Wallingford Castle

n its day Wallingford Castle was one of the most important castles in England. It was a motte and bailey castle located in the corner of a village enclosure on the west bank of the Thames where it was possible to cross the river. Very little of the castle remains today. Records indicate that the site was attacked by the Danes in 1006 and rebuilt in 1013. A castle existed at the time of the Conquest belonging to a Saxon called Wigod. Wigod supported William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. In 1067 Robert D'Oyley of Liseux married Wigod's daughter and built a new castle at a strategic site. The castle was built as part on the Norman Conquest and would have been complete by 1071 when the Abbot of Abingdon was reportedly imprisoned there. During the anarchy involving King Stephen and Matilda the castle was held by Brian FitzCount who supported Matilda. Stephen built two siege towers around Wallingford to try and take the castle but failed. In 1153 Henry, Matilda's son and later Henry II, attacked the siege forts that Stephen had built and a peace treaty was concluded which stated that Henry would become King after Stephen's death. Henry II received the castle after the period of anarchy ended. In 1264 Prince Edward, King Henry III's son (later Edward I) was held prisoner at Wallingford by Simon de Montfort. He was moved to Kenilworth Castle after trying to escape.

During the Civil Wars of Charles I Wallingford Castle was held by the Royalists who wanted to guard the important river crossing point. Parliamentarian forces could not capture the castle and a siege only ended when the Royalist commander of the castle, Colonel Blagge, surrendered the castle after Charles himself had surrendered. In 1652, after being used as a prison for a short time, Cromwell decided that the castle should be totally destroyed so that it could not become a threat again.

Wallingford Castle Key Facts
CountyOxfordshire (8 castles)
CategoriesMotte & Bailey
OwnershipRoyal castle
RemainsSmall amount survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times

1006   Destruction of Walingford
 The Danes, led by Swein, attacked and destroyed the river crossing at Wallingford.[1]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
1067   Construction of Wallingford Castle
 A castle at Wallingford was built in this year. It would have been a motte and bailey type castle.[2]

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1071   Abbot of Abingdon imprisoned
 The Abbot of Abingdon was imprisoned at Wallingford Castle.[3] 
1139   Wallingford Castle siege
 After Brian fitz Count the owner of the castle at Wallingford sided with Matilda, king Stephen built two siege castles to force him out.[2]

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
1153 Nov 6  Treaty of Wallingford
 Henry had besieged a fort that Stephen had built at Crowmarsh on the banks of the Thames opposite Wallingford Castle. An agreement of succession of Henry II after Stephen was concluded and witnessed by the English Knights Templars. King Stephen accepted Henry of Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine as heir to the throne and in turn Henry recognised Stephen as king. Stephen made his barons do homage to Henry (Jan.1154).[4]

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
1167   Construction of Wallingford Castle
 Robert D'Oyley of Liseux built the castle at a strategic site of Wallingford where it was possible to cross the river Thames. Originally the castle would have been a motte and bailey type castle. 
1173 - 1174 Wallingford Castle repairs
 Repairs to the castle at Wallingford.[2] 
1215   Wallingford Castle fortified
 The fortifications at Wallingford castle were strengthened at this time.[2] 
1264 Summer  Edward moved to Kenilworth
 Edward (I) was held captive at Wallingford Castle but after an escape attempt he was moved to Kenilworth Castle.[5]

Episode: The Second Barons' War  

Motte and Bailey Castles

Virtual reconstruction

The Norman Conquerors built their castles in locations where they could keep control of the local populations of Saxons or at important locations such as river crossings or on key roads. Many motte and bailey castles were built on the border with Wales to try and keep the Welsh at bay. The advantage of this type of castle was that it was quick to construct. Making a fortification from wood was much easier than making one of stone.


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