Warwick Castle and the River Avon
The castle stands situated on a bend of the River Avon. It developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068, but the original wooden motte-and-bailey castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years' War, the façade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognisable examples of 14th century military architecture. It was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century, when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville by James I in 1604. Sir Fulke Greville converted it to a country house. It was owned by the Greville family, who became earls of Warwick in 1759, until 1978 when it was bought by the Tussauds Group and an entertainment attraction.
Warwick Castle is stands in Warwick itself, on a sandstone bluff at a bend of the River Avon. The river, which runs below the castle on the east side, has eroded the rock the castle stands on, forming a cliff. The river and cliff form natural defences. When construction began in 1068, four houses belonging to the Abbot of Coventry were demolished to provide room. The castle's position made it strategically important in safeguarding the Midlands against rebellion. During the 12th century, King Henry I was suspicious of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick and so to counter the earl's influence, Henry bestowed Geoffrey de Clinton with a position of power rivalling that of the earl. The lands he was given included Kenilworth – a castle of comparable size, cost, and importance, founded by Clinton, which is about 5 miles to the north.
An Anglo-Saxon burh was established on the site in 914; with fortifications instigated by Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great. The burh she established was one of ten which defended Mercia against the Danes. Its position allowed it to dominate the Fosse Way, as well as the river valley and the crossing over the River Avon. Though the motte to the south-west of the present castle is now called "Ethelfleda's Mound", it is in fact part of the later Norman fortifications, and not of Anglo-Saxon origin.
After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror established a motte-and-bailey castle at Warwick in 1068 to maintain control of the Midlands as he advanced northwards. Building a castle in a pre-existing settlement could require demolishing properties on the intended site. In the case of Warwick, the least recorded of the 11 urban castles in the Domesday Book of 1086, four houses were torn down to make way for the castle. A motte-and-bailey castle consists of a mound – on which usually stands a keep or tower – and a bailey, which is an enclosed courtyard. William appointed Henry de Beaumont, the son of a powerful Norman family, as constable of the castle. In 1088, Henry de Beaumont was made the first Earl of Warwick. He founded the Church of All Saints within the castle walls by 1119; the Bishop of Worcester, believing that a castle was an inappropriate location for a church, removed it in 1127–28.
In 1153, the wife of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick, was tricked into believing that her husband was dead, and surrendered control of the castle to the invading army of Henry of Anjou, later King Henry II. According to the Gesta Regis Stephani, a 12th-century historical text, Roger de Beaumont died on hearing the news that his wife had handed over the castle. Henry later returned the castle to the Earls of Warwick as they had been supporters of his mother, Empress Matilda, in The Anarchy of 1135–54.
From 1088, the castle had traditionally belonged to the Earl of Warwick, and it served as a symbol of his power. The castle was taken in 1153 by Henry of Anjou, later Henry II. It has been used to hold prisoners, including some from the Battle of Poitiers (1356). Under the ownership of Richard Neville, known as "Warwick the Kingmaker", Warwick Castle was used in the 15th century to imprison King Edward IV.
During the reign of King Henry II (1154–89), the motte-and-bailey was replaced with a stone castle. This new phase took the form of a shell keep with all the buildings constructed against the curtain wall. During the barons' rebellion of 1173–74, the Earl of Warwick remained loyal to King Henry II, and the castle was used to store provisions. The castle and the lands associated with the earldom passed down in the Beaumont family until 1242. When Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick, died the castle and lands passed to his sister, Lady Margery, countess of Warwick in her own right. Her husband died soon after, and while she looked for a suitable husband, the castle was in the ownership of King Henry III. When she married John du Plessis in December 1242, the castle was returned to her. During the Second Barons' War of 1264–67, William Maudit, 8th Earl of Warwick, was a supporter of King Henry III. The castle was taken in a surprise attack by the forces of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, from Kenilworth Castle in 1264. The walls along the northeastern side of the castle were slighted so that it would be useless to the king. Maudit and his countess were taken to Kenilworth Castle and held until a ransom was paid. After the death of William Mauduit in 1267, the title and castle passed to his nephew William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick. Following William's death, Warwick Castle passed through seven generations of the Beauchamp family, who over the next 180 years were responsible for most of the additions made to the castle. In 1312, Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall, was captured by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, and imprisoned in Warwick Castle until his execution on 9 June 1312.
