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Hartlebury Castle

Visited August 2013

Location Hartlebury, Worcestershire
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Hartlebury, approx. 1 mile
Parking Yes
Facilities Museum, Café, Gift Shop



Hartlebury is not a typical example of a castle, which I am sure you will agree as you look at the photos on this page. Although these days it is masquerading as a Gothic looking house with mock battlements to the front, it is actually the most important castle in Worcestershire and one time home of the wealthy Bishops of Worcester.







The castle has been owned by the Bishops of Worcester since the Saxon times, when the land was given over to them by Burgred, King of Mercia, as a ploy to get the Bishops to fortify the land and thus protect it from the Vikings who were proving problematic for the King.


The castle gradually grew in size and a moat was added  by Bishop Cantaulope in 1255. As the largest stronghold in the area it hosted King Edward I on his way to battle with the Welsh in 1282.  Queen Elizabeth I was another royal visitor and she brought with her an entourage of over 100 people which nearly rendered the bishop bankrupt.


It was the civil war which finally destroyed the ancient castle, the siege of 1646 lasted just two days and not a shot was fired- but afterwards the parliamentarians slighted the castle they had captured to prevent it being used against them in future.


It was Bishop Hurd who then rebuilt the castle in the 18th century, and the building we see today is the result of his work. He also collected books and today the Hurd library houses over 5000 volumes. 


In the 1950s Bishop Mervyn Charles Edwards donated the north wing of the castle to the county to house a museum, as he felt that he could not justify living in such a large property at a time when many people were still struggling with post-war hardship. The museum opened its doors in 1966,  for the first time in its long history  the castle had granted access to the public!





The castle today is in an odd situation- the Museum of Worcestershire is still housed in the north wing of the castle, and can be visited. The rest of the building is still owned by the Church Commission, but is currently for sale as it is no longer an official residence of the bishop. A charitable trust is trying to raise the money to buy the castle and maintain the Hurd library on the site. There is currently no access to the former bishops residence, apart from the great hall and saloon, which can be accessed through the museum. 


The lack of public access to the building made photography of the exterior difficult, hence the strange sideways shots. On the day we visited there was also a marquee in front of the castle, offering a further challenge for our official photographer (Dad).


The museum itself is very interesting, the highlights for us were the gypsy caravans, the Victorian school room and a display on highwaymen, with a talking highwayman model 'Your money or your life!'. There was a very good children's trail which involve hunting for things beginning with  each letter of the alphabet.





The old castle kitchen has been turned into a café, the food was good and very reasonable. There is also a woodland walk around the grounds with picnic tables, should you prefer to eat outside.





More info:  Hartlebury Castle

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