Walking down this country lane, blankly looking over to this particular open field of young green barley, you could be easily forgiven for thinking “there ain’t much going on here”.
Well, my friend, you would be very much mistaken.
If you cast your eye over to that small hillock in the middle of the field, well that is an old Norman motte. See here, this old beaten and broken stone looking pillar, well, that was once the stone entrance to one of the most, powerfully fortified, prestigious and luxurious royal castles in the land.
After the English defeat at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066, William and his victorious troops, marched long and hard on a circuitous route north west around London, crossing the River Thames at Wallingford. William was greeted by an English supporter, Wigot, a Saxon Thegn and Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, who transferred his allegiance to the Duke.
From here, William marched with his forces to Berkhampstead where he eventually
received the submission of England.
William granted Wallingford to Robert d’Oyly in about 1968 who built a motte and
bailey castle on an existing Saxon burh.
By the early 12th century the castle had passed to Robert d’Oyly’s first son-in-law Miles Crispin, and then to Brien fitzCount, who, in about 1130, probably had most of the castle rebuilt in stone. He was a supporter of Matilda in the Civil War against King Stephen. The King, in 1139, failed in his attack on the castle because the fortifications proved impregnable. As soone as he was able, Brien brought in considerable supplies in the belief the castle then could withstand a siege for several years. After the fall of Oxford in 1141, Matilda fled to the safety of Wallingford. In 1153, a temporary peace treaty was drawn up at Wallingford leading to a permanent treaty at Winchester, in which Matilda’s son Henry would be installed
as King Henry II, when Stephen died.
After the Civil War Brien entered monastic life giving the castle to Henry.
During the Baron’s War, King John took possession and strengthened the fortifications and by 1231 King Henry III had granted it to Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall. He made it his main residence, spending large sums of money on the property in order to live in luxurious style.
Under the reign of King Edward III it became a mighty and luxurient home for the Duke’s of Cornwall.
Circa 1363, £500 was spent on the great tower, chamber and other buildings and in 1375 a further £200 was spent on the great hall, great chamber and chapel. During this period, Robert Yeveley, brother of Henry Yeveley, was master mason in charge of works at Wallingford castle and was paid, 4s a week.
During the 15th century it fell out of use and was stripped for lead and other materials to build Windsor Castle.
The antiquarian Joh Leland in 1540 described it thus;
“nowe sore yn ruine, and for the most part defaced”.
During the Civil War it was held by Royalists, under the command of Colonel Thomas Blagge who by order of King Charles I, strengthened the castle’s defences. After the fall of Reading, General Fairfax and his Parliamentarian troops laid siege to Wallingford in 1645. After a sixteen week siege, during which Oxford was taken by Parliamentarians, Colonel Blagge finally surrendered the castle in July 1646, on generous terms.
By act of Parliament the castle was demolished. Very little now remains.
It is open to the public.
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