Farleigh Hungerford Castle

Farleigh Hungerford Castle, Somerset


Farleigh Hungerford, West of Trowbridge


A36 / A336



Farleigh Hungerford Castle stands on a hillside above the bank on the River Frome, taking its name from its Anglo-Saxon origins meaning 'ferny pasture'.

This is a great castle to explore and can be reached just off the road with plenty of parking available.

The history of this castle was a real surprise to us and is well worth a visit.

~ History ~

1200's ~ The Montfort family build themselves a manor house at 'Ferlege'

1337 ~ The manor passes to the Burhersh family.

1339 ~ Thomas Hungerford buys the manor for £733.

1383 ~ A Royal pardon records Sir Thomas Hungerford having 'fortified the mansion of the manor at Farleigh Montford with a wall of stone and lime, cenellated, battlemented, turreted and enclosed with a ditch, making thereof a fortress'.

1397 ~ Sir Thomas dies and is buried at his castle. His son and heir Walter enherits his fathers estates.

1399 ~ Walter is knighted on the eve of King Henry IV coronation.

1400's ~ During King Henry IV's reign Walter's influence at court see's his families fortunes greatly increased, like his father, under the House of Lancaster. He undertakes many foreign diplomatic missions, including accompanying the King's daughter Philippa to her marriage with the King of Denmark.

1413 ~ Walter's close association with King Henry IV's son see's his fortuntes rise further still upon the prince's coronation as King Henry V.

1414 ~ Walter is appointed Speaker of the Commons.

1415 ~ As a renowned jouster, Walter joins the Agincourt expedition with a retinue of 17 men-at-arms and 55 archers. On the eve of battle Walter pleads of his Lord for 10,000 more archers upon seeing the size of the French forces far out number that of the English. King Henry V upon hearing this plea rallies his men to 'trust in God and not in numbers'.

King Henry deploys his army of 1,500 men-at-arms and 7,000 longbowmen into three divisions, led by the Duke of York, himself and the  rearguard, led by Lord Camoys. In addition, Sir Thomas Erpingham, his most experienced household knight, marshalls the archers.

The French forces number some 8,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the vanguard, with two wings of 600 and 800 mounted men-at-arms.Thousands more troops and servants make up the rearguard making the total army massed against the English at 15,000. The English are utterly out numbered, exhausted from their campaign and cut off from any hope of relief or escape.

The resulting battle see's some 450 of King Henry's men dead, but the French losses are far greater in their defeat at some 4,000 men, plus prisoners taken for ransom. Included in the French losses are three dukes, eight counts, a viscount, an archbishop died, plus numerous other nobles.

1417 ~ Walter is appointed Steward of the Royal Household and serves for a further five years on campaign, overseeing the capture of many French castles, and becoming ever richer as a result.

1421 ~ Walter is awarded the highest of all military honours, a knighthood of the Garter by his thankful King.

1422 ~ The dying King appoints Walter as one of two guardians of his son, the future King Henry VI.

1426 ~ Walter is created Lord Hungerford and serves as Treasurer of England. He also continues to campaign in France in an attempt to stem the loss of his King's conquests.

1429 ~ Walter is forced to pay a ransom of £3,000 to the French for the release of his eldest son captured whilst on campaign.

1430's ~ Farleigh Hungerford castle is greatly enlarged.

1449 ~ Walter dies at Hungerford Castle, as one the the welathiest men in the kingdom. His son Robert enherits his fathers estates.

1453 ~ Robert is captured by the French whilst on campaign and ransomed for £10,000, bankrupting the family.

1459 ~ Following his captivity in France, Robert returns to Farleigh Hungerford and immediately gets himself involved in the struggle for the English Crown between the House of Lancaster and the rival House of York.

1460 ~ Robert fails to hold the Tower of London against a heavy Yorkist bombardment and escapes into exile.

1461 ~ He returns to England to take part in the defeat of the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton, upon which he and his heirs are deprived of all lands and titles. He escapes to Scotland. The castle is granted by King Edward IV to his 16 year old brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester.

1464 ~ Robert is finally captured by the Yorkists and is beheaded.

1469 ~ Robert's son continues the Lancastrian fight against the Yorkists, which see's him also being captured. He is tried before being hung, drawn and quartered.

1483 ~ Richard Duke of Gloucester is crowned King Richard III of England. He grants Hungerford to his chief supporter John Howard, duke of Norfolk.

1485 ~ Robert's son and heir Walter, can no longer avoid involvement in the Wars of the Roses and the Lancastrian cause, when news of the murder of the princes in the tower and claims of King Richard's involvement in their murder takes hold. He joins the rebelion against the Yorkist King, becoming leader of the Lancastrian rebels in Wiltshire.

The rebellion is crushed and Walter is detained in the Tower of London until his release and pardon, in order to placate further rebellion.

Henry Tudor, the heir to the Lancastrian cause, lands with his army in Wales and starts to rally support. Walter is sent under armed guard to King Richard III's army. On route he escapes and rides across country to join Henry Tudor.

