Whittington Castle

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Whittington Castle


Whittington Castle October 2014.JPG
Whittington Castle
Grid reference: SJ325311
Location: 52°52’24"N, 3°0’9"W
Village: Whittington
Condition: Ruined
Owned by: Whittington Castle Preservation Trust

Whittington Castle stands in the heart of the village of Whittington in northern Shropshire. Uniquely, it is owned and managed by the Whittington Castle Preservation Fund. The castle was originally a motte-and-bailey castle, but this was replaced in the 13th century by one with buildings around a courtyard whose exterior wall was the curtain wall of the inner bailey.

It was a castle of the Welsh Marches in the unquiet days of the young Middle Ages, one of several frontier fortifications. It is also very close to the historic fort of Old Oswestry.[1][2]

Surrounding the castle is a twelve-acre open park.

In 2003, a historical and archaeological investigation identified that the outer bailey of the castle had been two elaborate gardens and surrounded by water in the 14th century. This discovery was significant in that it proved the advanced state of English gardening habits in that age, in comparison with the known contemporary practices of France and Flanders. The "lavish" garden was installed by one of the FitzWarin family. The viewing mound in the centre may be the oldest of its type yet discovered in Britain.[3]


Whittington lies on the eastern side of Offa's Dyke, which in this area was the Norman boundary between England and Wales. The Whittington Castle may have begun as a Norman manor house, although there is no evidence for this. The site was fortified as a castle for William Peverel, in 1138, in support of Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I against the usurper King Stephen, Henry's nephew, during The Anarchy. In the late 1140s, the lordship of Whittington, like Oswestry and Overton ceased to be part of England and became part of the Kingdom of Powys, and later a marcher lordship.[4]

In 1165 King Henry II conferred the castle on Roger de Powys, to whom he gave funds for its repair in about 1173.[5] Roger was followed by his son Meurig (or Maurice), he was followed by his son Werennoc. A rival claim from Fulk III FitzWarin (who apparently claimed it under the Peverels) was not recognised until 1204, leading him to rebel against King John. FitzWarin was pardoned, and the castle and lordship of Whittington, not including Overton Castle was given to him. The castle then descended in the FitzWarin family, all called Fulk, until the death of Fulk XI in 1420.

The castle was captured and destroyed by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth of Gwynedd in 1223. It was returned under the peace treaty, and was rebuilt in stone, replacing the tower keep of a motte and bailey with inner bailey with buildings along a curtain wall and five towers on a raised platform surrounded by a moat, beyond which there is an outer gatehouse or barbican.[6] For the next half century, the castle stood as a bastion defending Shropshire from invasion by the Welsh, until the conquest of Wales by King Edward I in 1283.

After the defeat of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, peace descended on the marches and the castle became a lordly residence for the FitzWarin family. However, after the death of Fulk VII in 1349, the castle went through a long period when the lords were almost always under age and usually absentees, though some repairs were carried out in about 1402. The lordship was laid waste in 1404 during the rebellion of Owen Glendower, so that the lordship was worth nothing in 1407. However, the castle was not captured.[7]

During the minority of Fulk XI the castle was occupied by young Fulk's mother and her new husband William Lord Clinton, during whose time there was a dispute with the people of Oswestry who had cut down oak trees in his woods. When the FitzWarin line died out in 1420, the lordship passed to the sister of Fulk XI, Elizabeth, who married Richard Hankeford. In 1422, the castle was captured by escalade by William Fitzwaryn (presumably a cousin claiming the castle as heir male) and Richard Laken, but evidently soon restored to Lord Clinton. Their daughter Thomasia married William Bourghchier, thus carrying the FitzWarin peerage into the Bourchier family. Their grandson John Bourchier was made Earl of Bath, but his son John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath exchanged the lordship and castle in 1545 with Henry VIII, for some former monastic estates nearer the main family home in Devon.[8]

A detailed survey of the castle was made at the time of the exchange. This describes some of the buildings as 'in decay'. The castle itself was probably never inhabited again. It passed through various hands to William Albany, a London merchant taylor, but he and his descendants (from 1750 the Lloyd family of Aston near Oswestry, who still own the castle) lived at Great Fernhill. William's grandson, Francis Albany, fell into debt and sold his wood in Babbinswood to Arthur Kynaston of Shrewsbury, who built a forge at Fernhill, using stone from the castle.

