The Castle entrance
An 1823 engraving of the House from "Neale's Views of Seats"
The Great Hall
The cell where King Edward II was held prisoner
House & Family History: Berkeley Castle is the oldest castle in England in the hands of the same family. It was begun by William Fitz Osbern in 1067, but the oldest surviving buildings (and the occupation by the Berkeley family) were begun in the 1150s and completed in 1153 by Lord Maurice de Berkeley at the command of King Henry II. The barons of the West Country met at the Great Hall of Berkeley in 1215 before moving to Runnymede to pressure King John to approve Magna Carta. King John seized the Castle 1216 (certainly as punishment for the barons meeting there before Runnymede); Berkeley wasn't returned to the Berkeley family until 1224, eight years after King John's death. The supposed murder of King Edward II in 1327 occurred while he was being held prisoner at Berkeley (there is now debate as to whether Edward was murdered or lived the rest of his life as a monk in Italy). It's possible that Shakespeare worte "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to celebrate the wedding of a member of the Berkeley family and that the play was first performed at the Castle. In addition to its many other roles in history, the Castle was besieged by Cromwell's troops in 1645 during the Civil War. The Berkeley family name has been given to locations as diverse as Berkeley Square in London and the University of California, Berkeley.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. II, 1819.
Country Life: XL, 126 plan, 154, 1916. LXII, 626 plan, 668, 694, 1932. LXXIII, 126 [Furniture], 1933. CXVIII, 1430, 1955.
Title: In Celebration: The Art of the Country House
Author: Hearn, Karen; Upstone, Robert; Waterfield, Giles
Year Published: 1998
Publisher: London: Tate Gallery Publishing
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Seat of: R.J.G. Berkeley; Berkeley family here for almost 850 years.
Past Seat of: William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, 11th century. Lord Maurice de Berkeley, 12th century; Thomas de Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley, 14th century; Randal Thomas Mowbray Berkeley, 8th Earl of Berkeley, early 20th century (the title became extinct in 1942).
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home