Hartlebury Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry footings remains

NameHartlebury Castle
Alternative NamesHertlebury
Historic CountryWorcestershire
Modern AuthorityWorcestershire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishHartlebury

Bishop's palace. C15 with late C17 and mid- to late C18 extensions and 1960s remodelling. C18 work by Henry Keene and James Smith of Shifnal. Sandstone ashlar and brick, hipped slate roof to front, tile roof to rear. U-plan, main block aligned north/south, containing C15 hall to north end and C18 saloon (within C15 walls); to rear (west) of hall a former long gallery (divided up as private rooms in 1960s) with C18 library above; south range has C15 chapel projecting forwards (east) with Bishop's study behind; between this range and saloon is the entrance hall with staircase behind, above entrance hall is the Prince Regent's Bedroom; north range of late C17 was the kitchen wing, now Hereford and Worcester County Museum. East front: symmetrical central block of one storey with crenellated parapet, central porch and six windows: glazing bar sashes under 2-centred heads with Gothick glazing, installed c1760 - 1770; porch: c1680 semi-circular pediment flanked by ball finials, the pediment bearing Bishop Fleetwood's (1675 - 1683) arms; lugged architrave to panelled door; on roof is an octagonal cupola with open sides in Chinoiserie Gothick style, to front of pedestal a wind direction indicator connected to the weather vane. The central block is flanked by two wings which break forward of two storeys with attics lit by three hipped dormers, and four windows in slight breaks forward (the wall is of c1680, the sashes c1760 - 1770): 20-pane sashes to first floor, ground floor windows as central block, but of less height; beyond these two wings there is the chapel projecting to the left, and balancing wing to the right, chapel: diagonal buttresses, three stepped lancets (the central one larger) in a recessed panel with 4-centred head (of c1750); four 2-centred headed windows with Y-tracery face into the courtyard; the balancing wing has two windows, that to left a 20-pane sash, to the right.2-light casements of mid- C20, ground floor: two windows similar to central block

Interior: hall: retains C15 five-bay roof of arch braced collar trusses, with ceiling inserted just above collar; the wall posts rest on corbels; fireplace in centre of west wall has bolection moulded surround and overmantel of late C17; geometrical staircase at north end with cast iron handrail (late C18) leads up to an entrance to kitchen range; the entrance at the south end from the porch is set in a tall recess with 4-centred head and moulded jambs and arch, reflected by a similar feature in west wall over opposed doors. Saloon: decorated c1760 with Rococo style papier-maché to walls and ceiling; ceiling panels represent music scores and wind instruments; to each wall two large panels framing spaces for portraits. Entrance hall: overmantel with landscape by Zuccarelli (originally in Saloon whence it had come from Bishop Hurd's (1781 - 1808) London House). Chapel: by Henry Keene c1750, plaster fan vault, panelling to walls, stalls, reredos and Bishop's pew in Gothick style; east window: late C19 glass, remnants of C18 glazing by J Rowell in heads of windows. Bishop's study: has late C17 bolection moulded panelling. Prince Regent's Bedroom: very plain room with pelmets of c1807 to match the bed hangings, and similar pelmet in adjoining dressing room. Library: 1782 by James Smith of Shifnal, executed by Joseph Bromfield of Shrewsbury, tripartite plan, with bow window to middle of west wall, divisions marked by Ionic columns, outer compartments each have three bays of bookcases; main part has coved ceiling with small central saucer dome, two bookcases flank central fireplace on east wall, each with scrolled pediment; columns marbled and bookcases grained. There is a moat around the house, the east side of which has been filled in, and is still with water to the west. There has been a Bishop's Palace on this site since at least the mid-C13. One of the most significant of the early works of the Gothick Revival (predates Strawberry Hill); partly inspired from Batty Langley's pattern books eg the screen between the Chapel and the ante-Chapel. (Listed Building Report)

