Friday, 12 June 2015

HLD#6: Berkhampstead Castle

The remains of Berkhampstead Castle inner bailey.


     The last leg of my Heretic tour took me down the A41 to the town of Berkhampstead. Here nestled in beautiful grounds, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of ordinary working day life, including the railway line, is the remains of an old Norman motte and bailey castle.
     The castle was built in what was then considered a strategic location, as it sat smack dab on the road from London in the Chiltern Hills, making it a key gateway to the Midlands and the North. After victory at the Battle of  Hastings, William the Conqueror made way to London and it was here, that the Archbishop of York surrendered to him, before construction of the castle began.
     The castles construction was under saw by Williams half brother Robert, who became lord of the castle. Earthworks were put in place to defend the castle and there was large park suitable for deer hunting. The castle soon became a centre for administration and the old town of Berkhampstead soon built up around it.
    The castle saw many kings, several of whom passed it on to their chancellors. The castle saw significant redevelopment in the 12th, century probably under the guidance of Thomas Becket.In the 13th century it was besieged by the French during the baronial wars in the reign of King John. After capturing the castle it was later retaken by royal force and give to Richard the Earl of Cornwall.
     Other leading figures who resided there were Edward III who bestowed the castle on his son, the Black Prince, who expanded the hunting grounds. In later years it was used to hold prisoners before the castle fell in to disrepair and ruin. In the 16th century the castle was unsuitable for royal presence and most of the stone was taken and used for building in the town.
     A rather unceremonious downfall to what was the first and greatest of the Norman castles ever to be built. It's history is both illustrious and inspiring and even today, with crumbled walls, it's still an impressive site. With the hill the old keep used to stand on, and the huge bailey, surrounded by two moats. Berkhampstead Castle is well worth a visit!