In 1632, the Castle Gatehouse was let, the tenant being allowed to take 'freestone out of the castle'. By the time of the Civil War, Whittington Castle was evidently no longer defensible and there is no evidence that it played any role in that war. In 1673, the castle (or rather the gatehouse) was let as a romantic dwelling to one Thomas Lloyd, a London merchant, probably retired. About 1760, one of the towers fell into the moat. This and other parts of the castle were used to make roads, probably including the new turnpike road to Ellesmere in 1776, during the minority of William Lloyd.


Whittington Castle before its renovation (1910)

The castle fronts onto the old line of the Holyhead Road and was thus noticed by visitors. William Lloyd undertook the restoration of the gatehouse in about 1808, letting it as a farmhouse. This continued to be occupied as a house until the 1990s.[9]

Whittington Castle is currently owned on a 99-year lease from 2002 by the Whittington Castle Preservation Trust, a rural community formed in December 1998. The trust recently completed a £1.5 million renovation project.[2]

Every year the Historia Normannis historical re-enactment group gathers at the castle to re-enact battles that would have happened in the area at that time of year.[10]


Fouke le Fitz Waryn

The major legend surrounding the castle is found in the "ancestral romance" known as Fouke le Fitz Waryn, which contains a highly embellished account of the life of Fulk Fitzwarine III, which survives in a French prose manuscript containing English, French and Latin texts, all based on a lost verse romance. A 16th-century summary of a Middle English version has also been preserved. The work is part of The Matter of England.

The work recited that as a young boy, Fulk was sent to the court of King Henry II (1154-1189), where he grew up with the king's younger son, the future King John (1199-1216). John became his enemy after a childhood quarrel during a game of chess. As an adult, King John retained his animosity toward Fulk whom he stripped of his ancestral holdings. Fulk thereupon took to the woods as an outlaw and lived a life of adventure.

The story may in fact have confused aspects of the lives of two FitzWarins, Fulk I (d. 1171) and Fulk II (d. 1197), father and son. The romance of Fulk FitzWarin is noted for its parallels to the legend of Robin Hood.


A prominent legend concerning Whittington Castle regards the Marian Chalice, thought by some to be the Holy Grail. According to this legend, Sir Fulk FitzWarin, the great grandson of Payne Peveril and one in the line of guardians of the Grail and King Arthur. A story from the 13th century states that the Grail was kept in a private chapel of the castle when Sir Foulke was there. The coat of arms of Fulk FitzWarin is hung above the castle archway.[11]

It is also claimed that the castle formed part of the lordship of a noble Welshman called Tudur Trefor or Tudor Trevor in both the Maelors (that is Maelor Saesneg and Maelor Gymraeg. Though his father Rhys Sais did hold the former, the rest seems to be an invention of Lewis Dwnn in 1846.[12][13]

Dick Whittington, thrice Mayor of London, as recited in endless pantomime productions, has been linked to Whittington. The connection may be no more than a connection of the two names, though a similarity has bene noted between the arms of Richard Whittington and those of Fitzwarine.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Whittington Castle)


  1. 2.0 2.1 Whittington Castle
  2. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 114–5.
  3. Brown, King and Remfry, 107-8
  4. Northall, John, Whittington Castle, Castles of Wales Web Site, http://www.castlewales.com/whittng.html, retrieved 12 June 2007 
  5. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 110–111.
  6. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 114–116.
  7. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 117–118.
  8. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 120–122.
  9. "Normannis – Bringing History To Life". http://normannis.co.uk/. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  10. ' The Marian Chalice: The Holy Grail?' - Britannia Internet Magazine (2000)
  11. Brown, King and Remfry, pp. 107–108.
  12. Biography of Tudor Trevor, Lord of Whittington. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  • Brown, P.; King, P. & Remfry, P. 'Whittington Castle: the marcher fortress of the Fitz Warin family', Shropshire Archaeology and History LXXIX (2004), pp. 106–127.
  • [1]
  • An essay on the history of Whittington Castle. Retrieved 12 June 2007.