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Remains of inner gatehouse (left) and barbican to Lewes Castle (right). Source: ArildV / CC BY-SA 4.0

Lewes Castle Wall Collapses Leading to Search for Casualties

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A section of a medieval castle’s wall has collapsed in Britain. The rubble of the centuries-old wall fell into neighboring houses. Emergency services are at the site and they are searching for anyone that might have been trapped under the collapsed wall. First responders are using drones and dogs in their search efforts.

In the middle of the day, part of the 11th-century medieval wall of Lewes Castle collapsed in the town of Lewes, East Sussex. It was part of a section of the fortress known as the Old Coach House. It appears that much of the rubble has fallen into the back yard of some private homes.

The Telegraph reports that a “section of the wall, weighing roughly 600 tons, came crashing down”. The section of the medieval castle that fell is believed to measure 30 feet by 30 feet (10 meters by 10 meters).

Emergency Services Called to Lewes Castle

East Sussex Fire & Rescue teams, the ambulance service and the local police all arrived at the scene soon after the collapse. According to The Daily Mail “Witnesses reported multiple emergency vehicles at the scene, as well as a helicopter and dog unit”.

Police have cordoned off the area and are not permitting anyone to enter Lewes Castle grounds. The Mirror quotes a spokesperson as saying that “It is not known at this time if anyone is trapped”. No local residents had been reported missing, however the first responders were eager to search the area, just in case.

First responders blocked off the area around Lewes castle. (Twitter)

A search of the area did not start immediately as there were fears that the remaining walls of the Old Coach House could collapse and pose a risk to members of the emergency services. Once it was decided that the site was stable, rescue crews began searching for anyone who might be caught beneath the fallen masonry. Local residents and visitors are being kept clear of the area.

A Drone and Dog Unit Assisting at Lewes Castle

After the alert began, the fire service requested the assistance of a drone and some specially trained dogs. The rescue crews are using drone footage shot from the air to help to identify whether any persons are caught in the rubble. A dog unit is also helping to search the collapsed wall.

However, so far none of the local residents are believed to be missing and the emergency services are hopeful that there have been no casualties. The Mirror reports that the East Sussex Fire & Rescue teams have stated that “the area of wall collapse is not part of the main castle and not immediately accessible by the public”.

The cause of the collapse is not known. The Daily Mail reports “some locals have suggested heavy rain could have loosened the ground beneath the wall”, leading to the partial fall of the medieval structure. There has been flooding in parts of England in recent weeks. Some have speculated that recent work involving the cutting of ivy could have contributed to the totally unexpected collapse.

The Historic Lewes Castle

Lewes Castle was “built in 1068 by William de Warenne, the 1st Earl of Surrey” and is popular with tourists according to The Daily Mail. The castle dates back to the early days of Norman rule in England and was constructed to subdue the local Anglo-Saxons. It was built on a man-made earthen mound near the River Ouse. This castle is unusual in England in that it has two moats.

The sudden collapse of the medieval wall is certainly a concern. Investigators will want to know the reason why a structure that had stood for almost a millennium, suddenly fell. This is to ensure that no other parts of the castle are at risk of falling. The search of the rubble and making the area safe for residents and visitors will take some time.

Top image: Remains of inner gatehouse (left) and barbican to Lewes Castle (right). Source: ArildV / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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