Hartlebury Palace

Hartlebury Castle
Worcestershire, England

Hartlebury Castle museum

Open to
the public

Hartlebury Castle, a Grade I listed building,[1] in Worcestershire, central England, was built in the mid-13th century as a fortified manor house on land given to the Bishop of Worcester by King Burgred of Mercia.[2][3] It lies near Stourport town in north Worcestershire. The manor of Hartlebury belonged to the bishops of Worcester from before the Norman Conquest. The castle was thus one of the residences of the medieval bishops and their principal residence in later periods.[4]


From the early 13th century until 2007, Hartlebury Castle was the residence of the bishop of Worcester.

Bishop Walter de Cantilupe, a supporter of Simon de Montfort, began to fortify the Castle, which was embattled and finished by his successor, Godfrey Giffard, 1268. The gate-house was added in the reign of Henry VI by Bishop Carpenter.[5]

In 1646 during the Civil War Hartlebury Castle was strongly fortified and held for King Charles I by Captain Sandys and Lord Windsor, with 120 foot soldiers and 20 horse (cavalry troopers), and had provisions for twelve months. When summoned by Colonel Thomas Morgan for Parliament, it surrendered in two days without firing a shot.[5] The Castle was slighted,[3] and the Parliamentary Commissioners seized the Castle and manor, and sold them to Thomas Westrowe for £3,133 6s. 8d. At the Restoration they were given back to the Bishop of Worcester.[5]

The avenue of limes in the park was planted by Bishop Stillingfleet. Bishop Pepys made a present of the deer, which had been kept there from time immemorial, to Queen Victoria.[5] Some idea of how a bishop's family lived in the mid-19th century can be gained from the diary of the ten-year-old Emily Pepys, daughter of Bishop Pepys, which covers a six-month period in 1844–5.[6]

The library was built by Bishop Hurd, who also presented to it the choicest works from the libraries of Pope and Warburton. The copy of the Iliad from which Pope's translation was made is among them. By 1890 some of the Castle moats had been filled up and laid out as flower gardens.[5]

With the coming of a Bishop Inge in 2008, the Bishop's residence was moved from the Castle to a house adjacent to the Cathedral in the city of Worcester itself. In 1964, the north wing of the castle was taken over by Worcestershire County Council for the creation of a County Museum and in 1966 the Worcestershire County Museum was opened to the public. The future of the rest of the historic building (including the Hurd Library, a special gallery built by Bishop Hurd in 1782 and which still contains his extensive and unique collection of books) is at the present time (May 2008) uncertain.

In 2010, BBC Midlands News reported that Hartlebury Castle was being put up for sale and that local people had started a campaign to stop it falling into private hands. Campaigners have been given until April 2011 to raise £2,000,000 or the house would be put on the open market. It was reported on 17 August 2012 that the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust had agreed to pay its owners, the Church of England, £2.45 million for the freehold of the buildings, gardens and parks. Moves to raise the purchase price from the Heritage Lottery Fund and from private donors were in progress.[7]

Worcestershire County Museum

The Worcestershire County Museum is housed in the servants' quarters of Hartlebury Castle. The exhibits focus on local history, and include toys, archaeology, costumes, crafts by the Bromsgrove Guild, local industry and transportation, and area geology and natural history. There are period room displays including a schoolroom, nursery and scullery, and Victorian, Georgian and Civil War rooms.

The castle grounds include a cider mill and the Transport Gallery that features vehicles including a fire engine, hansom cab, bicycles, carts and a collection of Gypsy caravans.

See also




External links

  • Worcestershire County Museum - official website
  • The Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust
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