Under Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl, the castle defences were significantly enhanced in 1330–60 on the north eastern side by the addition of a gatehouse, a barbican, and a tower on either side of the reconstructed wall, named Caesar's Tower and Guy's Tower. The Watergate Tower also dates from this period.
Caesar's and Guy's Towers are residential and may have been inspired by French models (for example Bricquebec). Both towers are machicolated and Caesar's Tower features a unique double parapet. The two towers are also vaulted in stone on every storey. Caesar's Tower contained a "grim" basement dungeon; according to local legend dating back to at least 1644 it is also known as Poitiers Tower either because prisoners from the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 may have been imprisoned there or because the ransoms raised from the battle helped to pay for its construction. The gatehouse features murder holes, two drawbridges, a gate, and portcullises – gates made from wood or metal. The towers of the gatehouse were machicolated.
The façade overlooking the river was designed as a symbol of the power and wealth of the Beauchamp earls and would have been "of minimal defensive value"; this followed a trend of 14th-century castles being more statements of power than designed exclusively for military use.
15th and 16th centuries
The line of Beauchamp earls ended in 1449 when Anne de Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick, died. Richard Neville became the next Earl of Warwick through his wife's inheritance of the title. During the summer of 1469, Neville rebelled against King Edward IV and captured and imprisoned him in Warwick Castle. Neville attempted to rule in the king's name until forced to release him - Neville was later slain at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, and Warwick Castle passed from Neville to his son-in-law, George Plantagenet, who was executed in 1478, his lands passing to the two-year old Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, whose lands were in the custody of The Crown. Edward, a claimant to the throne, was imprisoned by Edward IV, then by Richard III, and finally by Henry VII, who finally executed Edward for high treason in 1499; Edward was the last Earl of Warwick of the title's first creation.
In the early 1480s, King Richard III instigated the construction of two gun towers, Bear and Clarence Towers, which were left unfinished on his death in 1485; with their own well and ovens, the towers were an independent stronghold from the rest of the castle, possibly in case of mutiny by the garrison. With the advent of gunpowder the position of Keeper of the Artillery was created in 1486.
When antiquary John Leland visited the castle some time between 1535 and 1543, he noted that:
|“||... the dungeon now in ruin standeth in the west-north-west part of the castle. There is also a tower west-north-west, and through it a postern-gate of iron. All the principal lodgings of the castle with the hall and chapel lie on the south side of the castle, and here the king doth much cost in making foundations in the rocks to sustain that side of the castle, for great pieces fell out of the rocks that sustain it.||”|
While in the care of The Crown, Warwick Castle underwent repairs and renovations using about 500 loads of stone. The castle, as well as lands associated with the earldom, was in Crown care from 1478 until 1547, when they were granted to John Dudley with the second creation of the title the Earl of Warwick. When making his appeal for ownership of the castle Dudley said of the castle's condition: "... the castle of its self is not able to lodge a good baron with his train, for all the one side of the said castle with also the dungeon tower is clearly ruinated and down to the ground".
Nevertheless, Dudley made no repairs to the castle. Queen Elizabeth I visited the castle in 1566 during a tour of the country, and again in 1572 for four nights. A timber building was erected in the castle for her to stay in, and Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick, left the castle to the Queen during her visits. When Ambrose Dudley died in 1590 the title of Earl of Warwick became extinct for the second time. A survey from 1590 recorded that the castle was still in a state of disrepair, noting that lead had been stolen from the roofs of some of the castle's buildings including the chapel. In 1601 Sir Fulke Greville remarked that "the little stone building there was, mightily in decay ... so as in very short time there will be nothing left but a name of Warwick".
