North Gloucestershire Glories

glos_mapThere are faint remnants of motte and baileys throughout Gloucestershire which do not concern most people except for the possible history attached to these apparitions and only a few of those converted to stone castles have substantially visible remains. Many mottes were built or plowed over or leveled but Roman remains fared much better in Gloucestershire. A prime example is Castle Hale, aCastle_Hale_former_site 12th century motte which was located at the city of Painswick. It was a small castle built by John fitzPain, who was a supporter of Empress Matilda. The castle was most likely heavily damaged at some point by Stephen but the final blow was its razing in the 16th century to make way for a new courthouse. The Anarchy put a quick end to many motte and baileys, regardless of their lords, but I would remind everyone that castle ruins which are still visible on their sites were redeveloped at some point and at various times in history usually from the humble beginnings of a motte with a ditch.
Gloucester_Castle_former-siteDirectly north of Gloucester, Tewkesbury has numerous historic buildings to see, however fortifications or military architecture has been reduced to one. This area shares a part of the Malvern Hills with southern Worcestershire. Northeast lies the Cotswold Hills and all roads lead into late 18th century Cheltenham (a spa town that shows off multitudes of terraced houses built in Neo-Classical style on wide avenues- one called The Promenade) which is holding its annual music festival this month. If you stay over you’ll want to visit the Museum and Art Gallery and Cheltenham Imperial Gardens which were laid out in the early 19th century. Further northeast is Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the Wold. In the area of Winchcombe most of the castles are simply gone but quite close to Sudeley Castle which I will cover soon on a separate entry. The just mentioned towns are delightful to visit, in any case, and offer their own unique delights and some interesting Landmark Trust properties to stay in, as well.
King_Johns_Castle_Mythe_ggrph_993266If we head north to Tewkesbury, situated between the Avon and Severn rivers, we’ll find quite a few interesting alternatives to our usual fare. King John’s Castle, close to The Mythe (which overlooks the town) has an interesting tower which may date back a thousand years! It has no connection to King John nor is it part of a castle but once formed part of a residence of the Abbots of Tewkesbury. Overall a rather pleasant-looking Tudor structure, the upper portion of the semi-detached tower appears to be medieval, while the bottom half has more lias stone coursework. It’s a curiosity to be sure! Nevertheless, the main attraction of the town is St. Mary the Virgin church, a Norman abbey, which was saved by the locals when they produced L453 in pay-off to Henry VIII who would not have spared it otherwise during the Dissolution. It rather dominates this pretty little half-timbered and Cotswold stone housed riverside village. Tewkesbury itself is an exceptional town. All along the main street and connected narrow lanes, you’ll see both medieval and Tudor buildings interspersed with more modern buildings!
On Church street you’ll find the Merchant’s House, a restored medieval shop at numbers 34-48 and you can also tour the ancient houses flanking the Abbey grounds which were saved by a doyen, Jeremy Benson, on behalf of the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He saved them from certain destruction back in 1965 after local trustees had given up and were prepared to do their worst. The medieval row was built by the Abbey before Henry VIII’s Dissolution and were obviously left forgotten and derelict- with their oversailed upper storeys and lean-tos. Now completely restored to glory they (possibly) never had- are let to regular tenants. One is a botanical museum and another 15th century structure is the Merchant’s House and as a one-up, two-down is set up exactly as it would have been as a store-front shop in medieval times. You can visit the downstairs parlor behind the shop which features a ventilated open hearth, stuccoed walls and an adjoining kitchen with all the accoutrements of long ago. Wood-block stairs lead to the bedroom, which is not as authentically furnished but left largely as it was with no embellishment.
Tewkes_StMarysTwo Landmark Trust properties worth occupying are located right within the town. St Mary’s Lane boasts an 18th century set of houses at numbers 30 and 32 which doubled as studios for framework knitters and stocking makers (once the chief employment of Tewkesbury) for more than a century! Upon first glance you’ll notice that the second floor windows are very unique and illuminate the actual work studios. These two houses, one which accommodates four and the other, six people, were saved from dereliction back in 1969 as the only such kind still in existence. Above and below those second floor windows were the actual living quarters for families and each has a small yard in the anterior. A third similar unit was placed into the possession of the local preservation society.
The Landmark Trust completely reconstructed caved in roofs and repaired the restTewkes_StMary'sLan_PWatson_03-10_26 of the building from the results of roof damage- such as new stairwells and added bedrooms. Number 32 is particularly charming with a steep winding corner staircase and wonderful view of the nearby abbey from a third storey bedroom. Both houses are filled with light, cheerfully decorated and the upper floors look out over the unique domestic landscape of Tewkesbury. They are very close to the River Avon which is lined with boatyards and other aquatic activities.

