Hertford Castle, Hertfordshire…

Hertford Castle is located in the county town of Hertfordshire, Hertford, and is built on the site of earlier Anglo-Saxon ‘burh’ or ‘burgh’. This earlier fortification had been built on the orders of Edward the Elder, Alfred the Great’s son, around the year 911.

The castle itself was constructed on the orders Peter de Valoignes, High Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire. Its design was of the typical motte and Bailey design and was constructed soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 to provide part of a ring of castles the were constructed to defend London.

During the reign of Henry II (1154 – 1189), the castle was, more or less, totally rebuilt in the period period 1170-1174. Curtain walls in stone, gatehouses and other fortifications were all added as well as well as royal apartments.

In 1184, Robert de Valoignes died leaving no heirs, thus the crown took back ownership of the castle. The castle was further strengthened during the reign of Richard I (1189 – 1199) on the orders his regent, William Longchamp.

The castle was claimed by Robert FitzWalter, Robert de Valoignes’s son-in-law and who would go on to be one of the ringleaders of the First Barons War and as a surety of Magna Carta. Robert seized the castle and installed his own troops and tenants.

Robert would go on to lose the castle when it was seized by King John (1199 – 1216), though he would go on to be appointed the castle’s governor.  The castle would go on to be seized back by King John in 1211 as Robert was disloyal to John and fled to France.

During the First Barons War (1215 – 1217) the castle was besieged by the forces of Prince Louis of France, who had invaded England on the invitation the rebel barons. After a month under siege, the castle’s governor, Walter de Godarvil, was forced to surrender the castle and the town of Hertford to the French.

After the war was over and the French had left, the castle’s use as a fortress became secondary and it was used as a royal residence. Edward I (1272 -1307) gave the castle to his second wife, Margaret.

During the reign of Edward II (1307 – 1327), in 1308, six knights Templar were held at the castle as political prisoners. The king would also visit the castle on several occasions during his reign, including in 1310 and 1312.

Edward’s wife and widow, Isabella, would make the castle her main residence between 1337 -1358. During the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) the castle was used to hold important prisoners, those held there included King David of Scotland and his wife Joan between 1346 – 1357 and King John of France in 1359, who was held there for four months.

The next notable occupier of the castle was John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III (1327 – 1377) who was granted the castle in 1360. He ordered the castle to be repaired and improved as he used it as his main residence when he wasn’t overseas.

John died in 1399. Upon his death, Richard II (1377 – 1399) seized all Lacastrian estates, including Hertford Castle, where he installed his new wife, Princess Isabella.

From this point onward, the castle would continue in Royal hands. Henry IV (1399 -1413) would visit the castle at numerous times between 1406 – 1413. Henry V (1413 – 1422) with his wife, Catherine deep Valois, went on to visit the castle in 1421, and it was at Hertford Castle that Catherine would go on to make her home following her husband’s death in 1422. She also raised the future king, Henry VI (1422 -1461) there.

In 1445, Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou, granting her the castle. With the accession of Edward IV (1461 – 1470 and 1471 – 1483) to the throne, he granted his wife Elizabeth Woodville the castle. At this time building works were undertaken at the castle.

During the reign of Richard III (1483 – 1485), the castle was granted to the Duke of Buckingham. Following the accession of Henry VII (1485 – 1509), Henry conferred the castle to his wife, though they spent little time there, visiting the castle twice, once in 1489 and in 1498.

Both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth (later to be Queens Mary and Elizabeth), would go on to stay at the castle during the 1530, and with their father, Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), at the castle in the 1540s. He also spent considerable sums transforming the castle from a fortress to a proper royal residence, including the impressive Tudor gatehouse that stands to this day.

Edward VI (1547 – 1553), granted the castle to his sister, the future Queen Mary. During her reign (1553 -1558) Protestant martyrs were held at the castle. Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) would also stay at the castle during her reign, including once for 16 days in 1561.

