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History of Brightwell Castle in the Royal County of Berkshire
by David Nash Ford

B R I G H T W E L L
C A S T L E

The Bishop's Counter-Attack

In the 1150s, King Stephen built himself an early castle at Brightwell, where the manor house now stands. Civil War was raging as he fought with his cousin, the Empress Matilda, for control of the country. The lady had her HQ at nearby Wallingford Castle, so Stephen put her under siege from a ring of fortifications. This site appears to have been chosen because the King's brother, Prince Henry of Blois (Bishop of Winchester) owned the manor and thought that Stephen could protect his estate and attack the Empress at the same time, thus killing two birds with one stone. The enclosing banks and ditches also surround the ancient parish church and it is therefore thought that it was originally erected by the Bishop as a garrison-church. He may have wanted to make the place a permanent counterpart to Wallingford. Though it was, in fact, destroyed by the Empress' son in 1153.



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