Donnington Castle

Donnington Castle © David Gill

Donnington Castle lies to the north of Newbury in Berkshire and is in the care of English Heritage. The monumental gateway forms part of the 14th century development. During the Civil War the castle was seized by the Royalists, and finally surrendered to the Parliamentarian forces in 1646 when all but the gatehouse was demolished.

The castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1946. Margaret Wood wrote the MPBW guide in 1964 [WorldCat]. Wood also wrote the Ministry guides to Old Soar Manor (1950), Burton Agnes Old Manor House (1956), and Christchurch Castle (1956).

Farnham Castle Keep

Farnham Castle © David Gill

The Bishop of Winchester was granted lands in the vicinity of Farnham in 688. The castle at Farnham was created by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester (1129-71) and Abbot of Glastonbury (1126-71). Henry was a grandson of William I, and brother of Stephen. This castle was demolished in 1155 during the reign of Henry II (who had been crowned in December 1154).

The present shell keep, surrounding the original castle on its mound, dates to the late 12th century. Remains of the original square tower can be seen at the centre of the motte. The castle then became home of the bishops of Winchester, including William of Wykeham (in 1368), and Thomas Wolsey (in 1529).

The castle was captured by parliamentary troops under Sir William Waller in December 1642, and then became a garrison.

The Church of England Diocese of Guildford was formed in 1927, and the castle continued to be an official residence until 1955. The castle keep was placed in state care in 1933, and is now a property of English Heritage. Sir Charles Peers had hoped to acquire the keep in 1912.

Farnham Castle © David Gill

The official blue guide was written by Michael Welman Thompson, who served as Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales. Thompson conducted excavations at the castle from 1958-60.

Thompson also wrote the official Ministry guidebooks for Pickering Castle (1958), and Conisborough Castle (1959), Kenilworth Castle (1977), as well as the National Trust guide for Tattershall Castle (1974). For Thompson’s Yorkshire guidebooks see here.

Farnham Castle
1961 (7th impress. 1978)

The present English Heritage guidebook, containing colour illustrations, is by John Wareham. In spite of its title (Three Palaces of the Bishops of Winchester) it covers four palaces in the care of English Heritage:

Guide to Bishops of Winchester: Wolvesey, Bishop's Waltham, Farnham

Heritage signs on Tresco

Old Blockhouse, Tresco © Patrick Taylor

There are three monuments in State Guardianship on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. Cromwell’s Castle, King Charles’s Castle and the Old Blockhouse. All three were acquired in 1950 (and feature in the Ministry’s guidebook).

The Old Blockhouse at Old Grimsby and King Charles’s Castle (note the sign uses King Charles’ Castle) near New Grimsby are contemporary.

King Charles’s Castle, Tresco © Patrick Taylor

The text for the sign echoes Bryan H. St John O’Neil’s guide:

Guidebook: ‘The western end is semi-hexagonal in order to provide a wide field of fire, and was two-storeyed to give at least two tiers of guns.’

Sign: ‘The western end was semi-hexagonal to provide a wide field of fire and was two-storeyed to give at least two tiers of guns.’

Guidebook: ‘… one bastion and a demi-bastion … It was intended to protect the castle from a landward attack across the headland.’

Sign: ‘During the Civil War, low, earthwork defences of bastioned form were thrown up beyond the castle to protect it from landward attack.’

Cromwell’s Castle, Tresco © Patrick Taylor

I am grateful to Patrick Taylor for digitising images of these signs.

A Tour of Caerphilly Castle


During the 1970s the Department of the Environment issued small card guides for monuments in their care. These consisted of a short tour with numbered guide. The one for Caerphilly Castle dates to 1971 (and is priced at 2.5 p).

There are 11 spots on the tour from the bridge (1) through to the Civil War earthworks (11).

For similar guides see Framlingham Castle.

Colchester Castle: guidebooks


There is a new guidebook to Colchester Castle by Tom Hodgson and Philip Wise (Jarrold Publishing and Colchester Castle, 2015). This beautifully designed and colour illustrated book of 72 pp follows the history of Colchester through the collections displayed in the Colchester Museum.

The castle itself is built on the foundations of the Temple of the Divine Claudius destroyed during the Boudican revolt.

The main sections are:

a. Iron Age (including the Sheepen Cauldron dating to 1275-1140 BC; the Mount Bures Firedog; the Augustus Medallion from the Lexden Tumulus)
b. Roman Invasion (including tombstones of veterans from the colony; the Fenwick Treasure perhaps deposited during the Boudican destruction)
c. Roman Heyday (including slave rings; ‘the Colchester Vase’ showing gladiatorial combat, dating to AD 175-200; lead curse tablets; the Colchester Sphinx excavated on the site of the Essex County Hospital in 1821)
d. Roman Decline (including Christianity in Roman Colchester; jet bear)
e. Saxons and Normans (including St Botolph’s Priory; the Town Charter)
f. Medieval (including Medieval painting)
g. Post Medieval (including the Colchester Martyrs; the Siege of Colchester in the Civil War)
h. Modern (including the formation of the museum collection; Colchester Castle in wartime including an exhibition in 1944)

Inside the back cover is a plan of Colchester pointing visitors to key locations around the town.


I have two other guides to the collection: Colchester Castle: a history, description and guide (Colchester Borough council, 4th edition, 1978). This includes plans of the castle and a more detailed history. There is also a section drawing showing how the castle included the Roman temple in its foundations.


The second guide is Roman Colchester by M.R. Hull (Colchester Town Council, 1947). This was prepared ‘in response to a great demand among visitors to Colchester Museum for a Guide to Roman Colchester’. The sections are:

1. Colchester before the Romans
2. The beginnings of Roman Colchester
3. The colonia
4. Boadicea
5. The visible remains of the Roman town
6. Civic organisation and administration
7. The Middle Empire
8. The legend of King Coel
9. The end of Roman Colchester

There is a particularly useful foldout paper plan inside the back cover.

One of the earliest guides is Dr J. Horace Round’s The History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle (1882).

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