From the reign of James I (1603 – 1625), the castle would cease to be a royal residence. During the reign of Charles I (1625 – 1649) the castle was granted to the Cecil family. The cecils leased the castle to multiples of tenants. During this time, the castle’s fabric would deteriorate, though it was repaired on several occasions. Uses for the building included a college and a dispensary.

In 1911, the corporation of Hertford leased the only remaining part of the castle, the gatehouse, to house its offices and the grounds of the castle to became a public park. In the 1930s another wing was added to the gatehouse. Subsequently, what was left of the castle was given to the town by the descendants of the Cecil family.

Today the grounds of the castle are open as a public park and can be visited during any reasonable daylight hour.

 

Hertford Castle Motte
Hertford Castle Motte
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall
Hertford Castle Wall
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Toot Hill, Hertfordshire…

Toot Hill in the Hertfordshire village of Pirton is a motte and bailey castle thought to have been constructed during the 12th Century, most likely during the Anarchy. Toot Hill’s name is derived from Old English and means look out post.

It has also been suggested that Toot Hill could have been built in the 11th Century on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon complex. Whenever it was built, it was likely to have been one of the de Limesi family who built the castle as they held the manor of Pirton after the Norman conquest of 1066 through to the end of the 12th Century.

As with many other castles of the period, Pirton is likely to have been constructed out of wood and may have had more than one bailey.

Next to Toot Hill, lies the medieval settlement of Pirton. This consists of earthwork remains of enclosures and buildings. The shrunken medieval village is called The Bury. It may have been constructed either before or after the castle was constructed.

Today, the medieval village of Pirton can be viewed from a public footpath across the site during reasonable daylight hours. Toot Hill can also be visited during reasonable daylight hours.

Pirton Toot Hill
Pirton Toot Hill
Pirton Earthworks
Pirton Earthworks

Berkhamsted Castle, Hertfordshire…

Berkhamsted Castle in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire is a motte and bailey castle that was originally built in wood by the Robert of Mortain, William I’s half brother, in about 1070. William received the submission of the Anglo-Saxons at Berkhamsted and decided to build a fortress there in order to protect the road from London to the Midlands.

The early castle would have existed of an earthen motte which was raised up to about 12 metre high and a bailey which was 150 metres by 91 metres across. Double banks and ditches ran around the exterior of the castle. A deer park surrounded the castle. Berkampsted’s old Anglo-Saxon settlement was reshaped to have its focus as the new castle.

Berkhamsted Castle was passed to Robert’s son, William, on his death. It would later be confiscated by Henry I after William rebelled against Henry. In 1123, Henry granted the castle to his chancellor, Ranulf. The castle at Berkhamsted would remain in the ownership of the of the crown until 1155, when Henry II gave it to his chancellor, Thomas Becket. It is during Becket’s tenure at the castle that it underwent large alterations in order to reflect someone of Thomas’s status. A shell keep was built on the motte, a large curtain wall with gatehouse (which you can still see the rubble interior of to this day) was added to protect the castle, and the bailey was divided in two, on the orders of Thomas.

In 1164 Thomas fell from favour with the king in a row over the primacy of the crown over the church. The castle was subsequently confiscated by the king.

Berkhamsted Castle would go on to form part of the jointure of King John’s second wife, Isabella. The castle was occupied on King John’s behalf during this time by Geoffrey FitzPeter and when he died in 1213, by his son John FitzGeoffrey.

In 1215, conflict between the king and his barons began to seem more likely. John appointed a German called Waleran to review and strengthen the defences at Berkhampsted. Later in 1215 the First Barons War (1215-1217) broke out. King John had been forced by his rebellious barons to sign the Magna Carta. The king subsequently decided not to abide by the document he had signed and thus ensued a period of civil war. The rebel barons invited Prince Louis of France to invade to support them and to claim the English crown from King John.

Prince Louis invaded in May 1216, landing his forces in Kent. King John died in October 1216 with the tide of war very much against him. His son, Henry III then took the thrown at the age of nine. Prince Louis besieged and then took Berkhamsted Castle in December of that year. During the siege, Louis’s forces used siege engines, most likely trebuchets, to attack the castle for 20 days. Louis allowed the garrison at Berkhamsted to surrender and to leave with their weapons and armour.

