FARLEIGH HUNGERFORD CASTLE
Located on the banks of the River Frome, Farleigh Hungerford Castle was built to serve as a luxurious home for the Hungerford family. They rose to prominence through service to the Dukes of Lancaster but this loyalty cost them dearly during the Wars of the Roses. The castle was seized by Royalist forces during the Civil War.
At the time of the Norman invasion, Farleigh was a small settlement consisting of just six households. By the late eleventh century it was acquired by the Montfort family who built a manor house on the site. In 1337 it passed into the hands of the Burghersh family who sold it in 1369 to Thomas Hungerford. He came from a prominent Wiltshire family that had risen to power through service to the Earls then Dukes of Lancaster. Thomas himself was Chief Steward of all the Welsh and southern English estates owned by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Thomas was knighted in 1375 and probably commenced construction of the castle around this time. Work had certainly started by 1383 for in that year he was granted a pardon for constructing a fortification without Royal consent. By 1385 the site was known as Farleigh Hungerford.
Thomas Hungerford's castle was an quadrangular enclosure fortification similar to contemporary structures such as Bodiam, Bolton and Sheriff Hutton. Round towers were built on each corner with the five storey North-East Tower being particularly large. The entrance into the castle was via a double drum gatehouse in the centre of the southern curtain wall. The castle was clearly intended to serve as a luxurious residence rather than as a defensive site for it was overlooked by higher ground and was not built in a position of any great natural strength. A portion of the existing Montfort manor house was incorporated into the new castle.
Sir Thomas Hungerford continued to prosper through his close relations with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Elected to Parliament on numerous occasions, he used his position as Speaker of the House of Commons to advance his master's interests. This in turn brought him wealth and by the time of his death in 1397 he owned numerous manors across Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire with Farleigh Hungerford being the caput. His son, Walter Hungerford, continued the development of the site by building the Outer Ward to the south of the castle, adding the barbican and enhancing the chapel. He also continued his father's close association with the Lancastrians and was knighted on the eve of the coronation of Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt. He served in the Royal armies under both that King and Henry V including participation in the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Agincourt (1415). It is alleged that it was Walter Hungerford, not the Earl of Westmorland, who expressed his wish for "10,000 more men" that was immortalised by Shakespeare. He was rewarded for his military service with a Knighthood of the Garter in 1421.
Walter Hungerford died in 1449 leaving a vast fortune to his son, Robert. By this time though the Hundred Years War was going badly for the English and the wealth generated by his father was severely depleted when Robert was required to raise a ransom of almost £10,000 to secure the release of his son following his capture at the Battle of Castillon (1453). The family's decline continued in the decades that followed during which time England descended into the dynastic fighting now known as the Wars of the Roses. The Hungerfords remained allied to the Lancastrian cause and thus supported Henry VI. The then owner of Farleigh Hungerford - Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns - was entrusted with custody of the Tower of London but failed to hold it against a Yorkist attack in 1460. He fled abroad but returned the following year and was present at the Battle of Towton (1461) where the Lancastrian forces were routed. He escaped the battlefield and fled to Scotland but continued to support the Lancastrian cause and in 1464 was captured by Yorkist forces and executed at Hexham. His son, Thomas, continued the struggle but was hung, drawn and quartered at Salisbury in 1469. Farleigh Hungerford was seized by the Crown and granted to Richard, Earl of Gloucester (later Richard III). Walter Hungerford was able to recover the castle following the final Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Bosworth (1485).
Farleigh Hungerford Castle passed to Walter Hungerford in 1522 and he became a close ally of Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. Walter was married to Elizabeth Hussey but seems to have treated her with exceptional cruelty imprisoning her within the north-east tower at Faleigh Hungerford for years. When Cromwell met his downfall, Walter fell with him and was executed alongside his former master for "treason, witchcraft and homosexuality". Farleigh Hungerford once again reverted to the Crown until purchased by the Hungerfords in 1554 during the reign of Queen Mary.
During the Civil War the family supported Parliament with Sir Edward Hungerford commanding the local forces in the region. He successfully led his troops at the siege of Wardour Castle in 1643 and participated at the battles of Lansdown (1643) and Roundway Down (1643) but otherwise had an undistinguished military career. Furthermore he lost Farleigh Hungerford Castle to Royalist forces led by Colonel John Hungerford, Edward's own half-brother. The castle remained in Royalist hands until September 1645 and thereafter was returned to the family. It remained with his heirs for the next 41 years but in 1686 was sold by Sir Edward Hungerford to pay gambling debts. The castle was plundered for its stone and thereafter drifted into the ruin seen today.
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Farleigh Hungerford Castle consists of the ruins of a medieval palace. It was sold in 1686 and subsequently significant quantities of stone were removed from the structure.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle Layout. The earliest part of the castle was a manor house built in the north-east corner of the later structure. When Sir Thomas Hungerford acquired the site he built the quadrangular enclosure which was later augmented by the Outer Ward.
East Gatehouse. The East Gatehouse became the main entrance to the castle after construction of the Outer Ward.
South West Tower. Known as the Lady tower this was allegedly where Lady Elizabeth Hungerford was imprisoned by her husband (although it was more likely to have been the North-East Tower).
Farleigh Hungerford Castle. The name Farleigh derives from ‘Ferlege’ which was the name recorded in the eleventh century Domesday Book. Regrettably much of the castle has now been reduced to its foundations.
Ditch. A ditch surrounded the west and south sides of the castle.