Sir Fulke Greville was granted Warwick Castle by King James I in 1604.
In the 17th century the grounds were turned into a garden. The castle's defences were enhanced in the 1640s to prepare the castle for action in theCivil War. Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, was a Parliamentarian, and Royalist forces laid siege to the castle. Warwick Castle withstood the siege and was later used to hold prisoners taken by the Parliamentarians.
17th-century country house
The conversion of the castle coincided with a period of decline in the use of castles during the 15th and 16th centuries; many were either being abandoned or converted into comfortable residences for the gentry. In the early 17th century, Robert Smythson was commissioned to draw a plan of the castle before any changes were made. In 1604, the ruinous castle was given to Sir Fulke Greville by King James I and was converted into a country house. Whilst the castle was undergoing repairs, it was peripherally involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The conspirators involved awaited news of their plot in Dunchurch in Warwickshire. When they discovered the plot had failed they stole cavalry horses from the stables at Warwick Castle to help in their escape. When the title of Earl of Warwick was created for the third time in 1618, the Greville family were still in possession of Warwick Castle. Fulke Greville spent over £20,000 renovating the castle; according to William Dugdale, a 17th-century antiquary, this made it "a place not only of great strength but extraordinary delight, with most pleasant gardens, walks and thickets, such as this part of England can hardly parallel". On 1 September 1628 Fulke Greville was murdered in Holborn by his manservant: Ralph Haywood—a "gentleman"—who stabbed the baron in the back after discovering he had been left out of Greville's will. Greville died from his wounds a few days later.
Under Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, Warwick Castle's defences were enhanced from January to May 1642 in preparation for attack during the First Civil War. The garden walls were raised, bulwarks—barricades of beams and soil to mount artillery—were constructed and gunpowder and wheels for two cannon were obtained. Robert Greville was a Parliamentarian, and on 7 August 1642 a Royalist force laid siege to the castle. Greville was not in the castle at the time and the garrison was under the command of Sir Edward Peyto. Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton, Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire commanded the Royalist force. William Dugdale, acting as a herald, called for the garrison commander to surrender the castle, but he was refused. The besieging army opened fire on the castle, to little effect. According to Richard Bulstrode:
... our endeavours for taking it were to little purpose, for we had only two small pieces of cannon which were brought from Compton House, belonging to the Earl of Northampton, and those were drawn up to the top of the church steeple, and were discharged at the castle, to which they could do no hurt, but only frightened them within the castle, who shot into the street, and killed several of our men.
The siege was lifted on 23 August 1642 when the garrison was relieved by the forces of Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, and the Royalists were forced to retreat to Worcester. After the Battle of Edgehill in 1642 – the first pitched battle of the Civil War – prisoners were held in Caesar's and Guy's Towers. During the Second Civil War prisoners were again held at the castle, including those from the Battle of Worcester in 1651. A garrison was maintained in the castle complete with artillery and supplies from 1643 to 1660, at its strongest it numbered 302 soldiers. In 1660 the Council of State ordered the castle governor to disband the garrison and hand over the castle to Francis Greville, 4th Baron Brooke. The state apartments were found to be outmoded and in poor repair. Under Roger and William Hurlbutt, master carpenters of Warwick, extensive modernization of the interiors was undertaken, 1669–78. To ensure that they would be in the latest taste, William was sent down to Dorset to make careful notes of the interiors recently finished at Kingston Lacy for Sir Ralph Bankes to designs by Sir Roger Pratt. On 4 November 1695 the castle was in sufficient state to host a visit by King William III.
