History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Medieval earthwork defences
HistoryIn the turbulent aftermath of the Norman Conquest the new Norman lords of England needed to control their new territory. William the Conqueror ordered a system of earthwork defences constructed at Stafford to keep the rebellious natives in check. In 1100 the Norman lord Robert de Toeni (Robert of Stafford) built a timber fortress atop the high motte, with a pair of large bailey enclosures to house secondary buildings and a new settlement outside the baileys, protected by yet another earthwork enclosure. In total the castle defences covered 14 acres.
For the next few centuries the fortunes of the Stafford family were linked to the castle and town.
When Ralph Stafford became the 1st Earl of Stafford in 1347 he had the earlier timber structures rebuilt in stone, with a large keep on top of te motte. He added the battlements a year later, after receiving permission to crenellate from the king.
Henry's granddaughter, Elizabeth I, came to Stafford Castle in 1575, and she and her court were entertained for dinner. Subsequent generations of Staffords let the castle decline in favour of other residences. Then in 1610 the crown seized the castle as security for debts amassed by Edward Stafford. Edward died here in 1625, and his widow, Lady Isabel, continued to occupy the castle as late as 1634. Parliament captured the castle in 1643 and destroyed the defences so it could not be used against them. Seventeenth century diarist Celia Fiennes wrote that the castle 'is now ruinated and there only remains in the hill the fortification trenches that are grown over with green ...'
VisitingStafford Castle is quite well signposted from major roads around the town. Even though I was following my trusty satnav I would have found the castle just by following brown tourist signs. Though the castle site is just east of the busy M6, the site seemed quiet, like a peaceful enclave of woods and fields on the outskirts of the town.
From the visitor centre a gate gives access to woodland, with a trail leading past the earthworks that are all that remain of the outer castle defences. Another trail leads away from the castle towards the site of the former medieval village, now buried beneath the fields. The trails around the site are arranged in rough sequence, so you can follow a walk through time, from the late 11th century to the present day.
As for the castle, it is a curious mix of original medieval stonework and later restoration. Every time I found myself thinking, 'oh, its just a folly', I'd see another example of original medieval construction. Enough original detail remains to make the castle a very striking building.
The castle is open year round, though hours are limited in winter. Entry is free, though there may be a charge for special events.
About Stafford Castle
Address: Newport Road, Stafford, Staffordshire, England, ST16 1DJ
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On the north side of Newport Road (A518), on the western edge of Stafford. Take J13 or J14 off the M6. Well signposted.
Website: Stafford Castle
Phone: 01785 257698
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Stafford, St Mary's Church - 1.3 miles (Historic Church)
Ancient High House - 1.4 miles (Historic Building)
Shugborough - 5.5 miles (Historic House)
Weston Park - 9.3 miles (Historic House)
Boscobel House - 9.6 miles (Historic Building)
Chillington Hall - 9.9 miles (Historic House)
White Ladies Priory - 10.2 miles (Abbey)
Talbot Chapel - 11 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Stafford Castle: