Berkeley is situated on the English side of the Severn estuary in the Vale of Berkeley, some 10 miles SW of Stroud. A stretch of the Little Avon River runs to the S of the village to enter the estuary just over a mile to the west. The castle is on the SE edge of the village and consists of an approximately square courtyard with a roughly circular shell keep at its NW corner. The Great Hall occupies most of the E range with the service quarters to the N of it and the State Lodgings to the S. The Inner Gateway is at the S end of the W range, and the Outer Gateway is some way to the W of this. The land falls away to the S and E, so that the castle dominates the view from Berkeley Heath. Most of the castle is 14thc, but the shell keep and the Great Hall are 12thc in origin and retain some original features.
A castle was erected here in 1067 by William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford (d.1071), comprising a motte and bailey with a timber keep on the motte. In the mid-12thc the motte was surrounded by the present shell keep, and was levelled within the shell wall, so that the ground is some 20 ft higher inside than it is outside the shell keep. This work was carried out by Robert Fitz Harding, immediately after he received the castle from Henry of Anjou (later Henry II) in 1153. The keep is approximately circular and originally had round bastions to the NE, NW, SE and SW. Only the NE bastion (with an elaborate 12thc window) and the SE bastion remain; the NW bastion was replaced by Thorpe’s Tower in the 14thc, and the remainder of the W stretch of the shell wall was destroyed by a Civil War battery from an emplacement on the roof of the nearby parish church. It was consolidated but the SW bastion was not rebuilt, and the shell wall was never rebuilt to its original height on this side. The keep is of reddish coursed sandstone rubble construction with pilaster buttresses, but this structure survives only on the S and SW sides, the remainder having been rebuilt. On the E face of the keep, between the two surviving bastions, is a forebuilding in the form of a rectangular tower built against the shell wall. It was not built with the wall, but added slightly later in the 12thc. This contains the staircase leading to the elaborate main E entrance doorway to the shell keep. The forebuilding has been considerably altered in later centuries.
Further 12thc fabric is found in the Great Hall, built against the E curtain wall. The Great Hall was rebuilt in the 14thc and extensively restored and remodelled by the 8th Earl, who succeeded to the Berkeley estates in 1916, when he found the castle in an advanced state of disrepair. As a result of these restorations, fabric which appears to be 12thc may not be original. The rectangular hall has its high end at the south, and at the north is a screens passage with a gallery above, divided from the main space by a wooden screen brought from Caefn Mably (Glamorgan). Along the east wall are three tall, round-headed window embrasures, and these are 12thc in origin but restored. 12thc chevron voussoirs have been reused in the doorway from the Keep Garden into Thorpe’s Tower, and these are also described here. Finally the Treasury contains four carved stones of 12thc date. Their provenance is unknown, and they may not be local or even British, having been amassed by the 8th Earl, a voracious collector.
Henry of Anjou, later Henry II, seized Berkeley Castleand its manor from Roger de Berkeley and in 1153 gave it to Robert Fitz Harding, a wealthy citizen of Bristol, nobly descended from Eadnoth the Staller, a Domesday landowner who had died fighting for his king. Robert Fitz Harding had financed some of Henry’s early campaigns, and Berkeleywas his reward. The problem with the Berkeleys was resolved by a double marriage: Robert’s eldest son Maurice married Roger de Berkeley’s daughter Alice (taking the name Maurice de Berkeley), and Roger’s eldest son married one of Robert’s daughters. The castle has remained with the descendants of Maurice de Berkeley to the present day.
|Height of 2nd order arch (inner radius)||1.05m|
|Height of door sill above pavement||0.55m|
|Height of doorway (2nd order arch inner apex to door sill)||3.45m|
|Width of chevron arch (inner diameter)||2.30m|
Plain and continuous with a chamfer, probably 13th - 14thc. This is much smaller than the outer order arch, and the pseudo-lintel above the inner order arch is a row of five moulded blocks, four at least being reused corbels, as follows:
2. A corbel in the form of pair of thin vertical quadrants
3. Possibly a reused bas with its square socle below a chamfer.
4. A worn quadrant.
5. A tall corbel with horizontal features, badly eroded. This is shown by Marklove (1840) as a triple roll.
The plain S (left) jamb is rebuilt of red sandstone blocks from the pavement to the arch springing. The N (right) jamb is original. It consists of a nook-shaft on an eroded base and a tall chamfered plinth, so that the lower end of the shaft is two courses above the internal floor level and the top step of the entrance. The shaft is carved with a regular design of interlacing stems, forming a trellis of lozenges, and in each lozenge in a worn suspended form, possibly a bunch of grapes. The shaft supports a capital which is worn but clearly cushion-shaped with a plain roll necking. Each face is carved in relief with the same design. A flat stem with a central row of beading rises vertically from the necking to the lower edge of the shield, where it splits into a pair of hollow stems that curve up to left and right, defining the edge of the shield. They appear to terminate in leaves at the top angles of the capital, but general erosion renders their precise form unclear. Within each shield is a pair of trilobed, fan-shaped leaves with fluted lobes, surrounded by a stem. The curved spandrels below the shields are also filled with similar leaves with fluted lobes. The impost block above the capital is heavy, chamfered and much worn with no trace of any carving remaining. Nineteenth-century views show a chamfered impost with bosses or lozenge-shaped nailhead on the chamfer and two or three horizontal grooves on the face. The arch is carved with frontal chevron consisting of two broad rolls alternating with three narrow ones. There are major losses in this area and only seven of the units of chevron, three at each end and one at the apex, are complete. Outside the chevron archivolt is a chamfered label with a heavy lateral chevron roll on the chamfer and a narrow chevron roll on the face. The label is also badly worn, so that the design appears to vary from one voussoir to the next.
|Length of chamfer||0.36m|
|Max. depth of block||0.23m|
|Max. height of block||0.40m|
|Max. length of block||0.75m|
|Max. height of block||0.18m|
|Max. width of block||0.25m|
|Max. height of block||0.15m|
|Max. width of block||0.28m|
|Height of block||0.21 m|
|Thickness of block||0.09 m|
|Width of block at foot||0.16 m|
|Width of block at top (max. width)||0.18 m|
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Gloucestershire Archives (for drawings by Marklove and Lysons)
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G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland (ed.) English Romanesque Art 1066-1200. Catalogue of an exhibition held London, Hayward Gallery, 5 April – 8 July 1984, 188.