Francis Greville, 8th Baron Brooke, undertook a renewed programme of improvements to Warwick Castle and its grounds. The 8th Baron Brooke was also bestowed with the title Earl of Warwick in 1759, the fourth creation of the title. With the recreation of the title, the castle was back in the ownership of the earls of Warwick. Daniel Garrett's work at Warwick is documented in 1748; Howard Colvin attributed to him the Gothick interior of the Chapel. Lancelot "Capability" Brown had been on hand since 1749. Brown, who was still head gardener at Stowe at the time and had yet to make his reputation as the main exponent of the landscape garden, was called in by Lord Brooke to give Warwick Castle a more "natural" connection to its river. Brown simplified the long narrow stretch by sweeping it into a lawn that dropped right to the riverbank, stopped at each end by bold clumps of native trees. A serpentine drive gave an impression of greater distance between the front gates and the castle entrance.
Horace Walpole saw Brown's maturing scheme in 1751 and remarked in a letter: "The castle is enchanting. The view pleased me more than I can express; the river Avon tumbled down a cascade at the foot of it. It is well laid out by one Brown who has set up on a few ideas of Kent and Mr Southcote."
In 1754 the poet Thomas Gray, a member of Walpole's Gothicising circle, commented disdainfully on the activity at the castle:
... he [Francis Greville] has sash'd the great apartment ... and being since told, that square sash windows were not Gothic, he has put certain whimwams withinside the glass, which appearing through are to look like fretwork. Then he has scooped out a little burrough in the massy walls of the place for his little self and his children, which is hung with paper and printed linnen, and carved chimney-pieces, in the exact manner of Berkley-square or Argyle Buildings.
In 1802 George Greville 2nd Earl of Warwick had debts amounting to £115,000. The earl's estates, including Warwick Castle, were given to the Earl of Galloway and John FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory, in 1806, but the castle was returned to the earls of Warwick in 1813. The Great Hall was reroofed and repaired in Gothic taste in 1830–31 by Ambrose Poynter. Anthony Salvin was responsible for restoring the Watergate Tower in 1861–63. The castle was extensively damaged by a fire in 1871 that started to the east of the Great Hall. Although the Great Hall was gutted, the overall structure was unharmed. Restoration and reparations carried out by Salvin during 1872–75 were subsidised by donations from the public, which raised a total of £9,651.
Advent of tourism
Individuals had been visiting the castle since the end of the 17th century and this grew in importance through the 19th century. In 1858 Queen Victoria visited the 4th earl with great local celebrations. However, by 1885 it would appear the visitors were becoming a nuisance as the earl closed the castle to visitors, causing consternation in the town. A local report stated, 'One day last week eight American visitors who were staying at one of the principal hotels left somewhat hurriedly in consequence of their being unable to gain admission to the castle'. It soon re-opened again and by 1900 had a ticket office and was employing a permanent guide. By 1936 Arthur Mee was enthusing not just that "these walls have seen something of the splendour of every generation of our story", with rooms "rich in treasure beyond the dreams of avarice" but also that "their rooms are open to all who will". The collection of armoury on display at Warwick Castle is regarded as second only to that of the Tower of London.
Through the 20th century successive earls expanded its tourism potential until, in 1978, after 374 years in the Greville family, it was sold to a media and entertainment company, the Tussauds Group who opened it as a tourist attraction. Tussauds performed extensive restorations to the castle and grounds. In 2001, Warwick Castle was named one of Britain's "Top 10 historic houses and monuments" by the British Tourist Authority; the list included Tower of London, Stonehenge, and Edinburgh Castle. Warwick Castle was recognised as Britain's best castle by the Good Britain Guide 2003. Around this time it was getting in excess of half a million visitors a year.
In May 2007 Tussauds was purchased by Merlin Entertainments who continue to operate the castle on a lease, having sold the freehold to Nick Leslau's Prestbury Group on 17 July 2007.
The Warwick trebuchet
In June 2005, Warwick Castle became home to one of the world's largest working siege engines. The trebuchet is 59 feet tall, made from over 300 pieces of oak and weighs 22 tons. The machine, which was made in Wiltshire, stands on the riverbank below the castle. It takes eight men half an hour to load and release, the process involves four men running in wheels 13.1 feet tall to lift the counterweight, weighing 6 tons into the air. It is designed to be capable of hurling projectiles distances of up to 1,000 feet and as high as 82 feet and can throw projectiles weighing up to 331 pounds. On 21 August 2006, the trebuchet claimed the record as the most powerful catapult of its type when it sent a projectile weighing 29 pounds a distance of 817 feet at a speed of 162 mph, beating the previous record held by a machine in Denmark.