The Yorkist army under King Richard III meets the Lancastrian army of Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field.

The Yorkist army number some 10,000 men.

The Lancastrian army some 5,000, made up with less than 1,000 Englishmen, bolstered with 1,800 French mercenaries and 3,000 of Rhys ap Thomas's Welsh army.

Lord Stanley arrives at the battlefield with his 6,000 men and his intervention in the battle on the Lancastrian side against his King proves decisive.

Following the victory Walter is knighted by King Henry VII and regains Hungerford Castle.

1516 ~ Walter bequeaths Farleigh Hungerford Castle to his son Edward.

1520 ~ Sir Edward accompanies King Henry VIII to his meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of Cloth of Gold.

1522 ~ Edward dies. His second wife Agnes inherits his estates and his fortune.

1523 ~ Agnes is tried for the murder of her first husband. She is convicted of having her first husband, steward to her second husband, 'strangled at Farley Castle with his own neckerchief' and having the body 'put into a certain fire in the furnace of the kitchen in the castle of Farley, and did burn and consume'. Six months after the murder she married Edward Hungerford. Agnes and her two muderous servants are found guilty and hanged for the crime at Tyburn in London.

Farleigh Hungerford Castle passes to Edward's only son by his first wife, Walter.

1536 ~ Following his third marriage he is recommended by his wife's father to King Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell.Walter later becomes Cromwell's agent in the area, which see's him created Lord Hungerford.

1539 ~ Seeing his father-in-law no longer in favour at the Royal Court of King Henry VIII and having no further use of his wife, has her locked up in the castle tower at Hungerford. A smuggled letter is received by Thomas Cromwell from Walter's wife which explains how she is "continually locked in one of my Lords towers in his castle, under the custody of my Lord's chaplin, who has once or twice hereto poisoned me". She claims she is often forced to drink her own urine, and without the charity of local women who 'brought me to my great window, in the night, such as meat and drink', she would have starved to death.

1540 ~ Walter and Thomas Cromwell are beheaded on Tower Hill on the orders of King Henry VIII, for alleged treason and witchcraft and later for homosexuality. The castle reverts to the Crown. Walter's wife is released from her imprisonment.

1554 ~ Walter's wife dies following a peaceful marriage to Sir Robert Throgmorton who she had given him five daughters.

Her eldest son buys back the castle for £5,000.

1558 ~ Following the death of his first wife, Walter marries Anne, sister of Queen Mary's close friend Jane Dormer.

1568 ~ When Anne's Catholic connections come to light under Queen Elizabeth's reign, Walter accuses her of adultery, murder and poisoning and finally divorces her. His accusation are found unproven and he is forced to pay her a substantial settlement, which he refuses to do. Instead he chooses to go to prison for unpaid debt

1585 ~ Anne and Walter's only child Edward dies. Anne is exiled as a Catholic in Flanders, plotting with the Spanish against Queen Elizabeth I. Anne finally received payment from her estranged husband to enable her to live in comfort for the rest of her days, still in exile.

Farleigh Hungerford passes to Walter's brother Edward.

1642 ~ Sir Edward declares for Parliament on the outset of Civil War against King Charles I. His local Parliemantary rival Sir Edward Baynton declares he should lead the cause on Wiltshire, as does Edward.

In turn each manages to inprison the other until Parliament eventually intervenes and declares Edward Hungerford should lead their cause.

He inturn commands the Parliamentary army and embezzles all the soldiers wages, loses and abandons Salisbury, Malmesbury (twice) and Devizes to the Royalists.

1643 ~ Edward takes Wardour Castle for Parliament. He later flees from the battlefield which see's his army routed by Royalists.

1644 ~ Bristol and Bath are captured for King Charles I by Royalist troops without a shot being fired. The Parliamentary garrison is under the command of Edward's half brother John Hungerford.

Royalists succeed in a raid taking 60 horses from beneath the walls of Hungerford Castle under Edward's protection.

1645 ~ A Royalist army is attacked at nearby Trowbrige and is forced to take refuge at Edward's castle at Farleigh Hungerford. Upon the arrival of the Parliamentarian army the Royalist troops surrender without a fight. Sir Edward resumes control of his castle.

1648 ~ The childless Edward dies peacefully at his castle.

The castle passes to his Royalist half-brother Anthony Hungerford.

1660 ~ Anthony's son, Edward Hungerford, makes a lavish gift to King Charles II just before his restoration to the throne to seek Royal favour.

1673 ~ Edward entertains King Charles II at the castle.

1680 ~ Despite Edward's support to King Charles, he joins an unsuccessful rebellion to have Charles II Catholic brother James brought to trial.

1683 ~ Following a plot to have both King Charles II and James assassinated, he loses his estates and titles. His membership of Parliament and lack of evidence against him prevents his arrest.

1711 ~ Due to his excessive life style and gambling he dies a pensioner 'poor knight of Windsor' leaving nothing but immence debt, including the sale of the castle, which in turn is reduced to ruin and sold for building materials.