Address: Chapel Lane, Beeston, Cheshire CW6 9TX

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Phone: +44 (0) 1829 260464

 

Beeston Castle History

In Bronze Age times, there was a certain amount of activity on the rock, but the main historical period began with the building of the castle in 1225 by Ranulf de Blondeville. He was the Earl of Chester and this followed his return from the fifth Crusade in 1220.

A myth surrounding the Castle was that it was built to repel the Welsh invaders. This is not true as there was no threat from the Welsh at the time. Ranulf’s stronghold was in Cheshire and his powerful Welsh neighbour was Llywelyn the Great. In 1222 Ranulf’s nephew and heir John le Scot married Llywelyn’s daughter Helen, thus forming an alliance between Ranulf and Llywelyn. Any threat was thus dissipated.

The threat to Ranulf came from the English Court. He was a great supporter of King John, a king who bestowed on him land and riches in return for his loyalty. At the time there were English barons that supported the French king, but this potential uprising was quelled when the French were defeated at the Battle of Lincoln, with Ranulf receiving the Earldom of Lincoln.

Following the death of King John, his infant son, Henry III, took the throne. He was too young to rule alone, so the country was run by a body of royal advisors. Their policy was to reclaim much of the land and riches that had been given away by King John, thus protecting the royal dominance and discouraging any opposition alliances. To protect himself and his assets, Ranulf built three castles – Beeston, Chartley and Bolingbroke.

In 1237, the castle was seized by Henry III and used to house Welsh prisoners in the wars at the time.

There was rumour that Richard II hid a large cache of treasure at the castle in 1399, but despite repeated searching, no trace has been found.

In the English Civil War, the Royalists succumbed to a siege by the Parliamentarians, having resisted them for 12 months. Cromwell later ordered the part destruction of the castle to prevent it being inhabited.

During the 18th century, the grounds were used for quarrying and it’s possible that much of the demolished castle was used to obtain stone.

In the 19th century, the castle was bought by a local landowner as part of his estate. It is now owned by English Heritage and is a Grade I listed building.

 

Beeston Castle Visit

Beeston Castle is an interesting place to visit. You may want to see it as part of your ‘Heritage Tour’ or simply out of curiosity, love of history or simply as a family day out. For whatever reason, it’s a good idea to visit nearby Peckforton Castle as well, although in many ways Peckforton is the complete opposite of Beeston.

Whilst Beeston is mainly ruins, Peckforton has been immaculately restored and is a popular venue for weddings, parties etc and is home to various activities such as falconry and off-road driving. The two castles are only a mile apart and can each be seen on their hills from the other.

In visiting Beeston, after checking in at the reception area, you walk through an adjacent door into the grounds. Before walking up to the castle ruins, it’s good to have a good look around the shop and museum as the museum will give you an idea of the history of the place and the shop offers much. There are swords and regalia for the kids and momentos, wine, mead etc. for adults. You’ll come back at the end so don’t lumber yourself with purchases before walking up.

The trip to the top takes a brisk ten minutes or so, or about twenty minutes at a leisurely pace. It’s a steady walk uphill, but nothing mountainous. There are a few ways up and it’s a beautiful grassy area that kids can run around in. The outer wall, half way up, is good to explore before you press on to the top.

A modern bridge has been built over the moat to enable access to the castle, and once you’ve crossed it, you’ll find a grassy area surrounded by the remains of the castle walls and the most stunning views imaginable. From this amazing vantage point, you can see seven counties! Also inside, you’ll see a well and the arrow-slits in the walls from where the archers would have used their bows when fighting. The north side walls and rock is a particularly steep area and give spectacular views when looking down.

On the way down, take the chance to explore the perimeter, it’s a lovely peaceful area – unlike in days gone by!