At Hedingham Castle you get two houses for the price of one. The first is a Norman keep; the other, an 18th-century country house. Jason and Demetra Lindsay live in and have been locked down in the latter with their three children, Natasha, 15, and twins Thomas and Anthony, 13.
“It is strange living next door to a Norman castle,” admits Jason, 51. “When we got married we said we wouldn’t be controlled by Hedingham,” says Demetra, 48. “We failed completely. Hedingham is like a great-aunt who tells us what to do all the time.”
Hedingham Castle, 18 miles from Colchester, was built on an eight-acre site in the late 11th century by Aubrey de Vere I, on land seized after the Norman conquest. His grandson was made 1st Earl of Oxford in 1141, and the house fitted the De Veres’ prominent position at court, with two baileys and a four-storey keep.
Then, the keep side of the moat would have been defended by a Barbican tower and drawbridge; today, a Grade II* listed Tudor bridge, built by the 13th Earl, connects the keep to the main house.
The De Veres lived at Hedingham for almost 500 years. The most infamous of them was the 17th Earl, one of Elizabeth I’s courtiers, said by some to be the author of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. “He died in obscurity in 1604, but it wasn’t until later that people started saying that an aristocrat might have done some of the writing,” says Jason. “The theory annoys the Stratfordians, and we stoke the flames.”