The current castle, built in stone during the reign of King Henry II, is on the same site as the earlier Norman motte-and-bailey castle. A keep used to stand on the motte which is on the south west of the site, although most of the structure now dates from the post-mediæval period. In the 17th century the motte was landscaped with the addition of a path. The bailey was incorporated into the new castle and is surrounded by stone curtain walls.
When Warwick Castle was rebuilt in the reign of King Henry II it had a new layout with the buildings against the curtain walls. The castle is surrounded by a dry moat on the northern side where there is no protection from the river or the old motte; the perimeter of the walls is 142 yards long by 90 yards wide. The two entrances to castle are in the north and west walls. There was originally a drawbridge over the moat in the north east. In the centre of the north west wall is a gateway with Clarence and Bears towers on either side; this is a 15th-century addition to the fortifications of the castle. The residential buildings line the eastern side of the castle, facing the River Avon. These buildings include the great hall, the library, bedrooms, and the chapel.
Grounds and park
Formal gardens belonging to Warwick Castle were first recorded in 1534. Landscaping in the 17th century added spiral paths to the castle motte during Fulke Greville's programme of restoration. Francis Greville commissioned Lancelot Brown to relandscape the castle grounds; he began working on the grounds and park in 1749 and had completed his work by 1757, having spent about £2,293 on the project. The gardens cover 692 acres. Robert Marnock created formal gardens in the castle's grounds in 1868–69.
Started in 1743 and originally known as Temple Park, Castle Park is located to the south of the castle. Its original name derived from the Knights Templar, who used to own a manor in Warwick. Houses around the perimeter of the park were demolished and the land they stood on incorporated into the park. Attempts to make profits from the park in the late 18th century included leasing it for grazing, growing wheat, and keeping sheep.
A water-powered mill in the castle grounds was probably built under Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick. By 1398 the mill had been relocated to just outside the eastern castle walls, on the west bank of the River Avon. Both mills were subject to flooding. By 1644, an engine house had been added to the mill. The mill was reused as an electricity generating plant after it had stopped being used to grind, but once Warwick Castle was fitted with mains electricity in 1940, the mill was no longer required and was dismantled in 1954. Adjacent to the mill is The Mill Garden which is privately owned but open to the public. Interesting views of the castle can be seen from this garden (see photo on the right).
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
about Warwick Castle)
- Warwick Castle
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- Sash windows had replaced casements in the seventeenth century; they were not considered appropriate for "Gothick" building.
- Lord Brooke, who was notably short in stature, was called "little Brooke" by Horace Walpole, in his letter describing Warwick Castle in 1751. Jacques 2001, p. 55
- Poynter's work was lost in the 1871 fire (Colvin, s.v. Poynter, Ambrosde").
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- National Heritage List England no. 1364805: Warwick Castle
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- "World record attempt for trebuchet". BBC News. 21 August 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_5270000/newsid_5272700/5272732.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm&asb=1&news=1&bbcws=1. Retrieved on 19 June 2008.
- "Castle plans mediæval war machine". BBC News. 27 May 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/4586483.stm. Retrieved on 19 June 2008
- Heath, Andrew (22 August 2006). "Ursa hurls its way into record books". Coventry Telegraph. http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/tm_objectid=17603609&method=full&siteid=50003&headline=ursa-hurls-its-way-into-record-books-name_page.html. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
- Jacques 2001, p. 51
- National Monuments Record: No. 1150800 – Warwick Castle - gardens
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- Mee, Arthur: The King's England: Warwickshire, 1936
- Victoria County History of Warwickshire, Volume 8: The City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick}}