With Henry’s accession to the English throne, the tide of war shifted. The barons began to realise that with King John now dead, the reason for their rebellion had effectively been removed and that the young Henry represented a much more manageable figure than Prince Louis. By 1217 most of the rebel barons had switched sides and Prince Louis had suffered a number of heavy defeats. Peace was sealed by the signing of the Treaty of Lambeth in which Louis agreed to give up his claim to the throne of England and relinquish his English dominions in return for a sum of money. As part of this treaty, the castle at Berkhamsted was returned to the control of the crown.

In 1225, Berkhamsted Castle was granted to Richard, Duke of Cornwall, the brother of Henry III. Major redevelopments of the castle took place during Richard’s control. Richard refurbished the castle, enlarging the western tower. This work created a luxurious palace complex at the castle. The ruins of part of this complex can be seen at the castle to this day.

Richard made the castle his administrative centre or caput for the earldoms of Cornwall. Richard would go on to die at the castle in 1272. The castle then passed to his son, Edmund. On Edmund’s death, Edmund’s estates passed into the control of the crown. The castle is said to have been in a poor condition at this time. The castle passed from the control of King Edward I to King Edward II, who gave the castle to Piers Gaveston whom he made Earl of Cornwall. In 1327, Edward was deposed from the throne and Pier Gaveston subsequently fell from power. The castle then passed to John, Edward II’s second son, who was Earl of Cornwall.

On John’s death, the castle passed back into the control of the crown. A survey was undertaken of the castle at this time and it is showed that it was in need of substantial repairs. Edward III, who had seized back control of the castle for the crown, decided to use Berkhamsted Castle as his main property and undertook extensive renovations of it. Edward III’s son, also named Edward (The Black Prince), took possession of the castle in 1337 when he was made the Duke of Cornwall. Edward would undertake extensive works at the castle, including extending the park which surrounded it. Edward was a very able soldier and successfully led many campaigns in France. Edward captured John the Good, King of France at the Battle of Poitiers. John was held at Berkhamsted as well as a number of other castles. Edward died in 1376 in Westminster.

The castle passed to Edward’s son, King Richard II in 1377 on the death of Edward’s father, Edward III. It was later used by Richard’s half brother, John Holland. John’s use of the castle would continue until Richard was deposed from the throne by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in 1400. John was stripped of all his property and titles apart from that of Earl of Huntingdon, thus control of the castle passed to Henry.

Henry lived at Berkhamsted Castle following deposing Richard. During Henry’s reign, Geoffrey Chaucer, the later author of the Canterbury Tales, was clerk of the castle and oversaw many major improvements and renovations to it.

The castle continued to be held by the crown, though it is thought it was not occupied after 1495 by which time it had fallen into ruin. Elizabeth I granted a lease for the manor of Berkhamsted to Sir Edward Carey in 1580 and he used stone from the castle to construct a manor house nearby.

The castle was acquired for the nation in 1930 from the Duchy of Cornwall. Berkhamsted Castle is today is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Berkhamsted Castle Motte
Berkhamsted Castle Motte
Berkhamsted Castle Motte, Bailey and Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Motte, Bailey and Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Moat and Bailey Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Moat and Bailey Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Chapel
Berkhamsted Castle Chapel
Berkhamsted Castle Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Curtain Wall
Berkhamsted Castle Motte
Berkhamsted Castle Motte
Berkhamsted Castle Motte, Curtain Wall and Bailey
Berkhamsted Castle Motte, Curtain Wall and Bailey
Berkhamsted Castle Motte and Moat
Berkhamsted Castle Motte and Moat

Therfield Castle, Hertfordshire…

Therfield Castle is a probable adulterine motte and bailey castle located in the Hertfordshire village of Therfield, close to the town of Royston. Therfield Castle is also known as Tuthill.

Pottery evidence recovered from the site suggests a date of 1135-1154 for the castle’s construction, which correlates with the suggestion of Therfield Castle dating from the Anarchy.

