Warwick Castle 

In the English town Warwick in the county Warwickshire, you can find the imposing Warwick Castle. The original fortress was built in 914, so you can imagine that there’s a lot of history here. It served as a stronghold, a residence and a prison. The castle is a much-loved and popular tourist attraction. And some visitors get a lot more than they paid for. 

The history of Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is built on top of a motte. A motte is an early medieval artificial mound on which a defensive structure has been built. It is an elevated strategic point. There has been a fortress on the site of the present castle since the year 914. This Anglo-Saxon fortress was built by the daughter of King Alfred the Great, Ethelfleda. It was created to defend Mercia against the ruthless Danes. When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he noticed the fortress as well. In 1068, he turned it into a motte-and-bailey stronghold to control the Midlands as he marched northwards. He appointed Henry de Beaumont as constable of Warwick Castle.

Warwick Castle 2 - photocluster via Getty Images
photocluster via Getty Images

Tricky situation

Henry de Beaumont became the first Earl of Warwick in 1088. At that time, however, the castle was still made of wood. In 1153, the castle was taken over by Henry of Anjou. He later became King Henry II of England. The way he gained power over the castle wasn’t very neat. He tricked the wife of Roger de Beaumont (2nd Earl of Warwick) into believing her husband had died on the battlefield. The heartbroken “widow” handed over the castle. When Roger de Beaumont returned to the castle (very much alive) he literally died of heartache when he heard what had happened.

Back to the Earls of Warwick

King Henry II made alterations on the castle in the 12th century, but he returned the castle to the Beaumont family not long after he’d taken it. Why? Because the Earls of Warwick had been supporters of his mother, Empress Matilda, during the Anarchy of 1135 – 1154. You can read more about the Anarchy in the story about Oxford Castle. During the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453), the castle became a stone stronghold. During the Second Barons’ War (1264 – 1267) the castle was besieged by Simon the Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. The castle’s owners, William de Maudit, the 8th Earl of Warwick, and his countess were taken to Kenilworth Castle. They were held there until a ransom was paid. William de Maudit died in 1267 and the castle, including the title, passed on to his nephew William de Beauchamp.

Warwick Castle - kodachrome25 via Getty Images
kodachrome25 via Getty Images

The Beauchamp family

Warwick Castle remained in the Beauchamp family for 180 years. The line of the Warwick Earls continued. In 1312, Piers Gaveston, the 1st Earl of Cornwall, was imprisoned and later executed by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick. According to him, Gaveston had stolen the Royal treasure. Under the Beauchamp family, Warwick Castle underwent most changes. The line of the family ended when Anne de Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick, died. Then the castle passed on to the Neville family.

Warwick the Kingmaker

So sorry for the extensive history lesson, but you must admit it’s pretty cool. Next owner of Warwick Castle was Richard Neville. He became the next Earl of Warwick through his wife. Richard Neville was a bit of a rebellious type, especially against King Edward IV. He even had the king imprisoned at Warwick Castle in 1469! Neville attempted to rule in the Kings’ name, but was forced to release him because of constant protests. This event gave him the nickname ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.

Neville was later killed in the Battle of Barnet in 1471, while fighting King Edward IV during the War of the Roses (1455 – 1487). The castle then passed to Neville’s son-in-law, George Plantagenet: 1st Duke of Clarence. This was a branch of the English monarchy (1154 – 1485). But, he was executed in 1478 and the castle and its lands passed on to Edward Plantagenet. He was only two years old.

Warwick Castle 1 - photocluster via Getty Images
photocluster via Getty Images

Poor Edward Plantagenet

Having royal blood during that period wasn’t a good thing. To make sure Edward Plantagenet never gained the throne, he was placed under attainder. When he got older, he was even imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was executed for high treason in 1499 for conspiring his escape with ‘Pretender’ Perkin Warbeck. Edward was the last of the Earls of Warwick. At least the first line. A second and even a third line of Earls were later formed.

What happened after this?

After Edward’s imprisonment and death, the castle remained in care of the Crown from 1478 until 1547. John Dudley was granted with the second creation of the title. He was also granted the castle and its grounds. By the time he got it, the castle wasn’t in a good shape. Dudley didn’t initiate any repairs. His family died out after the 3rd Earl of Warwick.

Colin Howley via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0
Colin Howley via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Murder at Warwick Castle

In 1601, Warwick Castle was granted to Sir Fulke Greville (Lord Brooke) by King James I. He did care about the castle and renovated it into a comfortable country house. Greville had a loyal servant, Ralph Haywood. When Haywood discovered that Greville had taken his name out of his will, he got furious. He stabbed him on 30 September 1628. Haywood immediately regretted his crime and slit his own throat. He died at the spot. Poor Greville wasn’t so lucky. His doctor insisted on packing his wound with mutton fat. This enlongated his life, but the pain was unbearable. Greville died a month later in the Watergate Tower.