Hartlebury Castle was originally the manor-house of Hartlebury, and has always followed the same descent as the manor. Walter Cantilupe began to build in the time of Henry III, (Dugdale, Mon. Angl. i, 574. Sir J. Mackenzie states that the building was begun in 1255 (Castles of Engl. i, 383), but Dugdale gives the date as 1263.) the castle being finished by Bishop Giffard, who in 1268 obtained a royal licence to complete its fortification. (Thomas, Surv. of Worc. Cath. App. 44; Prattinton Coll. (Soc. Antiq.). Bishop Giffard was accused of appropriating some of the goods of the sacrist to meet the expense of building Hartlebury Castle (Thomas, op. cit. App. no. 67).) The first royal visitor to the castle was Edward I, who came here on his way to suppress the Welsh rebellion of 1282. He then called upon Bishop Giffard to have ready his forces to join the expedition. (Reg. G. Giffard (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), Introd. 147) Twelve years later Edward again spent a day here when he was journeying to Wales. (Cal. Pat. 1292–1301, p. 126. Mr. Robertson states that Edward III also visited the castle ('Hist. of Parish of Hartlebury,' Assoc. Archit. Soc. Rep. xxvi, 216).) In the middle of the 16th century the castle is described as a 'fayre Maner Place … having ii lyttel Towers covered with Leade, and the Chamber cauled the Bishop's Chamber also covered with Leade, and there is a Chappell annexed to the said Chamber lykewyse covered with Leade, where ys a lyttell Bell weying by estimacion dimid. hundred Weight. Also there is a Mote and a Ponde adjoyning to the said Castell well stored with Fyshe.' (Rev. D. Robertson, op. cit. 215.) (VCH 1913)

Gatehouse Comments

In 1268 Bishop Giffard, loyal to the Plantagenet dynasty, Henry IIIs chancellor obtained a licence to crenellate (This is not entered in the royal rolls but an early copy was/is in the cathedral records)

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO836712
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 231
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 392, 463-6
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 80-1
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 68, 187
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 279
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 48
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 507
  • Dyer, C., 1980, Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society: The Estates of the Bishopric of Worcester, 680-1540 (Cambridge University Press)
  • Pevsner, N., 1968, Buildings of England: Worcestershire (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books) p. 190-1
  • Moore, P.C. (ed.), 1960, 'An inventory of Hartlebury castle' in Miscellany 1 (Worcester: Worcs. Hist. Soc. Pubns., ns, 1) p. 60-91
  • Barnard, E.A.B. (ed), 1931, The Prattinton collections of Worcestershire history (Eveshsm: The Journal Press)
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 71
  • Montgomerie, 1924, in Page, Wm and Willis-Bund, J.W. (eds), VCH Worcestershire Vol. 4 p. 431-3
  • Page, Wm and Willis-Bund, J.W. (eds), 1913, VCH Worcestershire Vol. 3 p. 381-4 online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Morewood, Caroline C., 1910, 'Introductory Chapter' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of Canterbury) (London; Constable & Co) p. 14-15 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 383-4 online copy
  • Nash, T., 1781, Collections for a History of Worcestershire (London: T Payne and son) Vol. 1 p. 586
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 318


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 511, 517, 518
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 89 online copy


  • Molyneux, N.A.D., 2013, 'Hartlebury Castle, Worcestershire: an introduction to its architectural history' Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society Vol. 56
  • Molyneux, N.A.D., 2010, 'Hartlebury Castle, Worcestershire: an architectural history of a bishop's residence' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society (ser 3) Vol. 22 p. 129-
  • Miller, Darren, 2008, 'Archaeological fieldwork at Hartlebury Castle' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society (ser 3) Vol. 21 p. 195-204
  • 1995, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 152 sup. 37-9
  • 1971 Sept 16 and 23, Country Life
  • Hussey, 1931 Feb 7, Country Life Vol. 69 p. 156-62
  • 1926, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 83 p. 297 (plan) online copy
  • Bishop Yeatman-Biggs, 1907-10, Worcestershire Naturalists Club Vol. 4 p. 262-9
  • Robertson, D., 'History of Parish of Hartlebury' Association Architectural Society Reports Vol. 26 p. 216

Guide Books

  • Anon, 1984, Hereford and Worcester County Museum, Hartlebury Castle (English Life Publications)
  • Pearce, E.H., 1926, Hartlebury Castle, with some notes on Bishops who lived in it and on others who lived elsewhere (London: SPCK)

Primary Sources

  • Thomas, Wm, 1736, A survey of the cathedral-church of Worcester appendix 44 online copy


  • Murray Andrews, 2014, Archaeological evaluation at Hartlebury Castle, Hartlebury, Worcestershire (North Worcestershire Archaeology Group)
  • Tyers, I., 2008, Hartlebury Castle, near Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire: dendrochronological analysis of oak timbers: scientific dating report (English Heritage Research Department report series 76-2008) online copy
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)