Baynard's Castle

Not to be confused with Baynard Castle, Cottingham, Yorkshire.

Baynard's Castle
Part of the Fortifications of London
Blackfriars, London, England, UK

View of the site in 2009; the first castle was behind the pier of the bridge, the subsequent mansion was on the river slightly to the right of there.
Type Castle, later mansion
Site history
Built Before 1017
Materials stone
Demolished 1666
Garrison information
Occupants English royalty

Baynard's Castle refers to buildings on two neighbouring sites in London, between where Blackfriars station and St Paul's Cathedral now stand. The first was a Norman fortification constructed by Ralph Baynard and demolished by King John in 1213. The second was a medieval palace built a short distance to the southeast and destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. According to Sir Walter Besant, "There was no house in [London] more interesting than this".[1] The original castle was built at the point where the old Roman walls and River Fleet met the River Thames, just east of what is now Blackfriars station. The Norman castle stood for over a century before being demolished by King John in 1213. It appears to have been rebuilt after the barons' revolt, but the site was sold in 1276 to form the precinct of the great priory of Blackfriars.

About a century later, a new mansion was constructed on land that had been reclaimed from the Thames, southeast of the first castle. The house was rebuilt after 1428, and became the London headquarters of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses. Both King Edward IV and Queen Mary I of England were crowned at the castle.

The house was reconstructed as a royal palace by Henry VII at the end of the 15th century, and Henry VIII gave it to Catherine of Aragon on the eve of their wedding. After Henry's death the house came into the hands of Catherine Parr's brother-in-law, the Earl of Pembroke who built a large extension around a second courtyard in about 1551. The Pembroke family took the side of Parliament in the Civil War, and after the Restoration the house was occupied by the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Royalist. Baynard's Castle was left in ruins after the Great Fire of London in 1666, although fragments survived into the 19th century. The site is now occupied by a BT office called Baynard House, but the castle is commemorated in Castle Baynard Street and the Castle Baynard ward of the City of London.

Norman castle

Today the River Fleet has been reduced to a trickle in a culvert under New Bridge Street that emerges under Blackfriars Bridge, but before the development of London it was the largest river in the area after the Thames. It formed the western boundary of the Roman city of London and the strategic importance of the junction of the Fleet and the Thames means that the area was probably fortified from early times.[2] Richard of Cirencester suggests that Canute spent Christmas at such a fort in 1017, where he had Eadric Streona executed.[3] Some accounts claim this was triggered by an argument over a game of chess; Historian William Page suggests that Eadric held the fort as Ealdorman of Mercia and after his death it may have been granted to Osgod Clapa, who was a "staller", a standard-bearer and representative of the king (see Privileges section).[3]

This fort was apparently rebuilt after the Norman invasion by Ralph Baynard, a follower of William the Conqueror and sheriff of Essex.[4] It was on the riverfront inside the Roman walls; a second Norman fort, Montfichet's Tower was c70 metres (230 ft) to the north.[5] The site of Baynard's Castle was adjacent to the church of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, on the southern side of 160 Queen Victoria Street (the former Times office and now The Bank of New York Mellon Centre); archaeologists have found fortifications stretching at least 50 metres (160 ft) south, onto the site of the proposed development at 2 Puddle Dock.[5] This may be the Bainiardus mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1087) who gave his name to springs near Paddington called Baynard's Watering, later shortened to Bayswater.[6]

The castle was inherited by Ralph's son Geoffrey and his grandson William Baynard, but the latter forfeited his lands early in the reign of Henry I (1100–1135) for supporting Henry's brother Robert Curthose in his claim to the throne.[7] After a few years in the hands of the king, the castle passed to Eustace, Count of Boulogne by 1106.[7] John Stow gives 1111 as the date of forfeiture.[8] Later in Henry's reign, the lordship of Dunmow and honour or soke of Baynard's Castle were granted to the king's steward, Robert Fitz Richard (1064–1136).[7] The soke was coterminous with the parish of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, which was adjacent to the Norman castle;[9] the soke roughly corresponds to the eponymous ward of the City of London.[10] Both Dunmow and Baynard's Castle were eventually inherited by his grandson, Robert Fitzwalter[7] (d. 1234).[11]

