Croft Castle, Herefordshire
The Domesday Book records the Croft family as owners of the Croft estate at the time of William the Conqueror, so somewhat of a surprise when you arrive through the outer castle walls to find a much more modern gothic house. However, there is much more to Croft Castle as its near thousand years suggests, as the corner towers are late 14th century.
The Castle is set within finely manicured lawns as you would expect from a National Trust property.
~ History ~
1296 ~ The Croft family, sherriffs of Hereforshire, are representatives in King Edward I's parliament, which they continue to do so for the next 500 years.
1461 ~ Sir Richard Croft, close ally to the powerful Mortimers of nearby Wigmore Castle, fights alongside him on for the Yorkist cause at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, which establishes Edward IV, who was also a Mortimer, as King of England. Croft's loyalty is rewarded with high office at Ludlow Castle. His wife Eleanor serves as governess to the King's two sons and future 'Princess in the Tower'.
1485 ~ Despite the overthrow of the Yorkists and the foundation of a new Royal Tudor dynasty under King Henry VII, and having been party to the execution of the new King's grandfather, Sir Owen Tudor, Sir Richard survives retrobution with his lands intact. Instead he prospers, becoming Treasurer to the Royal Householdand a Privy Counsellor.
Further still he is appointed steward to the King's elder son Prince Arthur, at Ludlow Castle, during the fifteen year old Prince's brief marriage to Catherone of Aragon and his death from TB.
1544 ~ James Croft fights in the siege of Boulogne, where two of his brothers are killed.
1547 ~ James is knighted by King Edward VI, who appoints him lord deputy of Ireland, which he later unsuccessfully tries to pacify.
1553 ~ With the accession to the throne of Queen Mary, James is implicated in the rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt of Allington Castle in Kent. He is sent to the Tower of London where he is imprisoned with other nobles, including the young Princess Elizabeth. Despite being subjected to brutal cross-examination, he refuses to implicate Princess Elizabeth in the plot.
1558 ~ Follow Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne, she rewards James with estates in Herefordshire and Kent, for his loyalty at a time she reflects 'I stood in danger of my life'.
James pulls down the medieval castle and builds a more comfortable Elizabethian mansion.
1560 ~ James is sacked as governor of Berwick after the Duke of Norfolk reported, 'I assure you a man could not have got nearer a traiter and have missed, than Sir James'. The Lord High Admiral later dismissed James as 'a long grey beard with white haid witless'.
1563 ~ Sir James Croft dies and is succeeded by his son and heir Edward.
1588 ~ Sir Edward Croft, MP to Leominster, becomes embroiled in politcal battles, leading to his arrest for alleged double-dealing in diplomatic negotiations with the Duke of Palma. Edward suspects the hand of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Queen's former favourite, whom he had fallen out with.
In revenge, Edward employs a conjuror, one John Smith, to cast a fatal spell on the Earl. Following the Earls death, Edward is charged with murder, but escapes conviction. He is however imprisoned for his father's debts.
On release he flees to Holland never to return. Croft Castle is placed into trust for his son, Herbert Croft.
1603 ~ Sir Herbert Croft is knighted by King James I, after loyally serving both the King and Queen Elizabth.
1616 ~ Herbert rebuilds Croft Castle in the fashionable 'medieval' style.
1642 ~ As a member of Parliament, on the outbreak of civil war, Herbert fights for King Charles I at the Battle of Edgehill. He is later captured by Parliamentary forces at Hereford and held prisoner in Bristol until the following year, when the city is taken by a Royalist army.
1661 ~ Following the civil war and restoration of the monachy under King Charles II, he is nominated as Bishop of Hereford.
Despite his rise to Bishop, he chooses to live at his ancient family home at Croft Castle, which he rebuilds out of his bishop salary of £800 a year.
1746 ~ Following money difficulties by Herbert's grandson Sir Archer Croft, he is forced to sell the Croft estates to industrialist Richard Knight of nearby Downton, bought as a gift to his only child and heir Elizabeth, who in the same year married her husband, Thomas Johnes.Over the next two decades the castle is modernised in the fashionable Gothic style.