South Warwickshire has two distinct areas- southeast and southwest and most of the castles are in ruins or vanished. However, impressively sized former castle sites are legendary in England and this county has many of them. Medieval historical sites help us see how military strategies were developed by studying placement incorporated with the unique formations of each and every castle and its terrain. We are fortunate to have at least a few drawings of these castles but, sadly, they are few. Castles such as Warwick and Kenilworth are rare treasures. – The Castle Lady
A short distance northeast of Kenilworth Castle and five miles southwest of Caludon’s ruins, Baginton Castle’s low-lying brick foundations sit just outside the border of Coventry. Inside the ground-level platform (a square bailey with a wide ditch) seated in a rather bare forest on the elevated banks of the River Sowe, you’ll discover the ruins of a moated, fortified 14th century manor- the former site of a motte and bailey originally built by the de Derlye family. The future King Henry IV set out from this castle after a night of being entertained to meet Thomas de Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk in battle to settle differences. King Richard II intervened at some point between Caludon and Baginton Castles and exiled them both.
The once-fortified remains are those which were rebuilt by Sir William Bagot in 1397 and is sometimes referred to as Bagot’s Castle. The tower was built inside the platform on the eastern edge with walls one and a half meters thick. Three other structures east of the tower were revealed in the 1960s to be 13th and 14th century edifices associated with the castle. Baginton has the distinction of being the castle where Harry Hotspur (otherwise known as Henry Percy) was taken prisoner after his defeat by King Henry IV at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Richard Beauchamp bought the castle in 1417 and it remained his property until 1471 when he presented it to the Dean of St Mary’s Collegiate Church at Warwick. From that point it changed hands several times then fell into ruins by mid-17th century. What you will see today are the lower portions of a tower which was leveled in the 18th and 19th centuries and sits on the eastern edge of the flattened motte. An existing vaulted undercroft on the site is in a state of collapse alongside vestiges of the tower with a spiral stair turret and a garderobe also in ruins.
Baginton town is the site of the Roman Fort Lunt established circa 64 A.D. which was rediscovered in the 1930s and then opened in 1960s to the public after extensive archaeological work and partial reconstruction made it possible to view. An aircraft factory existed here during WWII and now the city is home to Coventry’s Airport alongside Midland Air Museum. The oldest oak tree in Warwickshire resides at Baginton and is around 300 to 350 years old with a pub as namesake also nearby.
The castle is fenced off and a footpath from the church runs close by where the ruins can be seen quite well.
Near the village of Brandon and just north of Wolston, Brandon Castle is not far away from Baginton to the east, showing off low-lying stone concentric enclosure remains along with a few stone ruins of the small rectangular Norman keep, off of the River Avon. It started out life as a motte and bailey built by Geoffrey de Clinton in the 12th century and was later built in stone by the de Verdon family early in the 13th century. The site looks curious with two rectangular baileys accompanying the relatively low motte seated in the middle. All are surrounded by a shallow moat which is fed by the Avon. It was besieged and slighted by the garrison of Kenilworth Castle in 1265 which was the time of the first civil war in England. The site is visible from the paths off of the A428 but upon closer inspection you will see results of an excavation carried out in 1947.
A stopover to Rugby, on the eastern border, will be of interest not just to Rugby enthusiasts but also those of cathedral architecture and buildings designed by William Butterfield, a 19th century architect whose modern buildings proliferate within the city. Famous landmarks associated with several English writers abound there and those who are fascinated by engineering feats of the 20th century will be interested to know that the jet engine was invented here by Frank Whittle who developed the first prototype at the British Thomson-Houston works in the mid-20th century.
The invention of the game of Rugby is credited to William Webb Ellis and his statue is the most visited monument in Rugby where it stands outside Rugby School. The other two statues are of Rupert Brooke and Thomas Hughes- the former a poet who hailed from Rugby and Thomas Hughes wrote Tom Brown’s Schooldays. A book based on his life as a student there and a dramatization of the novel was filmed on location at the school in 2004. Founded in 1567 with money left by Lawrence Sheriff who was born in Rugby and then moved to London, thereby gaining a fortune, the school was originally intended to be for the locals. Over time and with prestige it became the top private co-educational boarding institution in England. There is a Rugby School Museum which has audio visual displays about the town and the school but the Rugby Football Museum in town has memorabilia, a factory where rugby balls are made by hand and more information about the history of the game. The town has six union teams which includes Rugby Welsh and an F.C. which was once two teams and now simply Rugby Town F.C.
