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Reports of Newbury Castle have been vastly overstated. It is unfortunate for the town, which has always displayed the building with pride on its coat of arms. It has recently been shown that there is only one definite record of the castle's existence. John D'Earley's biographically poem, "The History of William the Marshal," gives the fullest known account of the castle's besieging by King Stephen in 1153.
The many unofficial castles erected in King Stephen's reign, both to aid and hinder his cause, were very lightweight motte and bailey affairs. The one at Newbury could have disappeared shortly after its capture. However, archaeological investigation has shown no signs of it around the traditional site, down at the Wharf, and references to the ruins in the early 17th century appear to relate to the cloth factory which was also sometimes called 'the Castle'. The real 'Newbury Castle' may have stood anywhere in the local area, though it was probably the stronghold at Hamstead Marshall.
At the time of the Civil War between Henry I's daughter, the Empress Matilda and her cousin, King Stephen, Reading Abbey was still being built. The latter apparently constructed a motte and bailey castle in its grounds, possibly to harass Wallingford, though this was a little distant. It was destroyed by the Empress' son (later Henry II) in 1153. The remains of the motte can still be seen in the Forbury Gardens . Castle Hill and Street in Reading probably take their names from the ancient ruin of a Roman Villa in the area.
It has often been suggested that Dragon Hill, below the Uffington White Horse, is the Motte of a Norman Castle. The mound appears to be natural, though it is still possible it was used as a castle. There is no corroborative evidence however. The adjoining hillfort also goes by the name of Uffington Castle.
Henry III greatly improved the castle. The old hall in the Upper Ward was abandoned for a new and larger one in the Lower Ward and, in 1272, he roofed the Keep. Part of the cloister still stands as it was then built. On the town side, three great towers were built and, on the north, was erected a tower on the same site as now stands the Winchester Tower. All the buildings were handsomely decorated with paintings and windows filled with glass. In one of the new towers, on the western side, was possibly the dungeon connected with a scene in Henry's career, which proved him, for all his piety, a worthy son of his father. The Londoners, headed by their Mayor, FitzThomas, had long resisted Henry's exactions and when, in 1265, the King was in their power and Earl Simon De Monfort ruled the land, FitzThomas addressed to his King words in St. Paul's which sank deep into Henry's soul. When the Battle of Evesham delivered his enemies into his hands, Henry summoned the Mayor and chief citizens to Windsor, giving them a safe conduct. They were then thrown into prison, from which it does not appear that FitzThomas ever emerged, though the others, to the number of forty, were eventually released.
The two eldest sons of Edward I were born at Windsor and, though the King himself rarely visited the castle, Queen Eleanor seems often to have resided here.
In times past the village of West Woodhay was known as Woodhay Oseville, named after the Lords who held the manor until about 1250. Near the present church, but half a mile from the old one, stands the motte of a small castle or hunting lodge. It was probably built by the Oseville ancestor, William FitzSwale, in the early twelfth century. He was the son of Swalo, the man given the manor after the Norman Conquest. The St.Amands later lived there, but they probably abandoned the castle, about 1300, for a more comfortable manor house near the newly built church. Seventeen years later, John St. Amand was granted the right to hold a market in Woodhay every Tuesday