Warwick Castle has a rich and storied history. Built more than 1,100 years ago and fought over by Earls and Kings for centuries, it has racked up its fair share of fascinating anecdotes. Explore the fortress on your next trip to London to discover the legends that continue to haunt its halls.
From gruesome torture and royal imprisonment to exotic animals getting up to mischief, here are a few of the most colourful stories from inside Warwick Castle.
Ghouls and Ghosts
Steeped in history, torture and punishment, Warwick Castle is, unsurprisingly, one of the most haunted places in England. Among its most frequent paranormal sightings is the ghostly figure of a black dog, said to have been cursed on the castle by Moll Bloxham, a woman publicly punished for stealing.
According to legend, shortly after Bloxham disappeared, a slavering dog with evil red eyes began stalking the grounds and terrorising its inhabitants. While the mutt was eventually killed, his ghostly form continues to stalk visitors to this day.
Another famous ghost is that of Sir Fulke Greville, who was brutally stabbed by his servant, Ralph Heywood, who then turned the knife on himself. Moans are often heard in the South Tower, where Greville died, and people have claimed to have witnessed the figure of a man emerging from his portrait.
Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick, earned the nickname ‘Kingmaker’ after his part in the deposition of two British Kings. One such leader was Edward IV, whom Neville imprisoned in the castle in 1469 in a power play of rebellion.
After trapping his enemy, Neville attempted to rule the country, but protests forced him to release the King. However, karma struck in 1471 during the Battle of Barnet when, while fighting against Edward IV (who had since reclaimed his throne), Neville was killed.
As a regal stronghold, Warwick Castle has been associated with many historic events, such as the War of Roses and the Norman conquest. But among the sieges and battles that took place on its grounds, there was a great deal of cunning trickery. One of the most unbelievable moments in the history of the fortress was during an invasion by Henry of Anjou (later Henry II) and his army.
The invaders tricked the wife of Roger de Beaumont, the 2nd Earl of Warwick, into believing that her husband was dead, so she handed over control of the castle. Little to her knowledge he was alive and well but, upon hearing of his wife’s actions, he’s said to have collapsed and died in shock. The perfect crime!
Elephants and emus
Among the castle’s most unusual residents were an assortment of rare animals, collected during the 1890s by the Countess of Warwick. Her menagerie was full of exotic pets including Japanese deer, Chinese geese, an ant bear, a baby elephant and an emu. The emu was a decidedly cheeky character and became famous for chasing a bishop through the castle grounds.
‘Remember, remember the fifth of November’ – one of the most famous folk verses in British history. Referring to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which Guy Fawkes and a band of conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the date and its happenings are well known, but what happened after is not necessarily common knowledge.
On 6th November 1605, the day after the attack, Warwick Castle became an unwittingly accessory to the crime. Fawkes’ comrades fled from London to Warwickshire and broke into the fortress while it was undergoing repairs. There, the fugitives stole a wealth of supplies, including horses from the stables which they used to escape to Holbeche House, where they were captured later that day.
And if you’d like to discover more castles to enrich your knowledge and understand British history better, we offer insightful tours to Windsor Castle and Leeds Castle as well, take a look!
Images: Courtesy of Warwick Castle