Moving further west and located west of Warwick town, Beaudesert Castle is a magnificently sized earthwork on an elongated hill which overlooks a Norman parish church and the Forest of Arden. This ancient Briton ringwork with two baileys is seated on the other side of the River Alne above the town of Henley-in-Arden. At one time it had a stone keep and curtain wall but now shows almost no evidence of the stonework. It was brought to the royal attention of Empress Maud when Thurston de Montfort obtained permission to hold a market there circa 1140 and was seized by the King after Simon de Montfort’s defeat at Evesham. The castle was spared destruction but it fell into ruins after the de Montfort line died out in 1369. Originally, the land was given to Thurstan de Montfort by his great-uncle Henry de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, who most likely built a motte and bailey upon the ringwork. Thurston’s grandson Peter is supposed to have put up the wall of the inner bailey. His fortifications may have been incomplete when, in April of 1262, Henry III issued an order to stop him. Peter was killed in 1265, the town was burned and most likely the castle as well.
Two reconstruction models of the castle exist. One is at the Henley-in-Arden Heritage Centre which looks like a typical concentric castle with twin baileys and a large four-corner towered keep among other features and the Timeteam’s model appears more like a late-medieval hall with an oval curtain wall, only two mural towers and no apparent gateway entrance! Whichever you choose as the most likely configuration, an aerial view provides us with an appreciation of the ramparts which preceded the Norman invasion.
The remaining earthworks of today reveal much about the castle’s construction because they do not appear to have been altered. The northeast end is an oval which measures approximately 77 by 54 meters with a height of 10 meters above the ditch with a triangular edge of ridge. Two baileys separated by a ditch are still visible on the south west adjacent from there and were most likely never walled in stone. The entrance which is still indicated by a footpath exists on the south end of the outer bailey. One stone on the site, retrieved in the 19th century during an excavation, is a capstone from a doorway which indicated it was from the 13th or 14th century.
Lord Bergavenny held the castle from 1376 to 1410 followed by the Boteillers of Sudeley until it was sold to Edward IV in 1477. Whether or not it was retained by the Earls of Warwick during the late medieval period is not known but it is speculated whether the Bergavennys and Boteillers were only tenant Lords for the Earls. Restoration was last carried out in 1411 according to records which cited repair to the porch of the hall but in a survey carried out in 1547 the castle was not mentioned and it was most likely in ruins by that time.
Also in the southwest portion of the county and three miles distance from Redditch are three different Studley Castles, each one very different and each tells its own story. All are more or less on the same large property near Studley on four and a half acres with formal gardens. (Studley) Old Castle, the earthworks of a circular motte and bailey attributed to William Corbucion, most likely built by 1135-40 occupies a portion of the property and is an ancient scheduled monument. Its size is nearly identical to that of Beaudesert, if a bit smaller in width with a rampart formation which also forms a V configuration but the actual motte was flattened sometime during the 17th century and may have been much reduced at some period because the height is only four meters above the surrounding ground level. Excavations carried out in 1867 uncovered pottery which dated from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Very close by and adjacent to the historic church, the L-plan Castle Cottages which are very charming are now referred to as The Old Castle. This formerly moated manor was originally built by Thomas Atwood and was called Corpsons, after the family name of Corbucion. It is a 16th century timber-framed Georgian and Tudor house seated above a ringwork of ramparts and approached off Castle Road by a long sweeping driveway to the parking area and along the landscaped garden area adorned with topiary, shrubs, walkways, flower beds and lined with a variety of trees. As a grade II listed building, complete restoration was undertaken and offered up for sale in recent years by the present owners. A detailed web site offers a beautifully decorated, oak-paneled seven bedroom house along with two self-contained and separate duplex apartments. The Old Castle now is seated with an encompassing driveway and outlying pastures.
Studley Castle Hotel is located on the east side of the large property off Hardwick Lane and I will tell you more in my forthcoming entry Warwickshire’s Wonderful Hotels.
Directions: From junction 3 of the M42 motorway at the roundabout take the first exit on to the A435 signposted Redditch and Evesham. Continue along the A435 in the direction of Evesham, passing through Mappleborough Green and on into the center of Studley. At the roundabout continue straight across and turn left into Bell Lane and left onto Castle Road. Follow the signs for the Parish Church and The Old Castle is immediately before hand.
