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WEDDINGTON CASTLE - An Online History


Other Halls and Castles Around Nuneaton - Astley Castle

Click on thumbnail for larger image. Scroll down for more images and the history of this building.

Astley Castle - an early colour postcard

Astley Castle in the 1930s

Astley Castle. Early postcard

Stone archway entrance to Astley Castle. Part of castle and greenhouse roof. 1900s*

Early postcard of Astley Castle

Astley Castle. 1920s*

Watercolour of part of Astley Castle ruin. 1800s*

Astley Castle. 1800s*

Astley Castle, copper-plate engraving by Pye after Neale (1814)

Astley Castle in 1978, after the fire that reduced it to a ruin**

A bizarre 'black magic' doll found in an upstairs room of the Castle following the fire. Later attributed to a Hallowe'en party**

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle, March 2007***

Astley Castle. Scale model of the Castle made by Landmark Trust***

Early postcard of Astley Church

Interior of Astley Church, as featured in Graphic Illustrated, 1881

Astley Castle near Nuneaton is a very important historic building dating back to the 1200s. The land came into possession of Phillip de Astley in the thirteenth century and he built the castle.

The Castle was home for a time to Lady Jane Grey, and it is said to be haunted by the ghost of her father Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk (who held the lands of Weddington - see
Castle History for the full story of the Grey family in the region).

Henry Grey took part in the revolt against Queen Mary. When the revolt failed, Henry Grey went into hiding at Astley Castle but was captured in 1554 and beheaded. Bizarrely, in 1849, his head was discovered in a small church near the Tower of London, where it had been preserved in a glass case. His red beard was still visible, hanging from the skull.

The hamlet of Astley derives its name from Alsi, a Saxon nobleman slain by the Normans in 1066, whose land was forfeited to the Norman Earls of Leicester who passed it on in family descent to the Earls of Warwick.

The interior of the castle was destroyed by fire on 3 April 1978 in mysterious circumstances. You can read an account of the fire by clicking here. The building was derelict for many years following the fire and was little more than a shell with walls in a very parlous state, with virtually all of the interior destroyed or in irreparable condition as a result of the fire, subsequent vandalism, and decay.  In 1998 English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund offered grants for a scheme of consolidation and partial conversion to holiday accommodation with the Landmark Trust, but the scheme fell through because of cost. The Trust expressed renewed interest in a curtailed scheme in 2005, but nothing came forward until the detailed proposals that you can access at the links below.

Click here for a 2006 Report by Nuneaton & Warwickshire Council regarding Buildings at Risk in the County, which acknowledged that the Castle was a Priority Category A building (at extreme risk) and that "Realistically it seems that the remnants of the castle will effectively have to be managed as a ruin". Although the Stable block was identified as being "capable of conversion to a beneficial use...[despite]  suffering from slow decay, and,... vandalism and arson".

IN JUNE 2008 Astley Castle came one step closer to being saved following the news (that the Heritage Lottery Fund had given a pledge of support for a grant of 1.47million to the Landmark Trust^ - read more here . You can read earlier local newspaper reports on the efforts to save Astley Castle here (08/04/08), here (24/04/08), here (27/06/08), here (14/08/08) and here .

IN JULY 2009 Pete Simpson, a long time local campaigner to save Astley Castle, died aged just 63. Pete Simpson fought for years to preserve Astley Castle which is being revamped by a 1.47m Heritage Lottery Grant. You can read a local newspaper report on his death here.

BY MARCH 2010 The Landmark Trust^ announced that its fundraising appeal to save Astley Castle had raised 2.5 million. 

IN JULY 2012 Astley Castle's restoration was complete and the first guests arrived for their holidays. You can read a local press article here.

A copy of the Landmark Trust's previous webpage on Astley Castle, with some fascinating historical detail, can be accessed here. The Landmark Trust's current website on the Castle can be accessed here.

Photos marked * are Warwickshire County Council, 2003

** Photograph taken by Les Fannon, Nuneaton Evening Tribune photographer

*** Photographs courtesy of  The Landmark Trust

^ The Landmark Trust is a building preservation charity, founded in 1965 by the late Sir John Smith and Lady Smith. It was established to rescue historic and architecturally interesting buildings and their surroundings from neglect and, when restored, to give them new life by letting them as places to experience for holidays.


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