No buildings or masonary remnants of the castle remain, only the earthworks survive. The motte, which is surrounded by a ditch which has suffered some damage, is 14 metres in diameter at its base and 8 metres in diameter at its top. It is 1.5 metres in height. The ditch that surrounds the motte is 5 metres wide at its widest and 1 metre deep. The centre of the motte has suffered some damage as it was excavated by treasure hunters in 1920.

The bailey lies to the south of the motte. During archaeological investigations into this part of the castle evidence was found of occupation of the site prior to the castle being built. A date of 1050-1100 has been suggested for this occupation.

At the time of the castle’s construction the land that it stands on was owned by Ralph of Therfield, who had purchased the land from Ramsey Abbey who owned the manor.

The castle itself was never completed, as was the case with a lot of other contemporary adulterine castles. It seems reasonable to suggest the castle was abandoned or slighted on the accession of Henry II to the throne.

Therfield Castle sits 50 metres north-west of the village’s church and can be viewed from the road.

Therfield Castle Bailey
Therfield Castle Bailey
Therfield Castle Motte and Ditch
Therfield Castle Motte and Ditch

Bishop Stortford (Waytemore) Castle, Hertfordshire

There has been some dispute as to when the castle at Bishop Stortford was begun, there have been some suggestions that the motte was a Celtic barrow that was reused, that it was originally a Saxon burgh (a fortified enclosure), or that it was began by the Normans. Whatever the truth is, it is certain the castle at Bishop Stortford (also known as Waytemore Castle) would have been constructed soon after the Norman conquest in wood and then over time replaced by a stone structure.

It is the believed that the keep at Bishop Stortford Castle wasn’t built until after 1135 and the layout of the castle would have been the traditional Norman motte and bailey configuration. Bishop Stortford Castle functioned as a fortress, prison and private residence for the lord of the manor (the Bishop of London).

Notable events in the history of the castle are during the Anarchy (1135-1154) the castle was promised to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex by the Empress Matilda if he would assist her against King Stephen. De Mandeville agreed to this and readily joined forces with Matilda. Another notable even came in the late 12 Century when King John was in dispute with the Pope over who should be the Archbishop of Canterbury. The dispute resulted in the castle being dismantled but later being rebuilt.

The ruins of the castle that can be seen on the motte to this day are of the castle that was rebuilt by King John after his dispute with the Pope ended in 1214. The castle at Bishop Stortford continued in use until the English Civil War when on Partliament’s victory it was pulled down as it had deterioted quite significantly.

Bishop Stortford Castle is located in Castle Park in Bishop Stortford and is very close to the town centre with its associated ample parking.

The Motte, Bishop Stortford Castle
The Motte, Bishop Stortford Castle
The Motte, Bishop Stortford Castle
The Motte, Bishop Stortford Castle
Defences, Bishop Stortford Castle
Defences, Bishop Stortford Castle

Anstey Castle, Hertfordshire…

Anstey Castle is a traditional motte and bailey Norman castle and is located in the village of Anstey in Hertfordshire. The castle is thought to have been built soon after the Norman conquest by Eustace, Count of Boulogne who was given the manor.

The castle was leased to Eustace’s subtenants who took the name de Anstey, which they adopted from the name of the village. Nicholas de Anstey strengthened the castle during the Barons Wars in order to defend against attacks by King John’s forces but was subsequently forced to destroy these additions once peace returned.

Soon after this, it would seem the castle at Anstey passed to the crown. It is widely documented that Henry VIII granted the castle at Anstey to three of his wives (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jayne Seymour). The castle then passed into private hands.

There are no remnants of the actual castle itself left, except for the motte, a wet ditch that surrounds the motte and the earthworks of the bailey. It is believed the construction of the castle would have originally been out of wood and that it was rebuilt in stone later. It has been suggested that stone from the castle was used in the construction of the local church which sits in front of the castle motte to this day.

Anstey Castle can be accessed via a footpath besides the church.

Anstey Castle Motte and Moat
Anstey Castle Motte and Moat
Anstey Castle Motte and Moat
Anstey Castle Motte and Moat