Fitzwalter and the barons' revolt

Fitzwalter was the leader of the barons' revolt against King John which culminated in the Magna Carta of 1215.[12] The Chronicle of Dunmow relates that King John desired Fitzwalter's daughter, Matilda the Fair,[lower-alpha 1] and Fitzwalter was forced to take up arms to defend the honour of his daughter.[12] This romantic tale may well be propaganda giving legitimacy to a rebellion prompted by Fitzwalter's reluctance to pay tax or some other dispute. He plotted with the Welsh prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth and Eustace de Vesci of Alnwick Castle in 1212. John got wind of the plot and exiled Fitzwalter and de Vesci, who fled to France and Scotland respectively. On 14 January 1213 the king destroyed Castle Baynard.[12] Fitzwalter was forgiven under the terms of the king's submission to Pope Innocent III in May 1213.[12] His estates were restored on 19 July 1213 and according to Stow he was given licence to repair Castle Baynard and his other castles.[8]

It is not clear to what extent the castle was rebuilt, but in 1275[11] Fitzwalter's grandson, also called Robert, was given licence to sell the site to Robert Kilwardby, the Archbishop of Canterbury for the precinct of the great Dominican Priory at Blackfriars built in 1276.[7] Montfichet's Tower was included in the sale, having also been destroyed by King John in 1213.[7] The building of the priory required the Roman walls to be rerouted, and the military functions of the castle were taken up by a new "tower" in the river at the end of the walls.[13][14] Started under the great castle-builder Edward I, it was completed during the reign of Edward II (1307–1327) and demolished in 1502.[8] This was probably the tower of Legate's Inn given by Edward III to William de Ros.[15]


Robert Fitzwalter's seal

The lord of Castle Baynard appears to have had held a special place among the nobility of London. Robert explicitly retained all the franchises and privileges associated with the Barony of Baynard when he made the sale.[11] He claimed them in 1303, his son Robert tried again before the King's Justices in 1327 and his brother John FitzWalter tried again in 1347 in front of the Mayor and Common Council, all without success.[11][16]

These suits centred around a claim to be the chief banneret of London. Created in the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), Knights banneret led troops into battle under their own banner rather than that of someone else.[17] It seems that the castellany of Castle Baynard had entitled FitzWalter's ancestors to carry the banner of London, and hence be leaders of the London forces. In 1136 Robert Fitz Richard had claimed the lordship of the Thames from London to Staines, as the king's banner-bearer and as guardian of the whole city of London.[18]

In times of peace, the soke of Castle Baynard had a court which sentenced criminals convicted before the mayor at the Guildhall, and maintained a prison and stocks.[19] Traitors were drowned while tied to a post, as the tide overwhelmed them at Wood Wharf.[2] Fitzwalter was invited to the Court of Privilege, held at the Great Council in the Guildhall, but sitting next to the Lord Mayor making pronouncements of all judgments. This may represent a combination of the post-Conquest roles of the feudal constable and local justiciar with the pre-Norman office of staller. The latter was the king's standard-bearer in war who was his spokesman at the Danish thing, or 11th century governing assembly.[2]

New site

A "Hospice called le Old Inne by Pauls Wharfe" is listed in the possessions of Edward, Duke of York, who was killed at Agincourt in 1415.[11] He may have acquired the house by his marriage to Philippa de Mohun, widow of Walter Fitzwalter[11] (d. 1386).

A declaration of 1446 appears to identify this building[11] with a town-house built on land reclaimed from the river, 100 metres (110 yd) southeast of the original castle.[20] Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester rebuilt the house after a "great fire" in 1428,[8] there were four wings in a trapezoidal shape around a courtyard.[20] Excavations have shown that the Roman riverside wall, on the south side of the medieval Thames Street, formed the foundation of the north wall of the new house.[20] It seems that the nearby waterfront was known as Baynard's Castle even after the original castle was destroyed, and the name was transferred to the building on the new site.[20]

Gloucester died within days of being arrested for treason in 1447. The house passed to the crown before being occupied by Edward's nephew Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York by 1457. The former Lord Protector kept 400 gentlemen and men-at-arms at the castle in his pursuit of his claim to the throne, but was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460.[1] This London powerbase allowed York's son to take the crown in the hall of the castle as Edward IV whilst Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou were campaigning in northern England.[1] Edward gave the castle to his mother on 1 June 1461,[21] a few weeks before his coronation, and he put his family there for safety before the decisive Battle of Barnet.[1] After Edward V and his brother Richard were declared illegitimate in 1483 and imprisoned in the Tower of London, Edward's brother Richard assumed the title of King at Baynard's Castle,[1] as depicted in Shakespeare's play Richard III.[22]


The Earl of Pembroke owned the castle when Mary was proclaimed Queen there in 1553.

