Whittington Castle (England)

Shropshire     See list of castles in Inghilterra

The broad outline of the site’s history is relatively well understood from the thirteenth century but the evidence for activity before this time is very sketchy. Despite the proximity of Oswestry hillfort and other prehistoric sites nearby, there is no evidence to suggest that the site of Whittington Castle was occupied in the prehistoric periods There are two references to a ‘castle’ at Whittington during the Anglo-Saxon period. In AD 785 and AD 893, which may relate to a fortified site in Whittington township. Whittington was listed in the Domesday Book as Wititone. At this time the crown and included eight corn farms, a mill and extensive woods held it but there is no mention of a castle.

The earliest structure on the site is assumed to be a simple motte and bailey castle with timber palisade, as there may be a reference to a strong tower being built as the motte. However, when the manor was confiscated by the king and granted to William Peverel of Dover there is no mention of a castle. The first definite mention of a castle at Whittington is for the year 1138 when it was recorded that the castle was fortified against Stephen. In 1173 Henry II granted aid to Roger de Powys for the repair of the castle.

In 1204 King John granted the Fitz-Warins (or Fitz-Warines /Fitz-Warrens) and they held the lordship until the death of the 11th Lord in 1420. The Fitz-Warins had substantial estates throughout England with land in several counties including Yorkshire, Lancashire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Gloucester and they also had a stone-walled castle at Alberbury which is 17km south of Whittington Castle. Alberbury Castle is situated on nearly level ground with no signs of any defensive ditches. The castle design has similar features to Whittington Castle with a rectangular keep, probably built about 1205 to 1215 and a later bailey wall probably built about 1220 to 1230.

A Licence to Crenellate was issued for Whittington Castle in 1221 and in 1222 the castle was repaired and fortified In 1223 the castle was besieged by the Welsh leader Llywelyn the Great. In 1265 it was one of several border castles given to Llewelyn Prince of Wales but it was restored to the Fulk-Warins in 1282. In 1375 the castle was reported to be in great need of repair although the Welsh in 1405 then apparently unsuccessfully attacked it.

In 1638 the castle and lordship was acquired by marriage by the family of the Lloyds of Aston Hall which is situated 4km south of Whittington and this family has retained possession of the castle up to the present day. A plan and field schedule of Whittington township dated 1778 shows that in that year the Lloyds owned over 500 acres of land and were the largest landowner in the township. In 1643 the castle was attacked with cannon by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. No restoration work was undertaken after this destruction and the inner bailey has been uninhabited ever since.

In 1760 one of the eastern towers of the inner bailey collapsed after a severe frost and some years later one of the northern towers and the western wall were demolished to repair the highway from Whittington to Halston Bridge. The northern tower that now remains was also undermined for the same purpose.

In the late 18th century the castle site was laid out as a fancy garden with pebble-laid walks and various brick structures. In 1809 a small tower, used for many years as a pigeon house was demolished and the stone used to repair the outer gatehouse towers.

A newspaper report dated 8th December 1841 describes the total destruction by fire of a range of farm buildings at Whittington castle. The range was described as forming two sides of a square and included wooden barns, stables and cow-houses. The newspaper report states that the wind carried the fire in the direction of the castle and several trees surrounding the ruins caught fire. The 1874b map of the area shows only a small square building where the large L-shaped buildings had previously been sited.

In 1878 a report on the castle ruins stated that the eastern side of the walled area was covered by earth and thick vegetation and part of the inside of the walled area was laid out as a garden. The gatehouse was apparently more accessible as the same report stated that its southern tower was in good condition whereas the northern half is nearly all destroyed. The ruinous state of the castle appears to have continued as in 1820 a large maple tree was reported to have been growing within the central keep.

In the late 1960s the earth and vegetation covering the inner bailey were cleared. In 1973 the northern outer gatehouse and possibly other parts of the structure were repointed at the instigation of the then Department of the Environment.

Images of the castle

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Useful infos

Latitude: 52.8735889
Longitude: -3.0024028
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Map of Whittington Castle