Berkhamsted Castle | Queen Elizabeth I leases Berkhamsted Castle

Berkhamsted Castle

1580: Queen Elizabeth I leases Berkhamsted Castle
The Castle is plundered for building material

In 1580, Queen Elizabeth I leased the Berkhamsted estate, including the castle ruins and the park, to Sir Edward Carey, Master of the Jewels. Possibly in a gesture of royal humour, Elizabeth demanded from Edward only a nominal rent of one red rose each year.

By the 16th century, England was enjoying a period of relative peace after the instability of medieval warfare, and fortified castles had become redundant. The aristocracy preferred to build comfortable country houses. Since the death of its last royal resident, Cecily Neville, in 1495, Berkhamsted Castle had become derelict.

Edward Carey did not wish to live in a crumbling old castle, and spotted a property development opportunity. He built a handsome new country house at the top of nearby Castle Hill, Berkhamsted Place, and plundered the derelict castle for stones to use as building materials. At this time there was no sentiment for preserving redundant ancient buildings and it was common practice to reuse stones for new building works. While the Elizabethans had no sense of conservation, recycling was high on the agenda.

Berkhamsted Castle is a ruin today; this is not the direct result of war, but of a major shift in demand for new types of buildings, and the ambitions of a Tudor property developer. The Berkhamsted Place mansion stood at the top of the hill for over 380 years before it was demolished in 1967.


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Berkhamsted Castle Trust manages the Berkhamsted Castle site in partnership with English Heritage under a Local Management Agreement. Our volunteers rely on the generosity of the public.
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