In 1501 Henry VII "repayred or rather new builded this house, not imbattoled, or so strongly fortified Castle like, but farre more beautiful and commodious for the entertainement of any Prince or greate Estate".[8] Henry's alterations included five projecting towers between two existing polygonal corner towers on the riverfront.[20] Henry is recorded as staying at the castle when attending functions at St Paul's.[8] His son gave the castle to Catherine of Aragon on 10 June 1509,[21] the day before their wedding, and the queen took up residence there.[23] Later one of Henry's favourite courtiers, Sir William Sidney (1482?–1554), tutor to the future Edward VI, lived in the castle and made his will there in 1548.[24]

The house passed to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke by 1551,the year in which this influential courtier was made Earl of Pembroke.[1] Thus it was at Baynard's Castle that the Privy Council met to end the reign of Lady Jane Grey and proclaim Mary as Queen of England.[8] Pembroke's wife Anne Parr, the sister of Henry VIII's queen Catherine Parr, died in the castle in 1552.[1] The house was extended to the west around 1550 with three wings of brick, faced with stone on the riverfront.[25] The second courtyard formed by this extension is clearly visible on Hollar's view of London before the Great Fire. Old prints show a large gateway in the middle of the south side, a bridge of two arches and steps down to the river.[26]

The house remained in the Pembroke family until the 4th Earl, Philip Herbert, who was appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford there in 1641.[26] Herbert preferred to live in Whitehall while his wife Anne (1590–1676) took up residence in Baynard's Castle, describing it in her memoirs as "a house full of riches, and more secured by my lying there".[26] Pembroke sided with the parliamentarians in the First English Civil War and died in 1650.[26] By the time of the Restoration, the house was occupied by the Earl of Shrewsbury,[26] who had fought on the side of the Royalist army in their defeat at Worcester in 1651. Samuel Pepys records that on 19 June 1660 "My Lord went at night with the King to Baynard's Castle to supper ... [the next morning he] lay long in bed this day, because he came home late from supper with the King".[27] Charles II had only arrived in London on 29 May, and would appoint Pepys' "lord", Edward Montagu as Earl of Sandwich a few weeks later.

After the Great Fire

Baynard's Castle in 1790

Baynard Castle was destroyed in the Great Fire of London[26] in 1666. The engraver Wenceslaus Hollar depicted considerable ruins standing after the fire, including the stone facade on the river side,[26] but only a round tower was left when Strype was writing in 1720.[13] This tower had been converted into a dwelling, the rest of the site became timber yards and wood wharves[13] with Dunghill Lane running through the site from Thames Street.[1] Richard Horwood's map of c. 1813 shows a copper wharf,[28] which in 1878 belonged to the Castle Baynard Copper Company.[29] The remaining tower (some sources say two survived) was pulled down in the 19th century to make way for warehouses of the Carron Company.[26] In the 1970s the area was redeveloped, with the construction of the Blackfriars underpass and Baynard House, a Brutalist office block occupied by BT Group. Most of the site under Baynard House is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[30]


Most of the archaeological evidence for the second Baynard's Castle comes from excavations in 1972–5, before the construction of Baynard House. Parts of the north wing of both the original house and extension were found, including the north gate and gatetower, and the cobbled entrance from Thames Street.[31] Two east-west "limestone" walls were found; the excavator suggested that the more northerly one was the curtain wall of the pre-1428 castle, and the other was a post-1428 replacement.[31] The latter was surmounted by a brick facing with a rubble core, to which a rectangular pier was attached.[31] The castle had foundations of chalk, ragstone and mortar and was built entirely on reclaimed land.[20] Several phases of building in the late 17th century were also identified.[31] Excavations in 1981 at the City of London School uncovered the SE corner tower of the Tudor castle.[32] The London Archaeological Archive codes for the excavations are BC72/GM152, UT74, BC74, BC75 and BYD81.[33]

