A Brief History of Hartlebury Castle
Visitors please note that the Hurd Library, Great Hall
and Saloon are not accessible to museum visitors except on special
occasions, details of which can be found on our Events page and on the website for the
Castle Preservation Trust.
c.850 Burghred, King of the
West Mercians, gave the land upon which the castle now stands to
the Bishop of Worcester. The manor subsequently descended with the
1237 An unfortified manor
house was in existence. This would have included a Great Hall,
chapel, solar and domestic buildings.
1255 Bishop Walter de
Cantilupe commenced the fortifications by excavating a moat. De
Cantilupe was a supporter of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester,
in his rebellion against the King.
1268 Bishop Giffard, loyal to
the Plantagenet dynasty, obtained a licence to crenellate. He was
accused of appropriating some of the goods of the Sacrist to meet
expenses for the fortifications. The bastion for the north-west
mural tower remains, and the late 18th century ice house probably
indicates the position of the north-east tower.
1282 King Edward I stayed at
the castle en route to suppress the Welsh revolt. He levied
men-at-arms from the Bishop by feudal right. Find out more about
King Edwards visit to Hartlebury
c.1390 The Great Hall which,
although somewhat altered, remains today was erected by Bishop
Wakefield. It has an arch braced roof constructed of timbers taken
from forests near Malvern, a gift from King Richard II.
Take a virtual tour of the Great Hall
c.1450 Bishop Carpenter caused a
great gatehouse and drawbridge to be built, probably on the east of
the castle bailey. This has no connection with the present entrance
gatehouses in that position today.
mid 16C The castle is described as
a 'fayre manor Place . . . having ii lytell towers covered with
Leade, and the Chamber cauled the Bishop's Chamber also covered
with Leade, and there is a Chappell annexed to the said chamber
lykewyse covered with Leade, where ys a lyttel bell weying by
estimation dimid. hundred Weight. Also there is a mote and a Ponde
adjoyning to the said Castell well stored with Fyshe . . .'.
16-17C Hartlebury became the
principal residence of the Bishops of Worcester.
1644 During the Civil War,
the Commissioners for Array, being pursued, fled to the castle from
Ombersley, believing it to be a safer place than Worcester.
1642 The castle was garrisoned for the King by Col. William
Sandys with 120 foot soldiers and 20 horses. The fortifications
were strengthened and supplies for a twelve month period laid in.
The site's importance lay in its proximity to fordings of the River
Severn at Larport and Redstone on a main route to Wales. On 16th
May 1646 however, after only two days and without a shot being
fired, the castle surrendered to the Parliamentary army under Col.
During the Royalists' occupation a mint was set up at the castle
to strike coins (probably to pay the soldiers and local suppliers).
A rare half-crown from this mint is now in the collections of the
After some use as a prison for Royalist captives the castle was
slighted, then fell into further dereliction, and in 1647 was sold
to a Thomas Westrowe for £3,133 6s. 8d.
1675 Bishop Fleetwood began
the rebuilding of the castle.
1700 Bishop Lloyd resided in
the refurbished castle. The pale of the deer park was repaired
1717 Bishop Hough filled in
the southern arm of the moat, improved the gardens and built the
stables and coach house.
1745 Bishop Maddox spent £1200 on
remodelling the chapel. The work was carried out by Henry Keene,
Surveyor of Westminster Abbey. The windows (no longer in
situ) were designed by Dr John Wall of Worcester.
1759 Bishop Johnson refurnished the
saloon. The eastern facade ground floor windows were 'Gothicised'
by the addition of lancet heads.
Take a virtual tour of the Saloon
1781 Bishop Hurd is believed to
have removed the last vestiges of the mediaeval keep, which is
described as having been to the east of the house. This almost
certainly refers to Bishop Carpenter's fortified gatehouse
1782 Bishop Hurd built his
library over the pre-existing Long Gallery.
Take a virtual tour of the Hurd Library
1846 Hartlebury Castle became the
sole residence of the Bishops of Worcester.
1905 A college of Clergy was
created by Bishop Yeatman-Biggs and housed in the converted stable
block, now the Temporary Exhibition Gallery and administration
offices of Worcestershire County Museum.
1964 The north wing of the
castle was taken over for the creation of a County Museum.
1966 Worcestershire County
Museum opened to the public.
This page was last reviewed 11 July 2011 at 14:53 by Sarah Chapman.