This was King John’s castle and was possibly used as his hunting lodge. It was only one of three fortresses he had built in his seventeen year reign to add to the ninety he had in his possession.
The site was possibly chosen because it lay half way between Windsor and Winchester, the Royal Treasury. It was an octagonal towered stone keep, with two floors, the structure surrounded by its moat. The work took about seven years to complete at a cost of £1,000 or in today’s money, about eleven and half million pounds sterling. It is believed he rode from here in 1215 to meet with the barons at Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta, but John then turned on those barons and they in turn sought help from Louis, the French Dauphin.
During the 1st Barons’ War the castle’s royal garrison surrendered to the French after a two week long siege.
After the death of King John in 1216 the castle was back in English hands. The barons then paid allegiance to Jon’s son Henry III and persuaded Louis to go back home to France.
The castle seems to have flourished at this time when it was the home of the de Montfort family. Simon de Montfort married King John’s daughter Eleanor in 1238 just two years after she had been given the property by her brother, King Henry III. It has been said, Odiham might have become the most important fortress in England, had Simon not rebelled against the King and died at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Eleanor his wife, was henceforth exiled for her part in the conspiracy.
In the 14th century it hosted Parliament and in about 1346 the Scottish King, David II was
imprisoned here for 11 years.
In the 15th century it was used as a hunting lodge, and by 1605 the former royal fortress had descended into a ruinous state and was pillaged for its facing stones.
It is now the property of Hampshire County Council and is open to the public
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