Stafford Castle stands on a mound two miles west of the town of Stafford. The castle, visible from the town and also from the M6 motorway, hides a fascinating 900 year old history.
Stafford Castle Origins
From the mound are far reaching views across the local countryside. This was recognised by the Normans, newly
established in the area after their successful invasion of Hastings in 1066, as a good strategic post for watching and controlling the local Anglo-Saxon population. In 1090 Robert de Toenie built the timber and earth fortress in a classic motte and bailey style.
1348 saw the first stone construction, built by the order of Ralph Stafford. Three years later, Ralph was made Earl of Stafford and for the following two hundred years the castle and its occupants prospered. Eventually the turbulent warring of the Tudors took its toll and in 1521 Edward Stafford was executed by the orders of Henry VIII.
Stafford Castle and its deer park were seized by the crown for a short period of time. Although the castle and a small piece of land were returned, the wealth of former years was never regained and the condition of the estate deteriorated. During the Civil War the castle was defended by Lady Isabel Stafford but the Parliamentarians finally won control in 1643. After a few months an order was given for the demolition of the castle.
There followed a long period of the site being empty save for the remains of Ralph Stafford’s dream until in 1813 Stafford Castle was rebuilt in the Gothic Revival Style. The castle fell into disrepair again until the early nineteenth century when the Jeningham family were able to rebuild a four storey keep using the original foundations. The castle was not completed and was viewed by some as a folly. However, it was occupied until 1949, first by members of the Stafford family, and then in the twentieth century by caretakers, Mr and Mrs Stokes. Mr and Mrs stokes gave tours of the castle, and served refreshments but by 1949 the castle was once more falling into disrepair and it was judged to be unsafe and vacated. In 1961 Lord Stafford gave Stafford Castle to the local authority.
Current times at Stafford Castle
In the 1980s, the site was excavated and restored, revealing an excellent example of Norman earthworks. Stafford Castle is now open to the public. The site of 26 acres includes the keep, inner and outer bailey, woodland, a restored medieval herb garden, visitor centre and carpark. Special events include an annual Shakespeare production as part of the Stafford Festival.
Location and opening: Stafford Castle, Newport Road, Stafford, ST16 1DJ. Open April to October, Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 11.00am to 4.00pm; November to March, Saturday and Sundays only, 11.00am to 4.00pm. Admission is free except for some specific events.