A few miles south of Warwick, Fulbroke Castle which was a fortified manor built by John, Duke of Bedford (and brother of Henry V) in 1428 is completely vanished at the site it once occupied. The original manor held by the Count of Meulan in 1086 passed through many hands through the centuries but always reverted to the Crown and overlordship of the Earls of Warwick. The field at Fulbroke, which is referred to as Castle Hill in the present day, is on the south side of a brook near Lower Fulbrook Farm. By 1478 the formerly beautiful castle was ruinous but the final denouement for Fulbroke came with the dismantling of portions by Sir William Compton, the park keeper early in the 16th century, who received permission from Henry VIII to use portions of the castle for his new house of Compton Wynyates. As a result, the great hall of his Tudor mansion located twelve miles south, still has a roof and bay window from Fulbroke. The rest of the castle was most likely carried off brick by brick for other construction in the town. Even though the manor no longer existed, the park which enclosed the parcel of land continued to be passed on through the centuries among whom Richard Neville and John Dudley were recipients. In 1658 the manor parkland came into possession of Richard Lucy and the estate remained in their possession clear up to the mid-20th century when it was owned by Sir Henry Fairfax-Lucy.
Excavations of 1985 revealed brick foundations and plowing turned up similar brick along with stones, glazed tiles and pottery in an area which used less than an acre of land. A clearly delineated parch mark showing individual rooms and corridors placed around a central courtyard were also traced.
Elsewhere in the town, the remains of two moats existed behind the court farmhouse. One, measured at 90 paces square with a moat on three sides was the site of a manor house documented in 1324 and 1392. It possessed a hall with a solar and chapel among other medieval additions including a kitchen and a gatehouse with lodgings above it and a stable at ground level. The gatehouse was recreated later by Joan, Lady Bergavenny which was more expensively built late in the 14th century. Just north, another moat enclosed a bailey at half the previously mentioned size with steep ramparts up to fifteen feet high and a dried up moat along its south side along with a trench which carried water off of the site. In 1841 a discovery of a steelyard weight which sported four coats-of-arms with lion rampants was found near the larger moated site and it was determined to date from the reign of Henry III.
Southeast of Stratford-on-Avon and Wellesbourne, approximately eight miles, you’ll find Kineton Castle ( pron. kine (as in kind) ton, like ‘ton of bricks’) situated close to the River Dene. Its village is part of the district of Stratford-on-Avon not far away from the Fosse Way (an old Roman road) and the battlefield of Edgehill. It is ten miles equidistant between Banbury (of Banbury Cross fame !) Warwick Town and Stratford-upon-Avon close to the border of Northamptonshire.
Kineton was initially referred to in the year 969 when the Saxon King Edgar (called by the French le Pacifique) granted land in this area to a trusted member of his council. Later, in the Domesday Book of 1086, the village was referred to as Kington and the castle was documented as a motte-and-bailey known as King John’s Castle because King John held local court sessions there. It was most likely never rebuilt in stone. The motte is located northwest in the village at the foot of Pittern Hill where, in the 13th century, Stephen de Segrave held a market each Tuesday at his manor which included St Peter’s and St. Paul’s Eve. Held through the centuries, it was closed down along with the market house by 1840 and a school was built on the same site. An 18th century stone windmill remains but there is very little to see of the castle other than the motte.
During the Civil War, Kineton was looted several times by Prince Rupert and some members of the Royalist army. On the heels of the defeat of Sir James Ramsay, the Parliamentarians took a drumming at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd of October in 1642 and were pursued off the field and Rupert’s army attacked the baggage train of Parliament within the village of Kineton. Curiously, only a year later, in July of 1643, King Charles I met with Queen Henrietta Maria at the battlefield. Radway Tower is an 18th century monument built there which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Edgehill and is a hotel today known as The Castle Inn. A signposted walk that runs a good twenty miles long-the Edgehill to Edgcote trail -includes three battlefields which includes Edgehill. You’ll see picture and information boards along the way.
In the furthermost southern region, three miles east of Shipston-on-Stour, Brailes Castle motte atop Castle Hill became a prehistoric burial ground before a motte and bailey was built there. A short jaunt from the George Hotel, it can be reached by a footpath. Nothing of the castle remains of this early 12th century castle except for the motte. In medieval times this was the third largest village in Warwickshire and it stands among several hills with the village divided by Upper Brailes, which is the second-highest point in Warwickshire at Highwall Coppice and Lower Brailes. This was the home of a 13th century painter of illuminated manuscripts, by the name of William de Brailes and he was one of only two whose name has actually been made of record. The parish church of Saint George is referred to by the locals as Cathedral of the Feldon which has been found to have a 12th century foundation. It has been added to and altered throughout the centuries with the south aisle the oldest known portion and the north with so many alterations that the original appearance is very obscure. The bell tower should be visited as its most remarkable feature at 120 feet in height and its phenomenal features and sound. If you visit Brailes on the first Monday of May you can participate in the annual Three Hills Walk which gives you a chance to see the rural aspect of Brailes in all its glory.