Bedford Castle in the county town of Bedford is thought to have been constructed on the orders of King Henry I between 1100 and 1130. Although Bedford Castle was a royal castle, it was entrusted to the custody of the Beauchamp family. Early in the 12 Century, the castle is recorded as being in the custody of Simon de Beauchamp. The castle was constructed to a standard motte and bailey design.
In 1135, a period of civil war broke out known as the Anarchy. During this period of civil strife, Simon de Beauchamp died (1137). The castle would in the following years fall under seige on several occasions during the conflict with control of it passing between the supporters of the Empress Matilda and King Stephen. Toward of the end of conflict, the castle is recorded as being under the control of Miles de Beauchamp.
During the First Baron War (1215-1217), Bedford Castle was seized by the forces of King John led by Falkes de Breaute. In return for his loyalty, King John granted Falkes Bedford Castle. After taking Bedford Castle, Falkes would go on take control of three other major castles – they were Carisbrooke, Christchurch and Plympton castles.
After the First Barons War ended, Falkes made Bedford Castle his caput or administrative centre for his estates. It was under Falkes control that the castle was greatly expanded, with a new keep, inner and outer baileys, with other fortifications such as a stone-lined palisade being added.
In 1224, King Henry III decided that control of Bedford Castle should be returned to the control of the Beauchamp family. Attempts were made to negotiate an agreement for this to happen, though these were unsuccessful. The king decided there was no alternative but to lay seige to the castle. The castle initially held out against attempts to take it, but eventually the sheer military might that King Henry directed at the castle proved unstoppable. In all, it had taken eight weeks for the king to take the castle, using 2,000 men, seige engines and pure brute force.
After the seige, King Henry ordered the castle to be demolished. The Beauchamp family instead of residing in the castle keep, built a manor house in what had been the inner bailey of the castle. Much of the stone from the castle was utilised in paving local roads, rebuilding a church and for possibly building the first stone bridge in Bedford.
By 1361, not much was left of the castle aside for the motte and some remnants of its walls. At the start of the English Civil War (1642-1651), Bedford Castle was refortified with a wooden fort being built on the site. After the war had ended, the bailey of the castle was first used as a bowling green and then as land to build residential buildings. The last vestiges of the castle masonry were removed during this period.
Today, the motte of Bedford Castle is all that remains. The motte is located in a public park and is accessible during reasonable daylight hours.