St Leonard’s Tower, West Malling

The tower is a mysterious survival. It is thought by some to have been part of a castle built between 1077 and 1108 by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, who founded St Mary’s Abbey, situated about 700 metres (760 yards) to the north-east.

Alternatively it may have been built by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, who was half-brother of William the Conqueror (and who is thought to have commissioned the famous tapestry); he held church lands at West Malling. The tower takes its name from a chapel dedicated to St Leonard that once stood nearby.

Little is known about the history of St Leonard’s Tower. There is no evidence of fireplaces or latrines, which may indicate that the building was used for defensive, rather than domestic, purposes. Alternatively, the tower may have served as a centre for the administration of the local estates of the bishopric.

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