deeper red. An article by Phil Gryce has images from across England & Wales of the appearance of the chevron throughout history.
Richard de Bienfaite accompanied his father’s onetime ward, William, the Duke of Normandy into England. While he was not listed as one of the revered Companions, he was declared a baron – a title that William introduced to describe those men who had pledged loyalty to him directly within the feudal system.
Richard was given 176 lordships, settling in Tonbridge and Clare. As a Baron, he was entitled to build castles on his land. Tonbridge and Clare seem to have been constructed on the same plan: motte, inner bailey, outer bailey.
Two of the Magna Carta Barons were Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford (ca. 1153-1217), and his son Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Hertford and Gloucester (ca. 1180-1230). Great landowners, they were closely related by blood and/or marriage to the majority of other Magna Carta barons.
The man-made motte of Clare Castle is nearly 20m in height, now surmounted by the ruins of a keep. A pathway curls up to the top – for excellent views of Clare, the Stour Valley and Essex. A curtain wall with towers surrounded the inner bailey. The outer bailey was encircled by a earth bank, probably with a wooden palisade.
The grounds contain a disused railway station: a set of listed buildings which include a stationmaster’s office, waiting rooms, ticket office and a goods shed, constructed in 1865, part of the Great Eastern system, closed in 1967. A cafe opened in April 2017 in what were the public areas of the station.
Clare Castle County Park is run by the Trustees without receiving funds from the Town Council. Their income comes mainly from the car park fees. Donation boxes have been installed in the main entrances (the car park & Station Road).
The Trust has very recently been awarded a grant of £1.5 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Wikipedia has an article on Clare Castle. It is listed as one of “Suffolk’s hundred best buildings“, Tim Buxbaum, IMEM 2014.
Location: Maltings Lane, Clare CO10 8NW
Links: Historic England – castle listed II*, railway station listed II, goods shed listed II
Books: Three Chevrons Red: The Clares: a Marcher Dynasty in Wales, England and Ireland, Paul Davis, Logaston Press 2013, ISBN: 9781906663803; Suffolk: West, The Buildings of England, Bettley & Pevsner, Yale 2015. ISBN 978 0 300 19655 9, p192
2016 © Clare Town Council