Notes: Situated in the small village of Acton Burnell the castle is sign-posted once in the village. There is car parking directly by the castle entrance - drive through the gates and past the church.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The red standstone remains of a thirteenth century fortified manor house. The inside has been entirely gutted and the castle is ruinous; the parapets are not assessable. Nevertheless the internal arrangements are heavily implied by the stonework and being nearby so many other castles, it is well worth a slight detour to view.
1. In 1283 Edward I visited Acton Burnell Castle and held a Parliament here. Another further meeting of Parliament took place here in 1285.
2. Francis Lovell, William Catesby and Richard Ratcliffe were close supporters of Richard III. This led to Tudor propaganda dubbing them the "the cat, the rat and Lovell our dog" who "ruled all England under a hog". The hog was the emblem as Richard III. Lovell fought at and survived the Battle of Bosworth Field and remained loyal to the Yorkist cause even after the death of Richard III. He was present at the last battle in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Stoke Field (1487), and after that fled to Scotland. His fate thereafter is unknown.
Built by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and later owned by Francis Lovell, Lord Chamberlain to Richard III and famed as the “dog” from the Tudor propaganda against the regime of the last Plantagenet King, Acton Burnell Castle was designed and used as a fortified stately home.
HISTORY OF ACTON BURNELL CASTLE
Acton Burnell Castle was built in the late thirteenth century by Robert Burnell. Although born to an undistinguished family, he gained a position at the Royal court of Henry III and became chaplain and later Chief Advisor to Prince Edward. This led to the rapid rise of Robert Burnell - he was appointed Chancellor in 1274 and elected Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1277. He received permission to fortify his manor at Acton in 1284 and the resultant product was a home suitable for one of the senior clergy; the self contained block had four corner turrets with the central element having two stories under a twin-span roof. It was unlikely it was ever built for serious defence; the large first floor windows are indicative of a structure built for comfort rather than defence. Nevertheless a moat protected the castle itself and several outbuildings including nearby St Marys church. Situated near the Watling Road, the former Roman road that was still in use as a main route during the medieval period, the castle sat on the route between London/South East and North Wales. This led to a visit by Edward I and the holding several Parliaments at the castle.
The property continued to be owned and lived in by the Burnell's until 1420 when it passed to the Lovell family. Francis Lovell ('Lovell our dog') was Lord Chamberlain for Richard III and, following his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth (1485), it was confiscated by the new King, Henry VII. Later it was granted to the Earl of Surrey and then the Duke of Norfolk before finally ending up in the hands of the Smythe family. By this time the castle was ruinous and Acton Burnell Hall, which had been built nearby, had assumed all functions of the castle. By the seventeenth century the once impressive fortified home was being used as a barn!