Beeston Castle, Cheshire
South East of Chester
Beeston is one of the most dramatically sited castles in England, set 500 feet upon a rocky crag above the Cheshire plains.
The site has been fortified since early prehistoric times and its easy to see why when you visit the castle.
Access to the castle is easy from the car park provided opposite the ticket office. The climb itself to the top is quite strenuous with stunning views, especially at the top, including a view of nearby Peckforton castle.
~ History ~
1216 ~ King John dies, ending the Baron's war against the Crown of England. Ranulf, sixth Earl of Chester, a staunch Royalist supporter, has received many lands and titles for his loyal support to his King.
Upon the Kings unexpected death, King John's infant son Henry succeeds the crown as King Henry III. The joint army of the French Prince Louis and rebel English Baron's are defeated at the Battle of Lincoln. Ranulf plays a key role reconcilling disaffected barons to the young King.
1218 ~ Ranulf leaves to join the fifth crusade, to fulfill the vow he made to King John three years previously. Before he leaves he enters a truce with his powerful Welsh neighbour Prince Llywellyn the Great, prince of Gwynedd, who lands lay to the west of Chester.
1220's ~ Upon return from the Crusades, Ranulf builds himself a castle on the site of an iron age hill fort at Beeston. Its purpose to guard the vulnerable English border to Welsh raiders as well as rival threats from within the English court. The castle incorperates several cutting edge castle building features of the day including the gatehouse being the main defensive feature in place of a traditional keep.
To further reduce the growing threat of Welsh raids as well as rival English barons, Ranulf's nephew and heir, John le Scot, is married to Llywelyn's daughter Helen. In doing so the border is made secure with a new powerful alliance.
1232 ~ Ranulf dies, leaving no children. He has however secured his ealdom pass to his nephew, John le Scot as his heir.
1237 ~ Upon John le Scot's death the earldom is seized by King Henry III, appointing John de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln as custodian of the county, including both Chester and Beeston castle.
1240 ~ Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales dies. This triggers a series of campaigns by King Henry III to Wales to extend English territory and secure these by the building of new castles.
Further building work is spent on Beeston castle.
1245 ~ The King gives orders that his hostages from his wars are to be transferred from Chester Castle to Beeston.
1246 ~ Welsh resistance is dealt another blow with the death of Llewlellyn's son Dafydd. King Henry's influence over the native Welsh princes grows into a vice like grip on the principality.
1247 ~ King Henry confirms the Treaty of Woodstock with Owain and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Llywelyn the Great's grandsons, under which they are forced to cede land to the King but retain the heart of their princedom in Gwynedd.
1253 ~ King Henry grants Beeston castle to his son, the future King Edward I.
1264 ~ Prince Edward arrives at Beeston Castle with prisoners taken from the Battle of Evesham and stays in the castle until the surrender of Chester from the Barons.
1303 ~ A major program of building work at the castle is ordered by King Edward I. This program of works would continue for the next ten years.
1333 ~ King Edward III's eldest son is created Earl of Chester. Beeston castle is reported as being well defended and in good order following the extensive building program ordered by his grandfather.
1399 ~ King Richard II visits nearby Chester before sailing on a military expedition to Ireland. On his return he is captured by rebels led by Henry Bolinbroke, the future King Henry IV. Before his capture King Richard is said to have buried his royal treasure in Beeston Castle. The importance of Beeston Castle is significantly reduced under King Henry IV.
1602 ~ Beeston Castle as part of the manor of Peckforton and its castle are sold to Sir Hugh Beeston for £2,500.
1642 ~ Upon the outbreak of civil war the Royalists establish Chester as their base in Cheshire, from which they would recruit men from North Wales & Ireland. The Parliamentarian's establish their base at Nantwhich, leaving Beeston Castle as a key target set in the middle of both opposing sides.
1643 ~ Parliamentary forces eventually establish a garrison of 300 men in Beeston Castle, despite its neglected state of repair, which are hurriedly repaired with mud walls.
Royalist forces reinforced from men from Ireland, land at Chester and begin offensive opperations. The garrison at Beeston castle by this time is reduced to 60 men to meet this new offensive.
A Royalist captain with just eight men manage to get into the castle and take control of the inner ward. With Royalist reinforcements approaching the outer ward, the Parliamentary garrison surrender. They are allowed to depart the castle on honourable terms with their colours and arms. Their leader is tried and shot by Parliamentary generals for failing to defend the castle.
The Royalist forces follow up their success by defeating the Parliamentarians at the Battle of Middlewich.
1644 ~ Due to Parliamentary forces laying siege to Chester, the Royalist garrison at Beeston is reduced to counter this threat.
The Parliamentarians blockade the castle to counter the continued problem of the Royalist threat to surrounding area.
The Royalists respond with counter blockades which continue between both sides over many months.
The Royalist defeat at the Battle of Rowton Heath two miles south-east of Chester effectively brings the Royalist cause to and end in the area. The garrison surrender and are allowed to leave and return to their homes. Upon capture of the castle the Parliamentarian's discover the awful conditions the Royalist garrison had to endure which had resulted in them eating their horses and even their cats.
1646 ~ Chester surrenders bringing the civil war in Cheshire to an end. Both castles are slighted using munitions held in both castles to bring down their walls and towers to make them undefendable.