How is it December already?! I’m starting to feel a little festive as the countdown begins, and one of the things I love in England at Christmas time is the way lots of old stately homes and castles ‘get dressed’ for Christmas. I’ve always loved the saying – I remember when I was young my Granny asking if the ‘church was dressed for Christmas yet?’. I thought…why would a church get dressed. But ever since, I’ve enjoyed historic places wearing their Christmas clothes.
This year, one such place I visited was Tamworth Castle. Tamworth dates back to the Anglo Saxon times, and visiting it in its Christmas dress was even more lovely!
Anglo Saxon Royal Palace
When the Anglo Saxons arrived in England, one of the kingdoms they formed was Mercia – what is now the West Midlands. It was one of the most powerful Anglo Saxon kingdoms, and Tamworth was its capital. Tamworth became the chief residence of Mercian King Offa in the late 700s, and there is evidence of a wooden structure being here in the 700-900s.
One of the most amazing legacies of the Anglo Saxon period in Tamworth is the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold and silver ever found. It consists of almost 4,600 items and metal fragments, amounting to a total of 5.1 kg of gold, 1.4kg of silver and 3,500 pieces of jewellery! The hoard dates back to 650-675, and was discovered in 2009. Most of this hoard resides in the Birmingham Museum, but small displays of it remain at Tamworth Castle. It’s amazing the beauty and detail in these ancient treasures.
The motte and bailey castle, elements of which you can still see today, was built in around 1070. The main medieval families it belonged to were The Marmions and The Frevilles. In 1257 King Henry III even visited the castle, and in 1330 King Edward III also visited Tamworth.
Many features of the Medieval Castle still exist to explore today, including the Armoury, Dungeons, Great Hall and Tower, all of which you can visit and explore.
Tudor, Georgian and Victorian Home
In Tudor times, the Ferrers’ family owned Tamworth Castle for nearly 300 years, from 1423 to 1681. They transformed the castle from a fortress to a grand family home; even building the banquet hall for entertaining and as a display of wealth.
In the early seventeenth century the Ferrers’ family were rewarded for their loyal service to the crown with three visits by King James I in 1619, 1621 and 1624. The new Tudor buildings comfortably accommodated a royal retinue in grandeur, and many of these features can still be seen today.
During the English civil war in the 1640s (a fight between people who believed in The King having all the power, and Parliamentarians who believed Parliament should have control), the castle was garrisoned for Charles I and later the castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians, set on ending Tamworth’s royalist seat of control – it succeeded and was no longer a place with royal associations.
In to the 1700s and the castle was owned by the Townshend Family, and then in 1867 the castle transferred to The Cookes who were wealthy textile manufacturers. The Castle was then sold to the local council and has been a museum since 1899.
Getting to Tamworth
Tamworth sits in roughly the middle of England, and the closest major city is Birmingham. Nottingham and Derby are also close – about 30-45 minutes from Tamworth. Tamworth also has a train station, which you can get to from London Euston train station directly in 1hr, so it makes for a good half day trip from the capital (and a very quiet, lesser known spot to visit too!).
What do you think of Tamworth Castle in its Christmas dress? I found it such a fascinating mix of history from all eras and an absolutely wonderful way to spend a few hours. Happy December everyone and I hope you’re all feeling festive.