Tewkes_StMarysLaneAbbey_gtehse_extNinteriorVery close by is another Landmark Trust property which is leased from the Abbey’s trust. Late medieval Abbey Gatehouse, once part of the Abbey Church, was restored in 1849 by James Medland who replaced quite a bit, but not all, of the stonework. It’s impossible to tell the difference between restored stone and the originals and has a very medieval atmosphere on the outside but is so authentic but fresh, beautiful and comfortable inside you may forget you’re sleeping in an ancient gatehouse ! Imagine your surprise in the morning when you look out the west window and notice the abbey is your next door neighbor! Accommodations include a beautiful first floor room with a gallery on one end which houses facilities and up top you sleep beneath the molded beams of the roof, painted in matching colors to the choir vault of the abbey!
The sole genuine castle for Tewkesbury, Holme Castle was at one time the manor house of the earls of Gloucester at Tewkesbury in the 12th century and became a royal household when King John married Isabella, the Countess of Gloucestershire. It has been speculated that it was nearby the site of the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Today’s limited earthworks do not boast Holme’s once magnificent structure but the castle was destroyed for a second time rather early in the 13th century and rebuilt to greater proportions, most likely in stone, by the 14th century. I would venture to guess that it may have been a courtyard castle. An historical stone marker erected in 1932 was placed further southwest of the actual site stating that the castle was burnt down in 1140. This most likely was the first Holme motte and bailey built in wood, if the marker is to have any credence at all and the attack of 1140 was a retaliation of Waleran de Beaumont on behalf of King Stephen being as how he was one of the king’s supporters.

Tewkesbury_AbbeyAs a Saxon and Medieval manor it was built atop the southwest side of the town on Holme Hill just above vineyards where the scant ruins of masonry and foundations were still visible in 1836 to Leland and abuts the banks of the River Swilgate. Excavations carried out in 1974-75 revealed and yet destroyed the remaining foundations of a chapel, dovecote, gatehouse, apartments, barns, stables, furnaces and waste dumps.
A moated area which is supposed to have been eventually used as fishponds are now barely visible as earthworks with historic aerial photographs but have been leveled and are not immediately apparent from the ground. Bronze age artifacts were found at the site as well.

WinchcombeVery close to Stanway village, just northeast of Sudeley Castle, two more motte and baileys, Winchcombe and Hailes are located within the area near the town of Winchcombe. The area’s nominal castle, built on the northeast edge of the city of Winchcombe was built during the period between 1140 and 1144 by Roger, Earl of Hereford (a charge of Empress Matilda) but was destroyed during the Anarchy and after being abandoned suffered the same fate as Castle Hale. Hailes Castle was built near St Peter’s church right within Stanway village and though it was moated and strengthened by Ralph of Worcester during the most difficult years of the Anarchy it only survived in ruins until it was replaced by Hailes Abbey in 1240. Even the moat was filled in leaving no trace of its existence.Hailes_Abbey




