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Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle is situated in Berkeley just off the A38 in 6,000 acres of land. It was finished in 1153 by Robert Fitzhardinge, the first of the Berkeley family, who was awarded the Castle by Henry II. The estate includes a fine example of a mediaeval deer park, a stretch of the River Severn and 18 tenant farms.

It is still the home of one of Englandís oldest families, the Berkeley family, who can trace their family back to Saxon times. For centuries the family were close to the throne, married well and have given their name to many locations all over the world. The ancient castle has survived along with its owners and their estates throughout many power struggles over nine centuries. It has been preserved and transformed into a wonderful stately home.

Highlights are the Norman Keep with the Dungeon and cell where King Edward II was imprisoned and murdered in 1327, the Picture Gallery, the Dining Room, the medieval Buttery and Kitchens, the Historic Great Hall and the magnificent State Apartments.

The exhibits, chosen and collected by the family over centuries include Francis Drake's cabin chest, Queen Elizabeth I's bedspread, and the banner that the 4th Earl of Berkeley took with him to the Battle of Culloden. There are tapestries, paintings by English and Dutch masters, furniture, porcelain and silverware. There are 20,000 documents in the archives dating back to the 12th Century. The castle is steeped in history.

The surrounding land of the castle would once have been flooded for defence but is now surrounded by magnificent lawns and terraced Elizabethan Gardens. There are many rare plants, with a lily pond and a long bowling green where Queen Elizabeth I is said to have played during her stay at the castle. There is a 19th Century venison larder behind the shop that was once used for brewing beer before being pumped down into the cellars. Across the meadows are the New Kennels, home of the Berkeley Hunt since 1730. In the south-western corner of the gardens is a small bridge where barges once drew up with deliveries to the castle. The remains of an ice house is to be found on one corner of the car park where the old orchards once were.

There is a Butterfly Farm set in the walled garden adjacent to the car park containing exotic and British butterflies. There is also a plant centre here, a gift shop and a picnic area (no dogs). A global ticket for Castle, Grounds and Butterfly House is available (special group rates and season tickets are also available).

www.berkeley-castle.com

 

 

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