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History of Hamstead Castles in Hamstead Marshall in the Royal County of Berkshire
by David Nash Ford


Three Castles Together

Conquest Castle

Within Hamstead Park stand three, much eroded, castle mottes. Two of them are near the church. The other is half a mile to the east, standing near the old manor fishponds, which were stocked with Royal bream as early as 1230. This latter may have been a Norman conquest castle set up by Hugelin Stirman. He also had a hall at Ebrige, now Irish Hill, but was forced to tear it down when his rights there were disputed.

Adulterine and later Castles

The suffix of the parish of Hamstead Marshal recalls the celebrated Marshall family who held the manor in Norman times. The two mottes near the church are almost certainly all that is left of their home. One may be the Newbury Castle mentioned in an early French journal. It was held for the Empress Matilda by John Marshall during the Civil War of King Stephen's Reign. Stephen besieged him there for two months in 1153. When eventually overwhelmed by the King's forces, Marshall was forced to give up his eldest son, William, as a hostage to ensure his good behaviour. Many times, Stephen threatened to kill poor William in many different ways, all of them horrible. The young lad survived though to become the Earl of Pembroke and Protector of England. He held many manors, Pembroke Castle was probably the most significant, but Hamstead was his principal residence: nestling in the Kennet Valley, a mere horse-ride from London. He entertained Henry III at Hamstead in 1218. The third castle motte is thought to be a very late example built by William's brother, Gilbert, in the 1230s. This was in Royal hands by the fourteenth century and Edward III stayed there several times in the 1350s. He was probably on hunting expeditions: the park had been stocked with deer a hundred years earlier. An earlier castle stood to the east.

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