The site of Whittington Castle was an iron age farmstead with families living in thatched roundhouses. Animals were kept in the surrounding fields, and crops were grown.
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In the 1100s a Norman motte and bailey castle was built by William Peverel. Its purpose was to protect the English border from the Welsh. There was a timber tower set on a large earth mound with a lower outer courtyard. Natural marshlands further enhanced the defenses. Peverelís oldest daughter, Mellet, inherited the castle and married Warin de Metz of Lorraine. This was the beginning of the Fitzwarine line, resident in the castle until 1420.
The tower keep is 12th century. In 1223 the castle was rebuilt of stone with five towers around the inner bailey. It was occupied by Prince Llewellyn of Gwynedd in March 1223. After the occupation ceased Fulk Fitzwarine III extended the fortifications and defenses to further enhance its strength. The outer gatehouse, with its two towers, had a 42 foot long drawbridge leading to the drier land to the east. Remains of the moat, now home to wildfowl, are visible.
In 1320 Fulk Fitzwarine VI and his wife Eleanor transformed the castle from a fortress and garrison into a palatial home. The bailey contained a medieval pleasure ground with a viewing mount. The private garden, in addition to a relaxing retreat, provided flowers, herbs, and medicinal plants for household use.
In the 16th century an Elizabethan dwelling was added to the northern outer bailey gate-house tower. During the civil war the castle inhabitants were loyal to the Royalists. Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads took the castle by force in 1643. In the 17th century a cottage was built into the north gatehouse tower. It is now a Grade 1 listed building. In the inner bailey the features of a great hall, keep, well, and dovecote are visible today.
At the time of Queen Mary II ownership of the castle was granted to Fitz-Alan, Earl of Arundel. Later it was sold to Francis William Albany Esq, a London merchant whose Manor and Estate was Fernhill. When his granddaughter Sarah married Thomas Lloyd Esq of Aston the two estates were united. The last joint owners were Mrs A Hamilton-Hill and Lady Newborough of the Lloyd lineage. The Castle is now owned and run by the local community.
Whittington, Oswestry, Shropshire, on the A495
Tel. 0 1691 662 397
Open: Castle and tea-room: March-Oct, Wed-Sun, 10am-4pm; Nov-Feb, Thu-Sun, 10am-4pm; grounds are open site
Tea-room; parking (small fee), second-hand bookshop; free entry
Web: Whittington Castle
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard