The site of Warwick Castle has a history that stretches way back to the year 914 when an Anglo-Saxon Burh was established by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great. Throughout the next 1200 years, this plot of land and the buildings erected upon it have played an integral part in many major happenings of English History. Some castles in the UK are still the residences of the aristocratic families who have owned them for generation upon generation while some are now corporate-owned tourist attractions. Unfortunately Warwick Castle is the latter but is owned by the famous Tussaud’s group who have created well-researched and engaging displays showing life as lived at Warwick throughout the centuries.
Key Facts about Warwick Castle
- Warwick Castle is located in the town of Warwick in Warwickshire, England.
- Built in the 12th century, the Medieval stone castle was developed from an original wooden structure built by William the Conqueror in 1068.
- Owned by the Beaumont, Beauchamp, Neville, Plantagenet, Dudley and Greville Families, Warwick Castle was sold to Merlin Entertainments, owner of Madame Tussauds in 1978.
A Brief History of the House
Situated on the bend of the River Avon, Warwick Castle was built throughout the 12th and 13th century taking the form of a shell keep with all of its buildings located within a curtain wall. The original wooden motte-and-bailey castle erected by William the Conqueror survives to this day on a mound of land behind the castle.
The first owner of Warwick Castle, Henry de Beaumont was made the first Earl of Warwick in 1088. What follows is four centuries of challenges to the throne, changing alliances, imprisonments, executions and war. The Beauchamp family and later the Neville family were significant figures in baronial England and were credited with playing a key role in the game of thrones that typified the English Middle Ages. Warwick Castle was a key stronghold at the centre of every great alliance and treachery and had to be fortified against its enemies.
Huge modifications and extensions of the stone castle were made by the Beauchamp family from 1330 to 1360. The castle’s defences were enhanced with an outer wall secluding its entire length from the nearby town, the addition of a fortified gateway (barbican) and a gatehouse as well as three towers known as Caesar’s Tower, Guy’s Tower and the Watergate Tower.
The last of the Beauchamp line was Anne de Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick. Following the countess’s death, Warwick Castle passed by inheritance to Richard Neville, known in his later years as the ‘Kingmaker’. After deposing not one but two kings during the War of the Roses Neville rebelled against King Edward IV, imprisoned him in Warwick Castle and took it upon himself to rule England in the King’s name. Eventually Neville released the King and later met his end at the Battle of Baronet, ceding Warwick Castle to the crown.
Under the care of the crown the castle was repaired and King Richard III ordered the construction of the Bear and Clarence towers, designed as artillery bases and independent strongholds from the rest of the castle. Warwick Castle today has retained and embellished its appearance during medieval times. Visitors can see recreations of the castle’s torture chamber, dungeon, armouries and stables as well as explore original turrets, ramparts and the notorious haunted tower.
In 1604, King James I awarded Warwick Castle to Sir Fulke Greville, who turned the military stronghold into a country house and restored various parts of the castle in a magnificent Jacobean style. Enjoying the fruits of his labour didn’t last long as Fulke Greville was murdered in the castle by his servant who is said to have been enraged by the discovery that he had been left out of Fulke Greville’s will. His ghost is said to have haunted the castle tower ever since.
Next under the ownership of Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke and known parliamentarian, Warwick Castle came under siege from Royalist forces during the English Civil War. Following yet another period of unrest and a long period of abandonment the castle was given to Francis Greville, 8th Baron Brooke who employed capability Brown to landscape the castle’s gardens and Italian painter Canaletto to paint the castle’s interiors.
The Georgian era is the next period of history immortalised within Warwick Castle’s many walls with a whole suite of reception rooms decorated in 18th century tapestries and furnishings. A bedroom was decorated especially for a visit from Queen Anne in 1704 although she never actually turned up. The residential and primarily Victorian part of the castle contains a dining room, chapel and Great Hall which features the celebrated Kenilworth Buffet, an epic carving depicting Queen Elizabeth I’s legendary arrival at Kenilworth Castle to meet her admirer, Dudley.
The final moment in Warwick’s history to be preserved in a tableau of authentic interiors and waxworks is the Edwardian ‘royal weekend party’, which consists of a display of dinner guests based on an authentic 1898 guest list including the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of Devonshire and Marlborough and their wives.
In 1978, Warwick Castle was purchased by entertainment company the Tussauds Group and has operated as a tourist attraction ever since. The castle is a scheduled ancient monument and grade I listed building and as such is protected against unauthorised changes.
Why is Warwick Castle Famous?
Warwick Castle and its long line of powerful and influential owners has had a part to play in all of the major English conflicts between the 13th and 20th centuries. Created as a result of the Norman Conquest, Warwick Castle has seen action in the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War and remained standing. With over 36 individual owners over the years, the castle has seen major renovations and alterations over the last 950 years and now exists as a popular historical tourist attraction.
Featured in TV and Film
- Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger (2012)
- The Virgin Queen (2005) TV Mini-series
- Magnificent Monuments (2000) TV Series
- Macbeth (1997)
- King Ralph (1991)
- Antiques Roadshow (1979) TV Series
- The Back Rose (1950)
- Prince Valiant (1954)
- Marc Morris (2012) Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain
- Dan Jones (2013) The Plantagenets
- Warwick Frances Evelyn Mayna (2013) Warwick Castle and Its Earls, from Saxon Times to the Present Day
- Llewelyn Jewitt (2013) Warwick Castle: A Nineteenth Century Perspective
- Sushila Anand (2009) Daisy: The Life and Loves of the Countess of Warwick
Warwick Castle is open to the public all year round but opening times vary depending on the day and events scheduled. A standard adult ticket costs £18 and a child ticket costs £15.60. Warwick Castle is located just 40 minutes drive from Birmingham International Airport. If travelling by car used the M40 motorway and exit at junction 15, the castle is just two miles away. For sat nav use the postcode CV34 6AH. If travelling by rail from London use Warwick Station which is one mile from the castle. A direct train line is also available from Birmingham Snow Hill.
For more information view the website www.warwick-castle.com