Hamstead Marshall Castles
Three Castles Together

Within Hamstead Park at Hamstead Marshall stand three, much eroded, castle mottes. Two of them are near the church and the original village. The other is half a mile to the east, standing near the old manor fishponds, which were stocked with Royal bream as early as 1230.

The suffix of the parish of Hamstead Marshal recalls the celebrated Marshal family who held the manor in Norman times. The two mottes near the church are almost certainly all that is left of their home. The more easterly of the two may have been the Newbury Castle mentioned in an early French journal. It was held for the Empress Matilda by John Marshal during the Civil War of King Stephen's Reign. Stephen besieged his men there for two months in 1153 and it was probably during this period that the unfinished motte near the fishponds was erected as a Royalist siege castle. When eventually overwhelmed by the King's forces, Marshal was forced to give up his son, William, as a hostage to ensure his good behaviour. Many times, Stephen threatened to kill poor William in many different ways, all of them horrible. The young lad survived though to become the Earl of Pembroke and Protector of England. He held many castles, Pembroke and Marlborough were probably the most significant, but Hamstead and Caversham were two of his principal residences: nestling in the Kennet & Thames Valleys, a mere horse-ride from London. He entertained Henry III at Hamstead in 1218.

The original castle at Hamstead was later replaced by a larger motte and bailey affair, less easily overlooked by the high ground to the south. It is suggested that this third castle was a very late example of a motte built by William's son, Gilbert, in the 1230s. Later, it seems to have been used as a Dower House by the family. Margaret, Countess of Lincoln, widow of another brother, Walter, lived there until her death in 1266. It was in Royal hands by the fourteenth century and Edward III stayed there several times in the 1350s. He was probably on hunting expeditions: the park had been stocked with deer a hundred years earlier.

 

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