Featured image of Wallingford Castle

The History of Wallingford Castle

LocationWallingford, County Oxfordshire, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes (April-September)
Owned byGovernment of UK
Official WebsiteWallingford Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Wallingford Castle is described as “one of the most powerful royal castles of the 12th and 13th centuries”. It is situated in Wallingford in the English county of Oxfordshire (historically Berkshire). The castle survived multiple sieges and wars like The Anarchy and The English Civil War, to name a few.

History of Wallingford Castle

The castle’s construction began around 1067 by a Norman baron named Robert D’Oilly, on the orders of William the Conqueror. The castle acted as an essential royal fortress since it was situated on the banks of River Thames and William wanted to control the Thames Valley. Wallingford was an integral part of his strategy, and he also built other castles at Oxford and Windsor. Robert D’Oilly, who started the castle’s construction, was also granted ownership of the other estates. The bond was further solidified when D’Oilly married the daughter of the former Saxon landholder. 

Throughout the 12th to 13th centuries, Wallingford became one of England’s most important royal fortresses. The castle has a history of being besieged many times, but that was never successful. The castle has had several owners over time; one was Empress Matilda. She was a significant owner as she held the castle alongside King Stephen during the Civil War. When Matilda escaped from Oxford Castle in 1141, she fled to refuge at Wallingford Castle, and that’s how she owned the castle for some time. The Lord of Wallingford was Brien FitzCount; he was a very harsh person. He built such a draconian prison inside the castle that the cries of tortured prisoners were audible even into the town. 

The castle was also owned by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and was later captured by Simon de Montfort in the Second Barons War. The castle is also famous for Henry III and his family being held hostage by De Montfort at Wallingford after the Battle of Lewes. When the castle was passed onto Edward II, his wife, Queen Isabella, used it to invade England and overthrow her husband. The castle finally fell into decay in the 15th century. Its building material was used to build the Windsor castle when King Charles I refortified the castle during the Civil War. The parliament captured the castle in 1646 after a 16-week siege. Parliament ordered the castle not to be used again, and defences were pulled down. The castle prison was still maintained up till the 18th century. The castle grounds are now open to visitors. 


Wallingford Castle
Wallingford Castle”, by Steve Daniels, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wallingford Castle is open to visitors in the daylight hours. The castle’s gardens are the best-preserved section of the buildings and the traditional Norman motte and bailey design. The castle bailey has a high conical mound topped by timber keep and secondary towers and is protected by a perimeter barrier. Robert D’Oilly, who constructed the building, also built a college of priests dedicated to St Nicholas within the castle walls. Today, St Nicholas’ College remains the best-preserved part of the castle after the castle gardens. 

Wallingford Castle is one of the best examples of Norman defence structures in England. It can be explored with an eye for history, not mere fascination. The castle is extensive, with massive earthworks and moat ditches. The castle has layers of defensive earthworks surrounding three vast bailey enclosures and a range of buildings with a striking motte surmounted by a central keep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who lived in Wallingford Castle?

Several people used the castle as their residence, including Empress Matilda and Richard, Earl of Cornwall. In 1231 Richard used the castle as his primary residence and built new State apartments. The castle was also seized by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, in 1264.

Who destroyed Wallingford Castle?

The castle was built during the reign of William the conqueror but was destroyed in the English Civil War. The castle was completely demolished in 1972 and declared a scheduled monument and a Grade I listed building.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
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