This time we explore around an unusual 13th century castle ruin, under the name of Acton Burnell.
So more about Acton Burnell, built originally in the late 13th century by Robert Burnell who was the bishop of Bath and wells from 1274-92 and for more than 30 years a close friend and advisor of King Edward the 1st who also would frequent here. It’s located near the village of Acton Burnell, in Shropshire and was designed and used as a fortified stately home. Its position was important at the time because it was near to the old Roman road of Watling Street. Interestingly the king was staying here in the autumn of 1283 and he held the first Parliament of England, this was the first time in English history that the law-making process included the Commons.
The shell of distinctive red sandstone has been altered from its original style by the addition of two arches mid-way along the length of the walls – these were added when the castle was to be used as a folly along the driveway to the Victorian house (which is now a school). He received permission to fortify his manor at Acton in 1284 and the end product was a home suitable for one of the senior clergy; the self-contained block had four corner turrets with the central element having two stories under a twin-span roof.
It was unlikely it was ever built for serious defence; the large first floor windows are indicative of a structure built for comfort rather than defence. Nevertheless a moat protected the castle itself and several outbuildings including nearby St Marys church.
The castle that we see today is only Bishop Burnell’s private apartments, a small part of the original castle complex. The hub of castle life would have been the hall on the first floor. There were once steps leading straight through the eastern entrance and into the hall. Spiral stairs in the south western turret led up to the top for fine views across the surrounding countryside and to watch the hunting. The ground floor would have been used for storage and accommodation for household officials and servants.
The castle’s construction is typical of “hall” type residences – a hall stands in the centre of each floor, with accommodation and stairs built into the thickness of the walls. No outer defences remain, or probably existed even in the castle’s heyday. However, the castle’s architecture is fairly well preserved, and still rather grand. A short distance away is the parish church, which contains some wonderful memorials to the owners of Acton Burnell Castle over the centuries.
Visiting here was great to see something a little different, I can imagine late at night visiting here would be quite eerie, but I don’t think I’m up to the challenge just yet! Its got the history surrounding it and it’s actually quite pretty to look at you can certainly see that Burnell has money behind him. Overall, a good mornings walk learning and exploring and although the ruins seem small its still very atmospheric and you get some great photo opportunities.
Till Next Time!