See also


  1. also known as Maid Marian Fitzwalter - the real life Maid Marian of the legend of Robin Hood


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Besant, Sir Walter (1903), The Thames, London: A. & C. Black, pp. 84–7
  2. 1 2 3 Page, William (1923), London, its origin and early development, London: Constable & Co, p. 192, retrieved 20 June 2010
  3. 1 2 Page (1923), p. 138
  4. Sir Laurence Gomme, The Making of London; Ackroyd, London, p.47
  5. 1 2 Jackson, Sophie (February 2009). "The Puddle Dock Development 1-6" (PDF). Museum of London Archaeology Service. p. 15.
  6. White, William (12 January 1850), Notes and queries, 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 162–3
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Page (1923), p. 139
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Stow, John (1908), Kingsford, C.L., ed., A Survey of London, by John Stow: Reprinted from the text of 1603, pp. 60–68, retrieved 2010-06-20 Stow is an important source for the medieval history of London, but his dates in particular are not always reliable.
  9. Page (1923), p. 162
  10. Page (1923), p. 172
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Stow (1598), pp. 269–283. Kingsford (1908)'s notes on Stow's text.
  12. 1 2 3 4  Tout, T. F. (1889). "Fitzwalter, Robert". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 19. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  13. 1 2 3 Strype, John (1720), Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, hriOnline, University of Sheffield (published 2007), pp. 59–62, ISBN 0-9542608-9-9
  14. In his notes on Stow, Kingsford refers to the manuscript Harley MS. 538, f. 19vo
  15. Jackson, Sophie (February 2009). "The Puddle Dock Development 7-9" (PDF). Museum of London Archaeology Service.
  16. In his notes on Stow in relation to the privileges of the Fitzwalters, Kingland refers the reader to Henry Thomas Riley's Introduction to Munimenta Gildhallae II. i. pp. lxxvi-lxxxiv; and Memorials of London and London Life, p. 236.
  17.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Banneret". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 353, 354.
  18. Page (1923), p. 193
  19. Page (1923), p. 191
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jackson, Sophie (February 2009). "The Puddle Dock Development 7-9" (PDF). Museum of London Archaeology Service. p. 28. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  21. 1 2 London Topographical Society (1916), London topographical record, 10, p. 62
  22. "Shakespeare's Richard III Act 3 Scene 7". Amanda Mabillard (Shakespeare Online). 12 November 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-23. There are several mentions of Baynard's Castle in the play, Act III Scene 7 is the one in which Richard is declared king.
  23. Du Boys, Albert (1881), Yonge, Charlotte, ed., Catherine of Aragon and the Sources of the English Reformation, Hurst and Blackett, p. 88
  24. Collins, Arthur (1746), Letters and Memorials of State in the Reigns of Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, King James I, F. Osborne, p. 82
  25. Jackson (2009ii) p. 29
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Timbs, John; Gunn, Alexander (1872), Abbeys, Castles, and Ancient Halls of England and Wales; their legendary lore and popular history, London: Frederick Warne, pp. 54–5
  27. Pepys, Samuel (2006), Wheatley, Henry B., ed., The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1660, Echo Library, p. 148, ISBN 978-1-84702-963-8
  28. Jackson (2009ii) p. 39 Figure 10
  29. Thornbury, Walter (1878), Old and New London: Volume 1, pp. 281–293
  30. Jackson (2009ii) p. 42 Figure 16 shows the extent of the Scheduled Ancient Monument
  31. 1 2 3 4 Jackson (2009ii) p. 25
  32. Jackson (2009ii) p.26; Figure 6 (p. 37) is a photo of the remains of the SE Tower
  33. Jackson (2009ii) pp. 25, 28-9, see London Archaeological Archive Archived 17 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine. for more details of excavations.

Further reading

Coordinates: 51°30′41″N 0°6′0″W / 51.51139°N 0.10000°W / 51.51139; -0.10000

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