Berkhampstead Castle: Berkamstead: Berkampsted: Berchamstede

  • Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire.
  • Scheduled Monument.


Motte and bailey castle surrounded by double wet moats, a rampart and counterscarp. The motte stood 13.7 m high with a 18.3 m circumference at the top. The bailey measured 137 m by 91.5 m.  Had a circular shall keep and three half round towers along the curtain wall. The main entrance was originally to the south.

There was a chapel and chamber within the bailey.

The English submitted to Duke William of Normandy on the site prior to the castle being built.


1066                            An earth and timber castle was constructed under the orders of William I

1066-1087                   c: Edgar Atheling submitted to William I at the castle.

1087                            Robert Mortain had the castle taken from him by William II as he had disputed the King’s right to the throne.

11 C                            Held by Robert de Mortain, Earl of Cornwall, half brother to William I

1104                            The castle was fortified by the Robert de Mortain’s son after he rebelled against Henry I.

1123                            Henry I held Court at the castle.

1154-1189                   Between: Henry II held Court at the castle.

1155-1165                   Thomas Becket lived at the castle as Chancellor for Henry II. He replaced the wooden palisade with stone defences around the site. The stone buildings date from.

1157                            Stone circular keep built.

1163                            Henry II took the castle back from Thomas Becket and spent Christmas at the site.

1191                            Richard I gave it to his Queen, Berengaria, and she took up residence at the castle.

1199-1216                   c: King John added walls and towers to the curtain.

12 C                            Leased out. Tenants included Thomas Becket.

1204                            King John gave it to his Queen, Isabella.

1204-1216                   Queen Isabella was in residence.

1216                            Besieged for two weeks by King Louis of France.

1217                            Henry III retook the castle.

1227                            The castle was given by Henry III to his brother, Richard.

1246                            15th August: Richard de Cornwall was born at the castle.

1254                            Richard of Cornwall made additions to the castle.

1264                            Earl Richard of Cornwall was imprisoned in the castle.

1272                            2nd April: Richard Plantagenet died at the castle.

1291                            Edward I gave it to his Queen, Margaret.

13th C                          Outworks date from. Keep built.

1300                            Earl Edward of Cornwall left the castle to Edward I in his will.

1300-1317                   Held by the second wife of Edward I, Margaret.

1317                            Queen Margaret died.

1317-1326                   Held by the wife of Edward II, Isabella

1326-1336                   Held by John of Eltham.

1327                            Recorded as having a tower on the motte.

1336                            Given to the Black Prince, Edward Earl of Chester, by his father Edward III

1337                            Came into the possession of the Duchy of Cornwall.

1356                            c: John II of France was imprisoned at the castle for a short time following the Battle of Poitiers.

1360                            King John of France was still being held at the castle.

1361                            The Black Prince had his honeymoon at the castle.

1376                            Where the Black Prince spent the last days of his life.

1386                            The castle was given by Richard II to Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Cornwall.

1389                            Geoffrey Chaucer was Clerk to the Kings Works.

1399                            Henry IV gave it to his son, Henry (Later Henry V).

1427                            The king lived periodically at the castle.

1445                            c: Given to Margaret of Anjou by Henry IV.

1469                            Edward IV gave it to his mother, Cecily, Duchess of York.

1495                            Cecily, Duchess of York, died and the castle was abandoned.

1509-1533                   Between: Henry VIII gave it to Catherine of Aragon.

1533-1534                   Between: Henry VIII gave it to Anne Boleyn.

1536-1537                   Between: Henry VIII gave it to Jane Seymour.

1540-1546                   Itinerary of John Leland: Ruinous.

1558-1603                   Beginning: Site was abandoned.

1580                            In ruins. Elizabeth I leased the manor to Sir Edward Carey, Keeper of the Queens Jewels. He built himself a house nearby, using masonry from the castle ruins.

1837                            The outer defences were damaged when the railway was built.

1838                            The barbican was demolished for the railway.

1850’s                         Late: Grand Bazaar held on the site to raise money for a new Town Hall.

1864                            Earl Brownlow was given the site by the Duke of Cornwall.

1920’s                         Under the care of the Ministry of Works.

1922                            Pageant held on the site.

1930’s                         The western outer defences were damaged by road building.

1931                            Pageant held on the site.

1935                            June: Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) visited the site.

1950                            The moat was still wet.

1966                            Pageant held to celebrate 900 years of the site.

20 C                            In ruins. Golf and cricket played on the site.



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