The Gunpowder Plot

In 1605, Warwick Castle was robbed by Guy Fawkes’ comrades as they fled London after the Gunpowder Plot. The castle was under repair back then, so they were able to steal supplies and horses. They didn’t stay at Warwick Castle but fled to Holbeche House. They were captured later.

Armoury collection - Paul Tomlinson via Flickr CC BY-2.0
Armoury collection – Paul Tomlinson via Flickr CC BY-2.0

The English Civil War

The death of Sir Fulke Greville didn’t end the unrest at the castle. Greville’s son, Robert Greville, prepared for attacks on the castle during the 1st English Civil War (1642 – 1646). Greville was a Parliamentarian. Warwick Castle was besieged by the Royalists on 7 August 1642. Greville wasn’t at home at that moment. The siege was lifted again later that month. This was the turning point, however. Warwick Castle once again served as a prison. The Ceasar’s and Guy’s Towers were used to put prisoners of the Battle of Edgehill away. And later also to imprison prisoners from the Second English Civil War and those from the Battle of Worcester.

The Greville family

Warwick Castle remained in ownership by the Grevilles until 1978! They were given the third and final creation of the title ‘Earls of Warwick’. The owners always allowed visitors to stay at the castle. Elizabeth I visited Warwick Castle in 1572 and left her riding saddle and handkerchief here. Queen Victoria visited the castle in 1858. The whole town was invited to participate in the festivities. But, somehow the Earl closed the castle to the public in 1885. This caused great consternation in the town. Why he did this is unclear. It soon re-opened again and by 1900 it even had a ticket office.

Paul Tomlinson 1 via Flickr CC BY-2.0
Paul Tomlinson via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Fun facts about Warwick Castle

I don’t know about you, but I just love facts. For instance, did you know Warwick Castle had a menagerie? It housed rare and exotic animals. Even a baby elephant! And did you know the menagerie’s emu was a cheeky “little” animal? Once it chased a bishop across the castle grounds. That must have been hilarious. In 1871, the castle’s main hall was completely destroyed by a fire. No one got killed and the main hall was completely restored after this. The castle has had 36 owners through the centuries. Three of which were female. Eleven of the 36 owners were under the age of 20 when they inherited the castle. At least three owners were killed in battle, two were executed and one of murdered. And yes, the castle is indeed haunted.

The ghosts of Warwick Castle

The Watergate Tower isn’t nicknamed the Ghost Tower for nothing. It is haunted by Sir Fulke Greville who tragically met his end at the hands of his manservant. His moans can still be heard in this tower and various witnesses claim they have seen his figure stepping out of his portrait.

Paul Tomlinson via Flickr CC BY-2.0
Paul Tomlinson via Flickr CC BY-2.0

Vicious black dog

The castle is also haunted by a dog with glowing red eyes. A long time ago, when the castle served as a prison, a woman named Moll Bloxham was held prisoner here. She was accused of stealing. Bloxham was publicly punished and while she underwent her punishment, she cursed the castle. Rumour had it that Moll Bloxham was a witch. After she was released, Bloxham disappeared. But, a vicious black dog with glowing red eyes started to stalk the castle grounds. The towns’ people were terrified. The dog was eventually killed, but re-appeared as a ghostly dog. It continues to stalk visitors to this day.

Other ghostly phenomena

The ghost of a Japanese tourist is said to haunt the castle. He only appears to Japanese tourists and has a friendly nature. A malevolent spirit is said to lurk in the dungeon. People have been pushed and grabbed by this entity. He’s also blamed for extreme fluctuations in temperature and strange light anomalies. People also have the feeling of being watched. The dungeon is also believed to be the home of an Elemental spirit. Growls are often heard here. Throughout the castle footsteps and disembodied voices are heard. High pitched screams are heard coming from the castle’s oubliette. Mediums blame the castle’s location for all the paranormal activity. It is said to have been built on top of several leylines. These increase the paranormal activity.

Jousting tournament - Dark Dwarf via Flickr CC BY-ND-2.0
Jousting tournament – Dark Dwarf via Flickr CC BY-ND-2.0

Warwick Castle today

In 1978, Warwick Castle was sold to the Tussauds Group and later purchased by the Blackstone Group which merged it with Merlin Entertainments. In 2001, Warwick Castle was declared one of Britain’s Top 10 Historic Houses and Monuments by the British Tourist Authority. Other places in this list include the Tower of London, Stonehenge and Edinburgh Castle. Picnic’s are allowed on the estate and events such as a falcon show, archery displays and jousting events are held. The castle has an impressive armoury collection on display. It’s certainly worth a visit and perhaps you’ll run into Sir Fulke Greville or the Black Dog.

Cover photo:
Sources: Wikipedia, evanevanstours.com, great-castles.com and hauntedhappenings.co.uk
Address: Warwick CV34 4QU, United Kingdom

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