campden-house-old_wbh-2In the far northeast corner of the county Chipping Campden is a pristine relic protected by the Campden Trust. From 1929 they set out to keep the town as a model Cotswold town and have managed marvelously. The local stone is beautiful and rustic- a wonderful combination if you enjoy historic towns and their pride and joy is the remains of Italianate Campden Manor of which building commenced in 1613 by Sir Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden and of the same family as Michael Hicks who’ll you remember as the owner and restorer of Beverston Castle. Both men were ancestors to the Earls of St. Aldwyn.
Campden_EastBanqHseWhen approaching the town from the northwest along B4035 visitors will see ruins which are the remainders of Campden Manor in the form of Old Campden House, the Italianate North Lodge gateway, West and East Banqueting Houses (with buttresses!) and the Almonry- all protected and maintained by Landmark Trust, so you’ll be able to actually stay in these properties which are always livable. I highly recommend doing so because once you look around you’ll definitely want to stay awhile and take in the treasure trove of historic buildings. It will be just like you stepped back in time!
Campden_W_Banq_HseThe old Campden estate was finished by 1620 at what was then an enormous price of 29,000,-eleven acres of buildings and gardens! By 1645 a devastating fire destroyed quite a large portion of the original buildings. It is not known whether it was done by design or accident but it happened on the eve that the Roundheads approached and it was not rebuilt but what remains today was saved and restored. When limestone is burned it takes on a pink hue and if you pay attention on your CampdenWestBanqH_CS_june03tour of the city you’ll see where materials from the original Campden Manor was reused for other buildings. The remaining aforementioned buildings survived the fire and all still retain their solid stone roofs and Sir Baptist Hicks’ coat of arms. The banqueting houses and magnificent gatehouse with its ogee domes are let to guests and there is much still left to see on the estate, such as the Almonry, some scant remains of the old manor and wonderful gardens which feature intricately built, raised walks.
Grevel_House_02The links below will give you a great guide to the town for a walking tour which starts with Grevel House, the oldest house on elegant medieval High Street and concludes at the 15th century Church of St. James built by the town’s wealthy wool merchants with a tomb of William Grevel who was described as ‘the flower of the wool merchants of England.’ You’ll want to pay particular attention to the 17th century Market Hall on the tour because it was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks and the interior is as marvelous as the exterior with its pediments and gables and wonderful roof timbers. Grevel House is also quite elegant and distinguished from its neighbors with a double-story bay window and original gargoyles. Set aside some time to go to the top of Dover’s Hill and take in the magnificent view of the Vale of Evesham.

Chip_Weston-Park_JenniferLutherThomasNot far away, Weston Park, south of Broadway (in Worcestershire) has a sizable motte and bailey from the 11th or 12th century. It was built on the end of a ridge at Saintbury and imparts great views along the north. This sandy knoll rises about ten meters along the outlay and has been artificially scarped with a relatively shallow ditch. Along the southeast traces of wall have been found and the summit of the hill are two circular hollows which indicate that they were made at a much later date. Quarried at some later time, it has been speculated that this was a Giffard manor house and most likely was a hundred court house.
stow_centreIf you head a little further south you’ll find Stow-on-the-Wold which is 800 feet above the surrounding countryside atop what was once an Iron Age hillfort. Many roads converge there including the Roman Fosse Way (now the A429 within the county) and it has been a market town since the Norman lords planned the town. Regular fairs have been held there since a royal charter was set up in 1330 and you’ll be charmed during your visit with tales of the heavy wool trading which has taken place. An annual horse fair is carried on to this day on the edge of town. It’s a great English village in which to stop, stroll around and drink in the history and culture. I have no reason to believe a stone castle ever stood on the spot but I’d be surprised if no one ever tried to build one there.
Upper_Slaughter_ChurchJust a little further south are the Slaughters, Upper and Lower. A motte and bailey built upon a promontory fortification during the Anarchy in Upper Slaughter was incorporated with a part of the church of St Peters. Only faint earthworks remain of the elongated motte but it’s the only castle I’ve heard of utilizing a church!

with lots of great views and news,

Castle_Sonnalp_jpg_2The Castle Lady


About Evelyn

The Castle Lady Official web site: other blogs:
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to North Gloucestershire Glories

  1. Your posts that take us on mini-tours are wonderful. I love how the cottage industries and little shops have survived and are so appreciated. Makes me want to hop on a plane and fly over.


    • Evelyn says:

      I’m glad you mentioned that because often if you visit a locality and find a castle practically missing there is often a pretty little village that replaced it. The market towns are very pleasant as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s