Norfolk castle built by Shakespeare's 'Falstaff' saved from disrepair

Credit: PA

A miniature castle built by the soldier who inspired one of Shakespeare's most famous characters has been saved from collapse.

Drayton Lodge was built in Norfolk by Sir John Fastolf -  immortalised by the bard as the cowardly knight Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV parts one and two and in The Merry Wives Of Windsor.

The 15th-century monument was added to Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register more than 20 years ago but has now been repaired.

Some brickwork was replaced, using existing bricks where possible, with the remainder specially commissioned.

A firm in Sudbury in Suffolk specially took on the job to match the original historic bricks. Credit: PA

Work has now been carried out with local developers Hidden Talents Homes to repair the building.

James Albone, Inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said: "Drayton Lodge tells an important story about Norfolk during the 15th century and the life of Sir John Fastolf, a fascinating character who was immortalised in caricature by William Shakespeare.

"Thanks to their dedication and enthusiasm, people who live, visit and work on the Drayton Lodge estate will be able to learn more about its remarkable past."

Credit: PA

Vulnerable sections of the structure were reconstructed with hidden stainless-steel pins and straps for additional support.

Vegetation was removed from the walls and the wall tops were repaired to protect them from weathering.

Conservation architect Ruth Brennan said: "I enjoyed working on this miniature castle, which has been in a poor state for many years.

"Despite the challenges of the lockdowns and the difficulties getting the handmade pink bricks, the masons at S&L Restoration Ltd did an excellent job.

Drayton Lodge is an early example of the use of brick construction in England and is contemporary with Sir John Fastolf's larger creation of Caister Castle near Great Yarmouth.

The lodge has been described as a 'plaisance' - pleasure ground - a hunting lodge or a strategic lookout post.

It was probably originally conceived as a small fortified manor, Historic England said.

After Fastolf's death in 1459, Drayton Lodge was acquired by the Paston family, one of the most influential families in East Anglia.

In April 1465, the Duke of Suffolk, who had previously contested Fastolf's ownership of the land at Drayton, began to assert claims to the manors of Drayton and nearby Hellesdon, by legal means and then later by force.

As a result, Drayton Lodge was left in ruins.

Later, it was possibly used as a shelter for warreners and shepherds. By the 18th century it was thought to be a recently built decorative folly.

Now constructed of soft, pale red brick, Drayton Lodge stands to two storeys.

Evidence suggests that it was originally built to three storeys and also shows traces of a large fireplace in the west wall, a garderobe - a private room - and a staircase.