English Heritage: Top 10 Castles

Bolsover Castle © David Gill

English Heritage has been asking its members for its top 10 castles. The list consists of: Dover, Kenilworth, Tintagel, Bolsover, Portchester, Warkworth, Dunstanburgh, Carisbrooke, Middleham and Beeston.

Many of these would be in my personal top 10 English Heritage castles especially Bolsover. But what would I want to include? Leaving aside the artillery forts like Pendennis and Tilbury, I would want to consider:

Peveril Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire © David Gill

One of the most dramatic castles is Peveril standing above the Derbyshire village of Castleton famous for its Blue John mines.

Scarborough Castle © David Gill

Scarborough Castle has dramatic views over the bays on each side. It also contains a Roman signal station.

Brougham Castle © David Gill

Brougham Castle lies on the site of a Roman fort on the Roman road that crossed the Pennines.

Farnham Castle © David Gill

Farnham Castle dominates the town.

Castle Rising © David Gill

Castle Rising has a wonderful keep standing within earthworks.

Orford Castle © David Gill

Orford provides magnificent views over the Suffolk coast.

Hadleigh Castle © David Gill

Hadleigh Castle provides dramatic views over the Thames estuary.

Helmsley Castle © David Gill

Helmsley Castle lies on the edge of the Yorkshire market town.

Farnham Castle Keep

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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_1754
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
2000