Barnard Castle: Beauchamp, Neville and Gloucester

dsc_0882Barnard Castle in County Durham has a long history of different ownership, dating back to the 11th century when it was founded by a Norman baron.

He was Guy de Balliol, a man who had fought at the Battle of Hastings alongside William the Conqueror in 1066.

(I wrote more about Barnard Castle’s early history here)

Today’s blog features the Beauchamp’s and the Neville’s, then closing with the Lordship of the Duke of Gloucester (Later Richard III)

Into the Keeping of the Beauchamp’s

In 1307,King Edward I granted the castle to Guy de Beauchamp, who later became the 2nddsc03608 Earl of Warwick.

After an acrimonious relationship with King Edward II, Guy de Beauchamp ended his days on the fringes of the court after executing the King’s favourite, Piers Gaveston in 1312.

He died in 1315.

Barnard Castle remained in the ownership of the Beauchamp family until 1446, when Henry Beauchamp, the 14th Earl of Warwick died without a male heir.

The castle initially passed to his 3 year old daughter Anne, but sadly she died. Therefore it came into the keeping of his sister Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick. She had married Richard Neville in 1436.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Maker of Kings

dsc_0872Anne Beauchamp became a substantial heiress after the death of Henry, inheriting many properties including Warwick castle.

Her husband Richard became the 16th Earl of Warwick by right of his wife and became a large land owner.

Richard Neville is remembered by history as the King Maker, the man who helped make Edward, Earl of March (later King Edward IV) King in 1461, and when he returned from exile in 1470 and returned King Henry VI to the throne.

(This post here goes into more detail about the rebellion of Warwick the King Maker.)

Richard Neville was killed in 1471 at the Battle of Barnet, and King Edward IV granted it to his youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

King Richard III and Barnard Castle

Richard, Duke of Gloucester married Anne Neville in 1472.

Looking up at the window put in by King Richard III
Anne Neville was the youngest daughter of Richard Neville and Anne Beauchamp, and may have known Barnard Castle in her youth.

It is also possible Richard spent time here as a child, having been placed in the keeping of Richard Neville during his formative years.

Richard and Anne made their principle residence at Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire, and it is also thought they enjoyed using Barnard as a residence.

dsc_0862This was evident in the fact that Richard was dedicated to improving the castle.

The residential part of the castle was improved with greater sanitation, and the Great Chamber next to the great hall had a mullioned window put in by Richard.

This was adorned by his symbol of the white boar, and this window must have allowed a wonderful view of the River Tees below.

Richard also gave a generous amount of money to the town’s church which led to it being much improved and enlarged, including the building of a new dsc_0859chancel arch. You can still see two figures today, one on either side of the arch.

They are thought to be of Richard and Anne, or Richard and Edward IV. (I hope to see this myself one day!)

In 1477-8, Richard founded a collegiate college, and it was thought to have been planned to support a Dean and 12 Priests. The college would have offered up prayers for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, but sadly it was never completed.

When Richard became King in 1483, he spent most of his time in the south. He did have a progress North in 1484 however, and visited Barnard Castle for the last time. He was killed in the Battle of Bosworth on the 23rd of August, 1485.

Barnard’s Final Years

dsc_0882After the death of King Richard, his mother in law Anne Beauchamp (who was back in sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey) was given the castle.

She in turn granted her estates to King Henry VII in the understanding that they would be returned to her family after her death.

This never happened, and Barnard remained in the ownership of the crown.

By 1603, the castle was falling into disrepair, and was sold to Sir Henry Vane in 1630. He is responsible for its ruin, pillaging the castle to rebuild his favoured home of Raby Castle.

His descendants gifted the castle to the crown in the 20th century and is now in the care of English Heritage.

In Closing

Barnard is full of rich history and is especially interesting to those who are interested in the 15th Century. Make sure you check that it is open before visting (unlike myself!)

I guess it just means a return visit for me in the future 🙂



Wikipedia – Barnard Castle
Ghostly Tyne and Wear by Rob Kirkup
Richard – Anne Beauchamp
Richard – Richard and Barnard Castle


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