By: Sir Richard Abberbury
Change of ownership: 1398, bought by Thomas Chaucer (son of the famous Geoffrey) for daughter Alice and son-in-law William
Change of ownership: taken by the Crown (no date found)
Change of ownership: given to Charles Brandon in 1514
Change of ownership: reclaimed by Crown in 1535, in a state of decay
Change of ownership: granted to Charles Howard by Queen Elizabeth I, in 1600
Change of ownership: owned by John Packer, starting sometime before 1643 (no date found)
Change of ownership: Garrisoned by Royalists after the first Battle of Newbury, 1643. John Boys became Governor of the castle.
Extra fortifications added.
Attacked end of July 1644, repelled
Sieged for 12 days in September 1644 by Colonel Jeremy Horton, castle remained untaken
Attacked 4th Oct by Edward Montagu and the parliamentary army. Storming failed, bombardment continued until the King and the Royal army headed that way.
After failing to relieve Basing House, the King tried to relieve Donnington Castle. The Parliamentary army showed up a couple of days later, leading to the Second Battle of Newbury. on Oct 27th. William Waller and his army surrounded the castle, while the Royalist army fought Montagu’s army at the main battle. Both sides thought they’d lost, Donnington remained a Royalist stronghold.
After the King left, Robert Devereux laid siege to the castle. He left before the King came back in November.
Sieged again from early 1646, truce from the end of March.
Change of ownership: Boys surrenders the castle, on 1st April 1646.
1646: The castle is in tatters from all the assaults. Parliament votes to demolish the castle. The first part of the English Civil War ends.
Today, the Gatehouse is all that survives.
The above took a bit of sorting out, due to different articles being contradictory, or not easy to follow. So, I’ll start with some notes on the above:
Attacked end of July 1644, repelled
Wikipedia lists this attack as by a division of the New Model Army, which wasn’t created until January 1645, first taking to the field sometime around the beginning of April.
Under siege for 12 days in September 1644 by Colonel Jeremy Horton, castle remained untaken
Wikipedia says it started Sept 29th, which it also lists as “about a month” after the July 31st attack. The next thing listed is the parliamentarian army returning on 4th Oct, so September 29th as a start date seems pretty suspect.
At the time of writing, Wikipedia linked to an article for Jeremy Horton, but the page linked to was for a Days Of Our Lives character.
The Second Battle of Newbury
Wikipedia’s page on the battle is hard to follow, their John Boys page told me most about the castle’s role, but didn’t clear the rest of it up. The Royal Berkshire History description was clearer, but still not easy to condense for the Cheat Sheet description. The Pastscape page for the battle provides the best summary I found.
Heritage Gateway links
National Heritage List for England
Donnington Castle (listing)
Donnington Castle (Scheduling)
National Monuments Record Excavation Index
one result, linking to an item at the Archaeology Data Service. The ADS page states an excavation happened in 1932. Pastscape also mentions this, stating the results were published in the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works Guide 1964. I didn’t find it online.
West Berkshire Historic Environment Record
1643 Defences – “numerous finds” are noted, didn’t notice their being documented
Donnington Village – Listed in the Domesday Book, it’s noted that John Boys had the village demolished so the enemy couldn’t make use of it
Site of the Second Battle of Newbury
The University of Iowa has translations of the patent rolls for various monarchs. The licence for Richard Abberbury to build the castle is in Richard II, Vol 3, p156.
The first and second battles of Newbury and the siege of Donnington Castle during the Civil War, 1643-6, by Walter Money. Published 1884.
The Antiquities of England and Wales vol 1 by Francis Grose, has an article about Donnington Castle (spelt “Dunnington”). Hard to find the page without a search: it’s page 5, but that’s after a very long preface.
Discuss this article on the forum.