Tamworth has something for everyone. It has a unique place in the historical landscape of the UK as the Ancient Capital of the Kingdom of Mercia. Today it offers visitors the opportunity to discover it’s rich past, as well as enjoy the attractions of a thriving and busy town set in the beautiful county of Staffordshire.
With easy access by air, rail, and road, Tamworth is a great centre from which to explore the tourism offered in the heart of the UK; including Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Lichfield, Warwick, and the Peak District. Drayton Manor Theme Park is also just a stone’s throw away.
Below are some interesting facts about the hotel and some of the historic buildings in its immediate vicinity.
The Castle Hotel
Situated on Ladybank, this building dates back to 1851. The Market Street frontage, which today serves as the hotel’s ‘Vodka bar’, was used as a grocer’s shop. In 1838 the hotel was the scene of a tragic fire which took the lives of 6 maidservants trapped in upper rooms. A monument was erected in the churchyard to record the incident and as a result of this fire, the town’s first fire brigade was formed. The hotel’s nightclub used to house Ford and Rowley’s Castle Garage and a petrol pump stood outside.
The Bank House
Situated on Lady Bank opposite the Castle Hotel, the Bank House was formerly the Tamworth Savings Bank. This Gothic-revival style building dates from 1848 and was purpose built to house the bank founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1823. This and the other buildings in the row have remained virtually unchanged.
The Brewery House
Situated at the end of Lady Bank opposite Holloway Lodge, this is now an annex of The Caste Hotel. The Old Brewery House was donated to the town by Lord Weymouth and Lord Middleton as a workhouse in 1750. It gained its name when it was later purchased by local businessman Edward Morgan, who owned a brewery to the rear of the property and the house became his home and Brewery Offices. The building was also used as the “dole” office in the 1960s and 70s.
Situated at the end of Lady Bank, the bridge crosses the confluence of the River Tame and the River Anker. The Lady Bridge we know today was erected in 1796 and widened at each end in 1840. It replaced a Medieval bridge which over time had become destroyed by ice and floods. Documents dating back to 1294 name this ancient bridge as The Bridge of St Mary, and probably obtained this name because it once had a pedestal supporting a figure of St Mary on a cross. The pedestal itself survived and is today placed on the approach to the Castle’s square tower. Officially known as the Marmion Stone, it is still known locally as the wishing chair, and young children often sit there to make a wish. After many years of carrying the main Birmingham to Nottingham trunk road, the bridge was closed to traffic in 1984.
Situated at the end of Lady Bank and opposite the Brewery House, the Lodge Gatehouse is the most recent addition to the Castle and was built by the 2nd Marquis Townshend in 1810 as an entrance worthy of the town’s great landmark. Originally it was a single storey building but a second storey was added to the building around 1897. The coats of arms of the previous owners of the Castle are shown above the central archway of the Lodge, facing Lady Bank. Here, a stone shield bears the arms of the Marmions. On either side of this are two horseshoes, the badge of the Ferrers family. A stone shield bearing the arms of the Townshends can be found on the inside of the gateway, facing the grounds.
Tamworth Castle stands proudly aloft the town centre in the Castle Grounds, and can be accessed from the Castle’s gatehouse bridge off of Market Street.
Tamworth Castle dates from the 11th Century and is a large motte and bailey castle built in the Norman period. Today, it is one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey Castles in Britain. Originally, a wooden tower stood atop of the steep man-made motte, and was built around 1073; this was replaced by a multi-sided stone shell-keep almost a hundred years later. Part of the herringbone causeway wall still exists and the path on top of it leads up to the Castle entrance.
The motte remains but the Castle bailey can now no longer be detected. Numerous additions were made to the Castle over the centuries, especially in the Tudor and Stuart periods. The shell-keep contains the Medieval Tower, and Tudor residential North Range, in addition to the Elizabethan South Range, both of which are linked by an oak timbered Great Hall from the 15th century.
The Castle is situated above the confluence of the Tame and Anker rivers, a naturally defensive position. The causeway wall is a brilliant example of herring-bone stone work, built to impress and subdue the local population when the Normans took over. The early Norman buildings inside the castle have been replaced successively by newer ones up to the Stuart period.
The Castle was home to the Marmion family, hereditary Royal Champions to English Kings from Henry I to Edward I. In 1291 it passed, by marriage, to Sir Alexander Freville. In 1423, similarly, it then passed to Thomas Ferrers of Groby. James I, the first Stuart king of England, visited Tamworth in 1619, and whilst he was accommodated by Sir John Ferrers at Tamworth Castle, the Prince of Wales and future King Charles was entertained by William Comberford at the Moat House. During the Civil War in 1643, when the Castle’s governor was Waldyve Willington, the Castle was besieged by parliamentarian forces. An order was issued for the Castle to be destroyed Thankfully, this was not carried out, although there is evidence that shows part of the shell-keep wall had to be rebuilt.
In 1668, the Castle passed to the Shirleys of Chartley, and then in 1715 to the Comptons, when Elizabeth Ferrers married the 5th Earl of Northampton. During the Comptons period of ownership the Castle fell into disrepair. However in 1751, Charlotte Compton, the grand-niece of 1st Earl Ferrers, married George Townshend of Raynham . The Townshends took up residence in Tamworth Castle and it saw much improvement from them in 1781.
During most of the 19th century the Castle was let out to tenants; including Sir Robert Peel, and from 1869 to 1891 Thomas Cooke. On Cooke’s death in the late 1890s, Marquis Townshend decided to sell the Castle by auction. Tamworth Corporation purchased it to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The purchase price of £3000 was later raised by public subscription and the Castle was formally opened and dedicated to the public two years later.
The castle has also been depicted in a work by the English Romantic artist, J M W Turner.
Most recently the castle welcomed HRH the Prince of Wales as part of the Mercian Regiment formation in 2007.
With over 900 years of history, 40 owners and 6 noble families, Tamworth Castle was voted 4th in the UK TV’s Best Heritage Attraction 2007.