Just north of Newbury in Berkshire, stands the ruins of a castle I had never heard of. It took a drive to the small village of Donnington, down a quiet village lane to a typical English field to discover what remains of a 14th century castle. Donnington Castle was built in the 1380’s for Sir Richard Abberbury, whose family had owned the Manor of Donnington since 1287. Sir Richard was a knight in the service of the Black Prince (Edward, son of King Edward III).
The castle was built in the typical medieval style of the period, with a curtain wall with towers and a gatehouse surrounding a central courtyard. Sir Richard would have resided in luxury rooms built within the gatehouse, while other accommodation would have been within the other towers and buildings within the courtyard, thought to have been made of wood.
Donnington Castle was eventually held by the Crown in the 15th century and is reported to have accommodated both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I at certain times within this important century. The castle was the site of several battles during the English Civil War of the 1600’s, during which time it passed between sides. In 1646, parliament decided to demolish Donnington Castle, leaving only the gatehouse standing.
This is how Donnington Castle has stayed, and all that remains of this historic place today is the twin towered gatehouse and the foundations of the curtain walls and towers that once surrounded the now grassy courtyard.
The castle might be ruined, but the history remains; and it is easy to imagine what this place must have been like back in the days of Sir Richard Abberbury. I could imagine men on horses riding through the gatehouse as the gate is raised, entering into a bustling courtyard. Soldiers with swords and bows and arrows manning the towers and walls. The smell of meat roasting over open fires and the sound of lutes and pipes from the great hall. It must have been such an interesting time.
Now, the sound of the once bustling courtyard is replaced only by the sound of the cool breeze rustling the grass, while the empty stone towers of the gatehouse continue to watch over the area, as they have done for centuries.