Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire

The Berkeley family, who still live here, often site their occupation of Berkeley Castle to be the longest continuous occupation of any home by any family in Britain. This is a very hard boast to prove or disprove, but as the Berkeley's have lived here since around 1071 it is a boast which could well have more than a ring of truth about it!

The Castle was constructed as a fairly standard motte and bailey, by William FitzObern.  He was killed in 1071, by which point he was sub-leasing the Castle to a man named "de Berkeley". The only break in their ownership came after they supported King Stephen in the Anarchy.  When Henry II reached the throne the Castle was granted to Robert FitzHarding.  However, his son Maurice married the dispossessed heiress of the Berkeley family and the Castle came back into their hands.

However, it was during the non-Berkeley period that the keep was built (to plans by Henry II) at Berkeley, it is an odd sort of a keep with a shell keep which extends down the sides of the motte (like that at Farnham in Surrey).  The keep has a big hole in its side, inflicted during the Civil War (as per usual).

In 1327 King Edward II was brought to Berkeley Castle after being deposed for "safe keeping". One day in the chamber above the forebuilding his jailers, Sir John Maltravers and Sir Thomas Gurney visited the King and repeatedly thrust a red hot poker into his bowels from "below" so to speak repeatedly until the King was dead.

The Berkeley who owned the Castle at the time was Thomas (who also rebuilt nearby Beverston Castle).  He was absolved of any part in the horrific murder and was a favourite of Edward's son. In this period Berkeley Castle thrived and continued to be refashioned until well into Jacobean times - but the basic look of the Castle remains and it is without a doubt one of the most fascinating, if nothing else for its gruesome tale of murder, of all England's many Castles.

The Civil War arrived in 1645 and after a brief siege a hole was made in the side of the keep - this seems to have been the limit (thankfully) of the slighting that took place.

The Castle is open to the public during the summer and is still lived in, of course, by the Berkeley family some 900 years after they first moved in!

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