Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations

Donnington Castle, Berkshire

Home > Reading > Free | Outdoor | Photography | Walks
Published May 18th 2021
Donnington Castle stands on a hill high above Newbury, Berkshire. It's currently run by English Heritage and is free to visit at any time.

Donnington Castle, things to do in Newbury, picnic spots, historic attractions, English Civil War
The castle has been visited by at least four monarchs, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

Most of the castle has been destroyed, but the original gatehouse from 1386 is still standing. Although you're not allowed inside, it's worth visiting to enjoy the view and take photos.

It's best known for the role it played in the English Civil War. Newbury was a strategically important town, so both sides wanted control of the castle. In 1643, King Charles I sent Sir John Boys and around 200 men to claim it.

By this time, Donnington was obsolete. The 250 year old walls were no match for modern artillery, so Sir John set to work improving the defences. He built earthworks in a star shape around the castle, creating gun emplacements and effectively turning the whole hilltop into a fortress.

You can still make out the shape of the 17th century defences.

Donnington came under attack in July 1644, when an army of 3000 Parliamentarian soldiers arrived. A major assault was launched up the hill, equipped with ladders to try and climb the walls. The attackers were driven back, losing more than 300 men.

Donnington Castle, battle of newbury, civil war re-enactment, things to do in Newbury, picnic spots, historic attractions, English Civil War
Parliamentarian cavalry with the castle in the distance

After failing to capture the castle, the Parliamentarians tried to destroy it. They placed an artillery battery at the bottom of the hill, on the Newbury side. In a bombardment lasting 12 days, they demolished all of the towers on this side of the castle.

Despite the heavy damage, the defenders still had a strong position on the fortified hilltop. The situation became a stalemate, as the castle refused to surrender and the Parliamentarian soldiers refused orders to try another attack.

All the Parliamentarians could do was resume their artillery bombardment. After doing further damage to the front of the castle, they then set up cannons on Snelsmore Common to attack the other side.

The red patch on the closest tower shows where artillery damage has been repaired

By now, the building was falling apart. The Parliamentarians urged Sir John to save the castle by surrendering, but he replied that 'he was not bound to repair the castle, but that by God's help, he would keep the ground.'

Towards the end of 1644, two soldiers managed to sneak up and poison the castle well, which was about 400 yards outside of the walls. They probably thought their commander would be pleased. In fact, he was appalled to hear what they'd done and sent a warning to the enemy soldiers in the castle. A short truce was agreed, giving the defenders time to clean the poison out of their well.

As a result, the garrison were able to hold out until the war ended in 1646. Even then, Sir John only surrendered once he had permission from the King.

Later that year, Parliament decided to demolish what was left of the castle, although they left the gatehouse standing.

It's still an impressive sight today and has become one of Newbury's top tourist attractions.

Best view in Newbury, Donnington Castle, top of the hill, best walks in Newbury
The view from the castle

Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  67
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? One of Newbury's most impressive attractions
When: Any time
Where: 2 miles from Newbury, Berkshire
Cost: Car park 2, only payable by text. Free parking within walking distance.
Your Comment
An informative and historical article Alan, and nice photos. The English countryside must be scattered with history.
by nfoll (score: 1|68) 408 days ago
Articles from other cities
Popular Articles