Croft Castle – Royal Connections For Over 1000 Years

Hidden away in rural Herefordshire, Croft Castle is an ancient place steeped in British history. Its occupants have served royalty for over 1000 years and the site itself it just as old. It really is the perfect place for an historical day out.

How old is Croft Castle?

The Croft estate was founded by a Norman knight, Bernard de Croft and is recorded in the Domesday Book. However, its likely there has been something on the site since before the Norman Conquest.

At its core, Croft Castle is a late medieval castle.  In about 1765 the Castle was extensively remodelled both internally and externally in the fashionable Strawberry Hill Gothick style. There’s still some original Jacobean interior to be found in places too – its a very unusual mix!

croft castle

Who lived at Croft Castle?

The Croft family have been confidantes to royalty since 1055.

In the late 14th Century Sir John de Croft married Janet, daughter of Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr. Legend says after the fall of Harlech Castle in 1409 he ended up at Croft Castle while on the run.

During the Wars of the Roses, Sir Richard Croft fought for the Yorkists at the nearby Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Sir Richard served four monarchs in total, and eventually became Henry VII’s Treasurer to the Household and Steward to the King’s son, Prince Arthur. His wife Eleanor had served as governess to Edward IV’s sons, better known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’.

Sir Richard’s grandson, Sir James Croft was implicated in the Wyatt rebellion against Mary I. He was eventually pardoned and became Elizabeth I’s Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1570. He also served as a commissioner for the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. His son Edward was accused of employing a conjuror to cast a fatal spell on Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s favourite.

Sir James Croft

One of Sir James’ great-grandaughters, Margaret Croft, served as lady in waiting to Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia aka The Winter Queen. Her brother, Herbert Croft was chaplain to Charles I and, after the Restoration, was appointed Bishop of Hereford by Charles II.

Croft Castle was sold by his grandson Sir Archer Croft. He had invested in the South Sea Company which speculated on the supply of enslaved Africans. Following its collapse in 1720, Sir Archer lost most of the family’s wealth and was forced to sell the castle in 1746 – nevertheless the family continued to make their mark on history.

The most famous Croft in British history is probably Sir Richard Croft, the 6th Baronet. He was a leading obstetrician chosen to care for the pregnant Princess Charlotte, daughter of the future George IV. However, due to complications her son was stillborn in November 1817 and Charlotte died soon afterwards. Croft was distraught by the outcome and committed suicide just three months after.

What can I see at Croft Castle?

The castle

In 1923 the Croft family repurchased the property, and continue to live here to this day, though the house is now owned by the National Trust. You can tour the ground floor and a small part of the upper floor.

The house is well furnished, but with a variety of architectural and decorative styles. For example, you enter via the hall which was actually revamped in the early 20th century but is decorated with 17th century panelling – just to keep you on your toes!

croft castle hall detail

You then move through a succession of (predominately) Strawberry Hill Gothic rooms, including the impressive Saloon decorated to give the impression of a 1930s house party. The unusual Blue Room with its Jacobean panelling is another highlight.

The highlight of the house is most definitely the Gothick Staircase, a candyfloss creation that is a perfect example of the distinctive Strawberry Hill Gothick style.

croft castle gothick staircase

The walled garden and parkland

The property has an exquisite three acre walled garden, but the wider park is well worth exploring too. The Fishpool Valley was landscaped in the eighteenth century with ponds, a grotto, gothic pump-house and an ice house. It has undergone major restoration to bring it back to its original glory. You can also walk to to the Iron Age hill fort of Croft Ambrey with its magnificent far-reaching views.

croft castle walled garden

The church

St Michael and All Angels Church, with its distinctive cupola and clock, dates from around the thirteenth century and sits just across from Croft Castle.

Its a relatively simple church, complete with 17th Century box pews and medieval floor tiles. The most ornate item is an elaborate tomb for Sir Richard and Eleanor Croft.

croft castle - church interior

How do I get to Croft Castle?

Croft Castle is in Yarpole near Leominster in Herefordshire. Given the rural area, the best way to travel to Croft Castle is by car. The nearest railway station is 7 miles away in Leominster.

Where do I find out more about Croft Castle, including opening times?

Croft Castle is a National Trust property. Visit the website to learn more, including opening times.

TOP TIP: In Herefordshire for the whole day? Croft Castle is only 15 minutes drive away from Berrington Hall. Combine the two properties for a top historical day out!

Croft Castle Pinterest Cover

 

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