UK Travel Guide


Berkeley Castle

Description: This beautiful and historic castle, begun in 1117, still remains the home of the famous family who gave their name to numerous locations all over the world. notably, Berkeley Square in London, Berkeley Hundred in Virginia and Berkeley University in California. Scene of the brutal murder of Edward II in 1327 and besieged by Cromwell's troops in 1645, the castle is steeped in history. The state apartments contain magnificent collections of furniture, tapestries and rare paintings by, primarily, English and Dutch masters. Part of the famous Berkeley silver is on display in the dining room. Many other rooms are equally interesting, particularly the Great Hall where Barons of the Westcountry met in 1215 before going to Runnymede to force King John to put his seal to Magna Carta. Twenty four generations of Berkeleys have transformed a Norman fortress into the lovely home it is today, surrounded by terraced elizabethan gardens and sweeping lawns. Guillaume FitzOsbern, a commander in the Norman army that landed at Hastings in 1066, was created Earl of Hereford and charged with the task of guarding the western defences of the Conqueror's new kingdom. Part of his domain was the Saxon manor of Berkeley and he recognised the military value of the site with its commanding views over the River Severn and Welsh borders. There he erected a wooden stockade surrounding a keep on a natural hill which formed the bases Berkeley Castle. A more substantial stone structure was erected after the manor had been granted to the FitzHarding family, ancestors of the Berkeley family who have occupied the castle ever since. In 1295 Thomas, Lord Berkeley was summoned to attend Parliament and he is regarded as the 1st Baron Berkeley. His grandson, Thomas, held the castle when it received its most famous prisoner, Edward II, committed there in 1326 following the struggle for power in England. He was held in a dungeon deep within the castle until brutally murdered by Sir John Maltravers and Sir Thomas Gurney. It seems likely that Lord Berkeley played no part in the King's death as he was not in residence at the time.
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Notes: The castle is open to the public but times vary so call 01453 810 332 for details.