Today we’re exploring 7 amazing castles in Somerset in the South West of England, including Sham Castle, Daws Castle and Taunton Castle.
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The Best Castles in Somerset
Nunney Castle can be found in Somerset near Wells and was built in the 13th century by Queen Isabella. The castle is surrounded by lush green countryside and is only a 20 minute drive from Bristol airport or train station!
Today, Nunney Castle hosts weddings, conferences, corporate events and even ghost hunting tours for those brave enough to go on their own adventure at night time! All these options make Nunney Castle an excellent choice for any occasion you might be looking for.
One of the most popular Castles in Somerset is Dunster Castle – a fortified manor house built by the Normans in Dunster, Somerset. The site was originally occupied by a Saxon settlement but it was soon taken over by the Normans. The castle features three consecutive stone walls with an inner courtyard and dates back to 1067.
The castle is located on a cliff (Named the East Cliff) above the Bristol Channel and across from West Bay. This location makes it perfect for defense against any enemy, including pirates and invaders. It was first built by Roger de Montgomery in 1067.
The first stone wall at Dunster Castle was started in 1067 with a wooden keep, this wall was called a “curtain wall” because it surrounded the bailey. The curtain walls were built to withstand attacks from enemies including rival Lords and Raiders who wanted to take over or besiege the castle for its goods.
In the 1100’s, a stone wall was built around the inner bailey of the castle. This wall was much stronger that its wooden predecessor and some parts of it still stand today. The third and final wall that was built at Dunster Castle is called “The Outer Bailey” and is positioned outside of the previous two walls. These walls were built in 1180 by either Bishop Jocelin or William de Moyon but experts aren’t quite sure . This means that all three walls have stood for more than 700 years!
Daws Castle is believed to have been built in the 14th century by William Daws, who was a wool merchant, and it’s one of the oldest inhabited castles in England. The earliest mention of it comes from 1324 and there is evidence that suggests inhabitants lived here as far back as 1200.
The castle sits on an ancient Roman site now marked by a series of stone steps that are thought to have been part of an amphitheater. In the 18th century these steps were said to be made with stones from nearby Bath Abbey, but later archaeologists debunked this theory and they were actually unearthed from Painswick quarries instead. The castle was heavily damaged when it was used for military training in the 17th century and it changed ownership several times throughout the 18th century. A new owner spent almost £35,000 restoring it between 1918 and 1922 and in 1975 Cirencester Borough Council bought the building to run as an arts center.
Farleigh Hungerford castle
In the 13th century, a wealthy merchant called Simon de Montfort from France had a fortress built at Farleigh. The castle was abandoned in 1471 when the Hungerford family lost their lands in the wake of an unsuccessful rebellion against Henry VII.
The site was excavated between 1977 and 1979 and found to contain one of the earliest known moats with two mounds on each side of it, possibly indicating that there were once buildings there. It has been thought that these structures may have been connected to a wooden bridge over the moat.
The castle ruins are now under custodianship of English Heritage who run regular tours and educational events on site.
Stogursey Castle is a Norman castle outside the village of Stogursey in Somerset that was built by Roger de Montgomery.
The earliest record of its existence is when it was besieged and captured during the Anarchy by King Stephen in 1143.
The castle passed through the hands of different nobles before being confiscated by King Henry VIII who subsequently sold it to Sir Thomas Poyntz in 1541.
Stogursey Castle remained with this family until 1671 when it passed to William Petty, 1st Earl of Shelburne, and has remained with their descendants since then.
The castle is a Grade I listed building and has been owned by the present Earl of Shelburne since 1972. The medieval and Tudor-era structure, which was extensively altered in the 16th century, is now lived in. The castle comprises a gatehouse, keep and curtain wall.
Sham Castle is a ruined Norman castle in the village of Sham, near Taunton in Somerset. The first fortification on the site was built by the Romans.
It was taken by Harold Godwinson after his victory at the Battle of Hastings and became one of his most important strongholds. It may have been given to Harold II as early as 1067 and would have been well established as an important stronghold by 1068, when it became a Royal Manor.
Somewhere between 1073 and 1087 the king appointed Robert FitzHarding, a local Norman nobleman, as castellan. He was succeeded by his son Roger by 1106, who in turn was succeeded by his sons Reginald and Hugh FitzRoger. The family held the lands until 1294 when the male line became extinct. In that year Henry de Audley gave them to Ralph de Beauchamp and his wife Margaret. She outlived him, and in 1328 gave them to her son John de Bohun, 1st Earl of Hereford, whose grandson Humphrey sold the castle to William de Pynkeney in 1329.
The last member of the Pynkney family died in 1419, and the castle passed to William Stourton. It remained in the Stourton family until 1628, when it was sold to Sir Edward Hungerford. His sons James and Robert were executed after the English Civil War and their lands were sequestrated by Parliament.
Over five hundred of their manors, including Sham Castle, were sold privately. The new owner abandoned it as a residence and it began to fall into ruin. In 1839 it came into the hands of Lord Clifford who restored it during 1845-46. In 1885, it was sold to Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock. It was the home of Cynthia Grenfell, who established a museum in the castle in 1919. In 1956, Sham Castle was transferred to her son Geoffrey Grenfell. It is now managed by The Landmark Trust and is open to visitors.
The castle is an example of what is known as a shell keep; that is the stone walls are only two or three feet deep and are little more than battlements surrounding an empty space.
The surrounding landscape has changed since the castle was built: the River Tone now runs away from, rather than towards the castle and its location is not as defensible as originally intended.
The keep can be visited free of charge on a guided tour and is one of the most easily accessible in England. The range and depth of features, including the secret passage, murder hole, priest’s chamber and latrines makes it unique in its class.
Taunton Castle is my favourite castle in Somerset. The building has gone under many different names like: Taunton Castle, FortRoyal, and Great House for many years. The current name of the castle is Taunton Tower and was given this name in 1842.
The building has gone under many different names like: Taunton Castle, FortRoyal, and Great House for many years. The current name of the castle is Taunton Tower and was given this name in 1842.
The castle was built in the late 13th century when Edward I came to power in England. Edward I had taken over from King John, and he had inherited the government of England from his father King Henry III. The first mention of the building being called Taunton Castle comes from 1293 when fortifications were ordered by Edward II to be built to protect against French attack.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about these Castles in Somerset. If you are interested in further reading then check out this article on these 5 amazing castles in Suffolk.
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