Berkeley Castle

The remains of a medieval castle. Occupying a naturally defensive site overlooking the wooded gorge of the River Tees, the romantic ruins of Barnard Castle are a reminder of the importance and power of the north in medieval times. Founded by the Normans shortly after the conquest, the stone castle was built and extended by Bernard de Balliol and his son in the latter half of the 12th century. In the 13th century, John Balliol, founder of Balliol College, Oxford, married Devorgilla, the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway. The Balliol barons subsequently owned estates and titles on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border, and later played an important but unhappy part in the history of the north of England and Scotland.

The 12th century stone keep is the earliest remaining part of the castle, its sturdy walls being built around the whole of the motte (mound) on which the original castle was located, to give it extra strength. The Keep was completed with defence in mind, for it includes trip steps to catch out the unwary intruder, as well as a guard room. The keep was constructed by Robert Fitzharding (c. 1095–1170), ancestor of the later Berkeley family, who was a wealthy Anglo-Saxon merchant from Bristol. He was granted Berkeley by King Henry II after the period known as the Anarchy, since the original de Berkeley family had not been supporters of the Plantagenets and had subsequently lost their lands.

 

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