High upon a hill: Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle sits at the top of a three hundred foot cliff with spectacular views of the Cheshire Plain’s verdant checkerboard fields.  On the border of Wales and England, the ridge was settled in prehistoric times long before Beeston because the low areas were marshy. Archeologists have found bronze age ax heads and spearheads there.

The castle is in ruins now.  Today’s visitors are struck most by the setting, the drama of the approach to the keep and the beauty of the surrounding plain.

View of the Cheshire Plain

View of the Cheshire Plain

William the Conqueror created the Earldom of Chester to defend against the Welsh.  Ranulf de Blundeville, the 6th Earl, spent most of his time on his estates in France until King John lost Normandy in 1204.  Ranulf then turned his attention to Chester pacifying his principal Welsh opponent through a series of treaties and the marriage of his nephew and heir to the Welch prince’s daughter.

Ranulf went off to the Crusades returning in 1220.  He began construction of Beeston to control the main 809route between Chester and the midlands to the south of England.  Influenced by what he had seen in the Mideast, he used the most modern designs of the era.

Taking advantage of a prehistoric defensive ditch and rampart, he built two enclosures, an inner and outer bailey. Each bailey had a massive gatehouse and was surrounded by massive walls with towers protruding from them at regular intervals.  The towers allowed effective crossfire along the walls between them.

Beeston Inner Bailey

Beeston Inner Bailey, photo by M. Rossman

The inner bailey was further protected by a ditch cut into the rock out to the edge of the cliff.  It was constructed for defense not as a palace and did not have the usual great hall, keep and kitchens.

Ranulf only completed the inner bailey before his death in 1232.  When his heir died in 1237, King Henry III took all the estates of  the Earldom.

Edward I succeeded to the throne in 1272.  The Welsh princes refused to meet with him or attend his coronation, and he

Moat handcut into the rock.

Moat handcut into the rock.

launched a war against them in 1276.  But Edward made Chester his stronghold relegating Beeston to merely a supply point.  Some feel, however, the architecture of Edward’s large castles at Caernarfon and Beaumaris were influenced by the design of Beeston.

Although no longer a principal castle, the fortifications were strengthened in the 14th century including the addition of a larger gatehouse, massive stone ramp and a drawbridge to the inner bailey.  After that, however, it was left to decline and

Inner Bailey, photo by M. Rossman

Inner Bailey, photo by M. Rossman

sold to the Beeston family in 1662.  The present gate and wall near the road used by English Heritage date to 1846.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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4 Responses to High upon a hill: Beeston Castle

  1. I am always impressed with how the ancient castles almost seem to glen into the environment, to become a part of it. If walls could talk, imagine the stories. –Curt

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  2. Keith & Loraine says:

    Can’t get over all of the stonework in each of these travel comments that you send. Beautiful stuff to say the least. Thanks again. Hugs Loraine

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  3. blondieaka says:

    Such majestic ruins….oh the stories they could tell ….thank you for sharing, I love it when I chance upon blogs like this and learn something 🙂

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