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 Castles of England - Berkeley Castle

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near Ham, Gloucestershire, England

Berkeley Castle is located in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. The Keep is the oldest part of the Castle (completed in 1153), During the Civil War in the 17th century a breach was made in the wall which can still be seen. There is a dungeon and holding cell in the Keep. The King's Gallery contains the cell and dungeon where King Edward II was imprisoned and murdered. The Picture Gallery has a collection of mainly Dutch paintings, and also sporting and hunting paintings. The Dining Room used to be the servants hall, but now displays Georgian silverware and family portraits. The Mediaeval Larders, Buttery and Kitchen have been changed little since 14th century. The arches on the walls show the positions of the early bread ovens. There is an underground passage from the Buttery to the castle well. The Great Hall and Armoury Screens dates from the fourteenth century, and displays fine series of tapestries and stained glass windows. The Grand Staircase displays portraits and Tudor embroidery.

The castle has many historic items that have been collected by members of the Berkeley family throughout the centuries, including Francis Drake's cabin chest, Queen Elizabeth I's bedspread, and the banner that the 4th Earl of Berkeley took to the Battle of Culloden. There are also many tapestries, paintings, ceramics and silverware. The castle is managed by the Berkeley Castle Charitable Trust, and most areas of the castle are now open to the public. The castle is surrounded by Elizabethan terraced gardens.

The castle was built by Robert Fitzharding in the 12th century. King Henry II ordered the construction to defend the Severn estuary and the Welsh border. The castle belongs to the Berkeley family, descendants of Robert Fitzharding, and has been in the same family for about 900 years. It is the oldest continuously-occupied castle in England after The Tower of London and Windsor Castle. King Edward II of England was held in the castle for 18 months, before being murdered in 1327. The cell where he is supposed to have been imprisoned can still be seen.During the English Civil War, the castle was captured in 1645 by Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, for the Parliamentarians. The walls were damaged by cannon fire, but the Berkeley family were allowed to retain ownership on condition that they never repaired the damage to the keep and outer bailey.

The Arts
Berkeley Castle was used for many scenes in the BBC television series The Ghost Hunter; and also in the first televised version of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Other Castles in the Area
  Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire
  Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire
  Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire
  Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire
  Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire
  Skenfrith Castle, Monmouthshire

Skenfrith Castle
Berkeley Castle. The main gateway into the courtyard of Berkeley Castle. The rounded wall to the left is the remains of the keep, built in the site of the original Norman Castle. The gap to the left was created after the Civil War to prevent it being used for fortification.

Photograph by David Stowell. Some rights reserved.  (view image details)

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