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Beaumys Castle

Moated Beaumys Castle stands next to the A33, just within the bounds of the parish of Swallowfield. The original 13th century house was owned by Geoffrey Le Despencer, Lord of Martley in Worcestershire, and it was probably here that his son, Sir John - the founder of the parish church - died in 1274. The moat was dug for his nephew, Hugh Le Despencer, the favourite of Edward II. When disgraced by Queen Isabella in 1322, Hugh fled the court and Mortimer, her lover, raided many Despencer lands including Beaumys. It was later the home of the De La Beche Family. Sir Nicholas rose to the rank of Lord De la Beche and was made Constable of the Tower & Seneschal of Gascony. He oversaw the education of the Black Prince, but died childless in 1345. His widow, Margery, remarried twice in short succession and her husbands are believed to have died of the Black Death. It was while staying at Beaumys with Prince Lionel, and several other children of King Edward III, that this widowed lady was abducted by her lover. Sir John Dalton broke in with sixty-four Berkshire and Lincolnshire squires and made off with, the not so reluctant, Margery to Scotland.

Brightwell Castle The Bishop's Counter-Attack

In the 1150s, King Stephen built himself an early castle at Brightwell, where the manor house now stands. Civil War was raging as he fought with his cousin, the Empress Matilda, for control of the country. The lady had her HQ at nearby Wallingford Castle, so Stephen put her under siege from a ring of fortifications. This site appears to have been chosen because the King's brother, Prince Henry of Blois (Bishop of Winchester) owned the manor and thought that Stephen could protect his estate and attack the Empress at the same time, thus killing two birds with one stone. The enclosing banks and ditches also surround the ancient parish church and it is therefore thought that it was originally erected by the Bishop as a garrison-church. He may have wanted to make the place a permanent counterpart to Wallingford. Though it was, in fact, destroyed by the Empress' son in 1153.

Chamberhouse Castle

Chamberhouse Farm on Crookham Common, though lately occupied by the Tull family whose monuments can be seen in the parish church, was originally the site of a late medieval castle or fortified manor house. In 1446, John Pury, the Lord of the Manor of Chamberhouse and esquire to King Henry VI obtained permission from the latter to crenellate his home and empark 300 acres surrounding it. This seems to have been an unpopular move locally, for several presentments were made against Pury in the manorial court the following year. The castle was surrounded by a moat and had its own private chapel and was enjoyed by Pury's descendants in the female line, for almost a hundred and fifty years. His grandaughter, Isabelle Danvers, and her husband, Martin Docwra, inherited in 1530, but their possession seems to have been disputed by the overlord, the Abbot of Reading, who with "sixteen others entered it in arms and did much damage". The deer and their park only lasted about a hundred years, and the same may be true of the castle, though it is said to have been finally demolished in 1713.

Cholsey Castle

Near Cholsey Church are some ancient earthworks believed to be the remains of a Norman siege-castle. It would have been one of those built by King Stephen to harass to the Empress Matilda who was opposing his claim to the throne from nearby Wallingford Castle. Being on Reading Abbey lands, it may have been the castle, mistakenly called Reading Castle, that was destroyed by the Empress' son in 1153. Alternatively, it may have fallen two years earlier and been replaced by the fortification at South Moreton.