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             TRAIL - Astwell



Astwell Castle is an intriguing building situated in the undulating countryside between Helmdon and Wappenham.

 Astwell Castle - present day

It has had a long and fascinating history.  Two Saxons lords of Astwell presided over a settlement here before the Norman Conquest, but by the time of Domesday it was a thriving community in the hands of two Norman nobleman.  In 1452 Arthur Broke came on the scene and his descendants set to work to rebuild the manor house round a courtyard, the surviving gate-house being part of his work.


The Shirley family owned Astwell from the late 1500s and Sir George Shirley is notable in that in 1606 he once again rebuilt the house, demolishing all but the gatehouse, and building himself a large and beautiful mansion.  

Astwell castle

Astwell castle in its heyday (undated and unattributed picture

from the internet).  As it was gradually demolished and fell

down, stones were almost certainly robbed for buildings in Helmdon

The Lovetts had possession for four generations, with the 7th baronet, Sir Robert, ennobled by Queen Anne as Earl Ferrers. They were a much more interesting family, producing as they did a murderer (the fourth Earl Ferrers), and  a lady (Selina), who founded a religious sect.


On the death of Washington, the 5th Earl Ferrers, the house and surrounding land were sold to Richard, Earl Temple.  He pulled much of the house down leaving only what he considered appropriate for a tenant farmer.


And it has remained a farm ever since, with frequent changes of ownership.. Today all that is left of its former glory is the fortified gate tower build about 1471, together with a fragment of the seventeenth-century house, which today serves as the farmhouse.



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