Standing on a sandstone bluff overlooking the River Avon, Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred, built a mound or burh here in about 888, as defence against the attacking Danes.
By 1066, this property, as well other estates, had already passed to the Saxon Thegn Thurchill, a wealthy supporter of William the Conqueror. Because of his support, William allowed Thurchill to keep his estates. He was twice married, his second marriage was to Leverunia, heiress of Kingsbury Manor,
which had been held by Lady Godiva.
Mindful of the unrest in the north of England, William the Conqueror, sometime in late 1068 or 69, ordered a new and stronger castle to be built. It was probably of the motte and bailey type, constructed within the burh. The constable of the castle was, Henry de Newburgh.
On Thurchill’s death, in about 1100, Henry de Newburgh was made Earl of Warwick and although he was given most of Thurchill’s lands, the castle remained crown property and the Earl its custodian.
Circa 1156, during the reign of King Henry II, the castle was rebuilt in stone. This included a shell keep, curtain wall and other works not specified.
During the Second Barons’ War of 1264, William Maudit, 8th Earl of Warwick, a supporter of King Henry III, was taken prisoner, together with his wife, when Simon de Montfort took the castle in a surprise attack. After William’s death in 1267, the castle passed to his nephew, William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick. Over the next 180 years, while in the hands of the Beauchamp family, the castle continued to be developed. They were responsible for ‘Guy’s’ tower and ‘Caesar’s’ tower, which has the usual feature of a double parapet.
Circa 1480, King Richard III, had two gun towers constructed, called ‘Bear’ and ‘Clarence’. They were left unfinished on Richard’s death in 1485. These towers were separate from the rest of the castle and were independent strongholds. Each had its own well and oven, and it is thought they were being built in case of mutiny by the rest of the garrison.
By the time of the Civil War in 1642 it had become the property of Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, who was a Parliamentary supporter. For three days the castle was besieged by Royalists under the command of Lord Northampton but the castle’s garrison, commanded by Sir Edward Peto, refused to surrender.
In response the besiegers fired their two cannons at the castle.
In the words of Sir Richard Bulstrode, a writer and Royalist supporter;
“our endevours for taking it were of little purpose for we had only two small pieces of cannon ...
...and were discharged at the castle, to which they could do no hurt, only frighten them within the castle.”
Robert Greville was killed in 1643, by a musket bullet in the eye, at the siege of Lichfield.
His successor was his eldest son, Francis Greville, 3rd Baron Brooke, a Royalist supporter who was later responsible for the magnificent state apartments.
He employed master carpenters, Roger and William Hurlbutt.
Today the castle is privately owned and open to the public.
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