Berkhamsted Castle was one of the most important early Norman castles. Situated just 30 miles north of London, it provided protection from any forces approaching from the north of England.
It is probably most famous for being the location of the English submission to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. William’s half-brother, Robert of Mortain built a timber motte-and-bailey castle here just a few years later. The conical mound that survives today was the motte, on top of which there would have been a wooden building (keep). Beneath this was the bailey, a
timber walled open space. Both the motte and bailey were surrounded by a defensive water-filled ditch which is still visible at the site.
When Thomas Becket, King Henry II’s right hand man, was granted the land in 1155 he rebuilt the castle including the large stone wall, the remains of which still stand. Almost 10 years later the castle was taken away from Becket after he was accused of embezzling (stealing) money from the King.
Berkhamsted castle did not face much military activity and was for the most part an impressive home for Royal residents, however in 1216 the castle was besieged for two weeks by Prince Louis of France. Having been battered with huge stones from siege weapons the 9-year-old, King Henry III surrendered the castle.
However, during WWI the Castle once again saw military activity when it was a designated an emergency landing site for the Navy’s airships and acted as the Officers’ Mess for the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. More recently the Castle has hosted numerous military events, including a concert by the Band of H.M. Royal Marines in 1972.
The Castle remains under the ownership of the Prince of Wales in right of the Duchy of Cornwall. His Royal Highness holds the rank of Field Marshal in the Army, Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy and Marshal of the Royal Air Force, as well as acting as Colonel in Chief / Commodore / Air Commodore to various regiments / squadrons.
Why not visit the castle grounds and see the castle remains for yourself? Find out more information and how to visit here.
Looking for some Castle related acitvities?
Build a castle from cardboard boxes, decorate it with style fit for royalty and defend it from Prince Louis’ forces. Here is some inpiration but share your own with us on facebook and instagram #dacorumheritage #armedforcesday
If all your spare cardboard has been recycled try building a lego castle, or make a fort with sheets and pillows and defend your royal home from invaders
Download this colouring in sheet depicting Berkhamsted Castle. You might want to draw some soldiers defending the keep, or some attacking forces hurling stones at the walls. Or perhaps you want to draw a more peaceful scene with a market in the courtyard.
Make your own catapult using a wooden spoon tied to an empty toilet roll holder. Experiment with different size spoons to see which one can catapult some screwed up paper the furthest distance.