Friday, 29 September 2017

Berkeley Castle Part 1

Apologies for the delay but I have been resting my arm all day and have just come upstairs to answer emails etc.  Having been really good all day, I just stupidly forgot I had tiny stitches inside and reached to pick up a cushion from the floor.  Ouch! 

BERKELEY CASTLE IS UNIQUE, says the booklet we bought there.  Unique in that is has been lived in by the same family for the best part of 900 years, and that is far longer than any other castle in England.

Eadnoth, a noble at the court of Edward the Confessor in the 1050s, was the earliest known ancestor of the family who were given Berkeley and he found favour with William the Conquerer and indeed, died fighting for him in 1068.  His descendents did well for themselves as merchants in the Bristol area, and during the civil wars between King Stephen and Empress Matilda (1139 - 1153), Robert Fitzharding (a younger grandsom of Eadnoth) supported Matilda's son Henry (especially financially) and was rewarded with Berkeley Castle and its estates in 1153.  The castle at that time was a simple wooden motte and bailey castle, but Robert wasted no time in recreating it in stone and built the Keep youcan see today, which originally had five circular towers.  Work finished about 1179 with the outer defences complete in 1189.

This photo was the room where King Edward II was held prisoner by command of the Queen Isabelle's lover, Roger Mortimer.  Mortimer's daughter was the wife of Thomas Berkeley, so you can see why Berkeley Castle was chosen as King Edward's place of confinement (and eventual murder).  However, during his encarceration the King had a comfortable apartment in what was a former guardroom, awith four personal servants, including a cook, and was treated like a guest - until he was killed!  Thomas Berkeley made sure that he was "away" at that time . . . (September 1327).  Rumour has it that a red hot poker was used to kill the King, but according to the booklet we bought at the castle, it is more likely that he was smothered.

This room is one of the first you see after going up the steep and deliberately uneven in height steps into the castle, designed to trip up fast approaching knights in full armour and bring them to their knees and a target for the murder hole or arrows from above. 

A slightly blurry picture of the wonderful cypress wood chest in the King's Gallery, which may have belonged to Sir Francis Drake, who stayed at the castle in the 16th C.

The Tower Room was designed as a secure stronghold where the women, children and valuables would have been put should the castle have been under attack.

To my mind the best painting by far in the Picture Gallery was this one by Stubbs, titled "Groom and Horses".  The grey is just stunning and I love the sour expression of the bay!

There were beautiful Harvest Festival displays in both the fireplaces.

An absolutely stunning inlaid table, with the top under glass to keep it away from curious fingers.

This was formerly the Billiard Room, but is now styled as the Dining Room, with a wonderful display of Tudor costumes - Henry VIII and his six wives - which were used in the production of Wolf Hall and made by Tudor Dreams Historical Costumier.  The black dress is that of Katherine of Aragon.

Ann Boleyn.

"Himself's" - with quite a modest cod-piece I thought . . .

More tomorrow.


  1. A wonderful post BB - such a superb castle and so much history. So interesting to read all about it and see the great photos. I love all those Tudor costumes - such a fascinating period in history.
    Do hope your arm is a little better soon.

  2. Morning RR. Arm a little better today - I have been sewing patchwork for my class, and Having Fun! It is a wonderful castle - only my 2nd visit, and with about 40 years in between! The Tudor costumes were roped off or I'd have photographed each one separately. I hope you can get to Berkeley some time. It shuts for the winter at the end of October.

  3. That made me laugh out loud with the modest comment lol! Too funny.
    I love the photos, I would love to see how things were back in the day.

  4. I'm enjoying the tour of the castle--impossible to think of living in such a sprawl of a building. No doubt I'd have felt most at home in the kitchen! Lovely gowns for the ill-fated queens--Henry VIII has always seemed to me a most unappealing man.
    Can you imagine if it had been known back in the day that the male input determined the sex of the child? What a come-down for a man who didn't beget a son!