The strategically important town of Tamworth can trace back its origins over one thousand years, when it was known to have been an important Saxon Burgh (an old English term for a fortified settlement) built to defend against potential Viking incursions.
Situated at the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker, Tamworth Castle as seen today dates largely from the medieval period c1180. Prior to being rebuilt in stone, Tamworth Castle would have taken the form of a classic, timber built, 'motte and bailey' castle. These early castles were erected very quickly across the country as the victorious Norman Lords sought to impose their dominance over their newly granted territories.
Built by Robert 'Dispensator' at some point soon after the invasion of 1066, the original structure would have comprised a timber tower, atop an artificially raised mound or 'motte'. This motte would have then been surrounded by an 'outer bailey', which was in turn protected by a timber palisade with a ditch outside of it.
The tower would have been the administrative heart of the castle, as well as a place where the occupants would have retreated in times of serious attack. The outer bailey would have been the working part of the castle, containing workshops, stables, barns and everything else required to keep Tamworth Castle and its garrison operational.
This particular type of stone tower is referred to as a 'shell' keep, with walls some 7 feet (2.1m) thick. Surprisingly, the keep at Tamworth Castle still contains its internal structure and accommodation which, although altered many times over the years, is a rare survival. Many similar towers were usually abandoned as more modern accommodation became fashionable, but Tamworth Castle remained occupied right through to the end of the 19th century.
Supporting the pathway, that now leads up to the entrance of the Keep, are the only surviving remains of the stone curtain wall that would have replaced the original wooden palisade. This remarkable piece of Norman 'herringbone' work is, in our opinion at least, one of the best surviving examples in the country. At the opposite end of the entrance pathway can be found the remains of the late 13th century gatehouse.
Tamworth Castle has experienced many highs and lows throughout its history. It was threatened with destruction on two occasions, by King John c1215 and by Thomas Cromwell c1643. In both cases it is not known to what extent these orders were carried out but, clearly, the fact that is has survived suggests that they were not 'vigorous' in their efforts. Conversely, Tamworth Castle has enjoyed many distinguished visitors, among which are five monarchs, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Robert Peel, Thomas Cooke and our own Princess Royal.
As one would expect with a building of this age, Tamworth Castle has had many owners throughout its lifetime. After the death of Robert, the castle passed by marriage to the Marmion family who occupied it until the end of the 13th century when it subsequently passed to the Frevile's. In 1423 the male line failed so it passed, through marriage, to the Ferrer's. The castle then passed through the Shirley and Compton families before coming in to the possession of the Townshends in 1751. It remained in their hands for the best part of the next 146 years, before it was purchased by the Tamworth Corporation for £3000 in 1897, and was opened to the public for the first time in 1899.
Today, Tamworth Castle can still be enjoyed by townsfolk and visitors alike, whether it be a visit to the castle itself, a stroll along the river, or a relaxing afternoon simply enjoying the beautifully laid out gardens and park.