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An English Heritage Site


Farleigh Hungerford Castle, Somerset

Click on any of the images to see a larger version. All images were taken prior to DSLR camera.

 

Outer Gate House

 

 

A view from the Kitchens

Overview

This castle started off life as a Manor House for the Montfort family. It was sold to Sir Thomas Hungerford  around 1369-70. He converted it into a square castle with large corner towers surrounded by a moat. In the early 15th Century his son Sir Walter Hungerford enlarged the property to include an outer court and the parish church, which he used as a chapel. The Hungerford family occupied the castle for 200 years, until it was sold to overcome some family debts. By the 17th century it had fallen into ruin.

It was bought by the Houltons of Trowbridge in 1730 and it remained theirs until 1891 when they sold it to Lord Donington the husband of Baroness Hungerford, but before long it was sold to Lord Carins who in 1915 asked the Commissioner of HM Works (now English Heritage) to become, and who still are, the guardians.

Cobbled walk to the Chapel entrance. Part of the buildings on the right is the Priest House which now contains the Museum with many artefacts which used to be displayed in the chapel.

History

The Castle (then a Manor House) and accompanying village started out known as Farleigh Montfort after the first family to occupy this part of Somerset. This was until the 14th Century when it was sold twice, the second time to Sir Thomas Hungerford.

Sir Thomas was a knight and Sherrif  as well as being the first Speaker of the House of Commons. Without bothering to seek the permission of the King, he proceeded to fortify the house and had completed the work by about 1380 AD. It was built to be impressive, to show strength, power and endow the owner with presence. But also the aim was to appear, even when 'new' that the owner was of the old money ranks. Thomas Hungerford, was a new kid on the block but aspired to move in the old established circles.

In 1383, he was pardoned for his "oversight" of not getting permission to fortify and the fortifications he built are those of the lower portion, what was to become the inner ward. At each corner of the original castle was a large round tower and within the inner court yard numerous buildings. Subdividing the south curtain wall was the original gate house and draw bridge spanning a deep steep stone line defensive ditch. 

Sir Thomas lived in the new castle until his death in 1398. He had favoured the local church by building on to it a chapel dedicated to St Anne where he was laid to rest. His widow died in 1412 and lies beside him.

On Sir Thomas' death his son Sir Walter Hungerford, became the owner of the castle. He was a distinguished soldier and also Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1426 he was summoned to the House of Lords, as Baron Hungerford, and it was from this time that Farleigh became known as Farleigh Hungerford. Sir Walter enlarged the castle by adding an curtained wall to create an Outer Court, and this enclosed the parish church. He also endowed two chantries and built a house for the priests to the east of the church, which now houses the museum.

NorthWest Tower

 

A view from inside one of the 4 towers.

OS map of the area showing the location of Farleigh Hungerford.

South-East Tower

The Castle Chapel

Originally this was the Parish church and when it became enclosed by the Outer walls added by Sir Walter it became the Hungerfords private chapel of St Leonard and a new parish church was built out side the castle wall for the local parishioners.

What is interesting about this small ex-parish church is the fact that it remains to a large extent as it was in medieval times, unlike many parish churches that were renovated by the Victorians.

Wall paintings can be seen as well as the original wrought iron railings around the tomb. Beneath the private chapel, is a crypt occupied by the decedents of the Hungerford family.

St Leonard Chapel with the Outer Gatehouse behind.

Some of the tombs of the Hungerford family.

One of the many painted Chapel Windows.

Chapel Wall Painting c1440

Sir Walter Hungerford died in 1449. The history of the Hungerfords and the deeds carried out at the castle are colourful and were at times sinister including murders and prisoners held with little food are just two instances within the life of the castle.

During the Civil War the heir to the castle, Sir Edward, commanded the local forces of Wiltshire for Parliament in 1642-45, while his half brother John, was a Royalist, and so was put in charge of a garrison at Farleigh late in 1644. The garrison was dependent on Bristol, and on the 15th September 1645, four days after Prince Rupert had surrendered Bristol, Sir Edward reduced Farleigh, apparently without bloodshed. What followed was a period of uncertainty for the castle as the Hungerfords swayed between Royalist and commonwealth tendencies. In the end it was raided by  the Government and arms and armour were seized.

In 1686 the castle was sold because of financial difficulties incurred by gambling by the then heir. By 1701 it was in a ruin state. Since it has been owned by the Houltons of Trowbridge from 1730-1891, and in 1891, Lord Donington, whose wife was Baroness Hungerford, but before long it was sold  to Lord Cairns, who in 1915 put it in the guardianship of the Commissioner of Works. Now English Heritage have guardianship of the property and it is open to visitors most days.

Farleigh Hungerford Castle has had a colour history and although mainly a ruin today, the audio tour brings the site into your imagination and tells you the story of its past. The Chapel is still fully intact and is a delight to view although a little chilly. The museum has a model of what it is believed to have looked like as well as information boards and some costumes and amour from the period. It is well worth a visit.

Click on any of the above images to see a larger version. All images were taken prior to DSLR camera.


Planning Grid

Location:

Farleigh Hungerford Castle, Somerset

Grid Reference

ST 801576 - OS Map 173

Map Link:

Getting there:

In Farleigh Hungerford, 3.5 miles W of Trowbridge on A366.

Access:

Car park is just past the main entrance through the Outer Gatehouse.

Parking:

It has it's own free car park nearby.

Facilities:

Audio Tour,  Toilets, Shop, snacks from shop, picnics allowed in grounds.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Remains of medieval fortress, castle chapel and its wall paintings and Priests House which contains a little museum of artefacts and costumes.

What to take:

Camera, Tripod

Nature Highlights:

Nearby the River Frome and a weir

Best Times to Visit:

Out of main summer season when it may be quieter of visitors. Main castle ruins are not covered so need a dry day.

Address:

Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset

Postcode:

BA2 7RS

Telephone:

01225 754026

E-mail:

 

Website:

www.english-heritage.org.uk/farleighhungerford

Opening times:

1 Apr -30 Jun and 1st-30 Sept daily 10am to 5pm

1Jul-31 Aug daily 10am to 6pm;1st-31 Oct daily 10am to 4pm

1 Nov-20 Mar Sat-Sun 10am to 4pm

Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan

Charges:

English Heritage Members - Free; Non-Members Adults 3.50; Concessions 2.60; Children 1.80

Photo Restrictions:

No commercial photography is allowed in all their grounds, it is not permitted in some buildings for conservation purposes, usually a no photography symbol is present on entry to the building where this restriction is in place.

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Grounds via impacted gravel, tarmac, paved and earth paths and fairly smooth grass. Some cobbled areas. Wheelchair access confined to top lawns. Chapel and Priests House ground floor only.
Special Needs Facilities: Disabled toilets. Disabled car park 20m from entrance on a tarmac surface.
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: No dogs allowed on site

Other useful websites:

 

CIN Page Ref:

Farleigh

Date Updated: 02/08

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