Bristol castle is an iconic landmark that has remained a central feature of the city’s skyline for centuries, while also providing protection against invaders. This article explores some of the lesser-known facts about the castle and its past.
The first notable mention of Bristol Castle is in 1173 when it was granted to Robert Fitzharding by Henry II. The castle remained in his family’s hands until the 14th century when it passed to Earl of March through marriage with Elizabeth de Bohun, a descendant of Fitzharding. In the early 15th century, ownership of the castle passed to Richard, Duke of York, who leased it to the City Corporation.
The castle was originally built from wood but was rebuilt in stone by Henry de Beauchamp in 1380 and became a rectangular fortification. During the late 15th century tensions between England and France increased and as part of a national defence strategy, Bristol Castle was strengthened by Mary I. The castle played an important role during the Civil War in 1642-1645 when occupying Roundheads were besieged for nine months by Royalist forces. This made Bristol Castle one of Britain’s longest sieges.
In the mid 18th century, Bristol Castle was converted into a prison and many famous individuals were imprisoned there, including William Blake, who wrote parts of Jerusalem in the castle’s former chapel. The castle continued in a prisoner capacity until 1872 when it ceased to be used as a prison. Instead it was used for military and colonial recruitment purposes. The prison was restored in 1983 by English Heritage and is still owned by them whereas the rest of the castle is owned by Bristol City Council. The castle’s banqueting hall houses five paintings that were hidden at Tintern Abbey during the English Civil War before being recovered around 50 years ago.
For more information on Bristol Castle see http://www.bristolcastle.com
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