The building of Thornbury Castle began in 1511, on the site of an earlier manor house. It was the project of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, a man who had at least as many royal forebears as his distant cousin Henry VIII. Stafford’s project was unfinished when Henry VIII had him accused of treason and executed in 1521. Following Stafford’s death, Thornbury Castle was confiscated by the king, who stayed there for ten days in 1535 with Ann Boleyn.
The castle fell into disrepair after the English Civil War but was renovated and refurbished by the Howard family from the 1820s.
Algar Howard of Thornbury Castle was responsible in the early 1900s, with Colonel Turner of Oldown House, Old Down, for establishing a local cavalry troop, drawn from local farmers with good horses. These very part-time soldiers, the Oldown Troop, all enlisted for army service on 4 August 1914 and found themselves, with their horses, in the Middle East from April 1915 until August 1919. Algar Howard himself was badly wounded at Gallipoli but returned to active service and three years later was awarded a Military Cross.
Thornbury Castle is currently a luxury hotel and restaurant.
With the permission of the Castle, museum volunteers, in September each year as part of the national Heritage Weekend, usually lead a walk around the castle grounds and explain its history.
Tony Cherry, a museum volunteer, recently published an illustrated and extremely lively history of Thornbury Castle. This was a limited edition because of copyright restrictions on some of the wonderful pictures used in the book. The book was very popular and the edition has now sold out. However, the good news is that Tony is planning a follow-up book. This will have an element of re-capping in it but will also include a great deal of new information acquired since the publication of the first book. In particular, it will include information about the Thornbury Manor House, which occupied the site before the castle was built. The book is still in the planning stage but we’ll let you know when it’s published and is ready to go on sale!