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Where in Gloucestershire did knights live and fight?
   

 

Gloucestershire Battles

There was lots of knightly combat in Gloucestershire for the county saw many castle sieges and two major battles; one being England’s last ever private battle and the other heralding the end of one phase of the War of the Roses!

 

  • The Battle of Nibley Green
  • The Battle of Tewkesbury

Battle of Nibley Green, 20 March 1469
Fought between Thomas Talbot, 2nd Viscount of Lisle and William Berkeley, 2nd Baron of Berkeley, the Battle of Nibley Green was the last battle fought between the private armies of noblemen on English soil! The battle came about because the two families were engaged in a dispute over the inheritance of Berkeley Castle and other Berkeley owned lands. After an incident Lisle challenged Berkeley to a duel/battle. Berkeley agreed and insisted it be fought the next day at Nibley Green. Lisle only had a force of about 300 men, most being his poorly-equipped tenants. Berkeley's force numbered around 1,000 and comprised of the garrison of the castle, his own tenants, troops led by his brother Maurice, men sent from Bristol (the Mayor’s daughter had married a Berkeley) and a number of Forest of Dean miners. 

Berkeley’s force set out the same day and camped near Michaelwood (not far from the M5 service station) and before dawn had moved into position at Nibley Green.  At sunrise, Lisle and his men were coming down the hill from Nibley when a small number of Berkeley’s force emerged in front of them. Lisle’s men charged but Berkeley had archers and these opened fire and broke up the charge, whereupon Berkeley’s full force attacked. Legend has it that one of the Foresters, a bowman called ‘Black Will’ shot Lisle in the left side of his face through Lisle’s open visor and unhorsed him.  Lying helpless on the ground Lisle was then stabbed to death. Lisle’s force was routed and many were killed. Berkeley’s force then advanced to Wotton-Under-Edge and sacked Lisle’s manor house. 

Battle of Tewkesbury, 4 May 1471The Battle of Tewkesbury
One of the key battles in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Tewkesbury was fought between the Yorkist forces of King Edward IV and the Lancastrian forces of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of King Henry VI. 

Chased by the Yorkists the Lancastrian forces were trying to cross the Severn to get to Wales and decided to cross at Tewkesbury because Gloucester was held by the Yorkists.

The Lancastrians had the stronger position – but they misjudged their attack and lost the battle as a result.  Well over 2000 Lancastrians were killed, many in a field now called ‘Bloody Meadow’ – you can still visit the site today.  Among the dead was Margaret’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales – he is the only Prince of Wales to have died on a battlefield. 

The battle heralded a period of 14 years of relative peace and stability for the county. 


Gloucestershire Castles

There were once over 100 castles in Gloucestershire, but sadly few survive today.  Quite a few saw violent sieges and battles and all were homes to knights.  You can use the map below to find the nearest one to you!


View Gloucetershire Castles in a larger map


Places to Visit

Castles

Many of the castles on the map above no longer exist, or are little more than earthworks. But many castles are still in good condition either as spectacular ruins or stately homes. Many are open to the public and make great places to visit.

The best castles in Gloucestershire are probably Berkeley Castle and Sudeley Castle (near Winchcombe). Both are currently stately homes but are open to the public.

There are some great castles just outside Gloucestershire such as Goodrich Castle and Chepstow Castle & Port Wall in south Wales, or Kenilworth and Warwick Castles in Warwickshire.

And a bit farther away you can find castles like Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle, White Castle, Raglan Castle in Newport, Tower of London, Pendennis and Tintagel Castles in Cornwall, and Harlech Castle and Caernarvon Castle in Wales. All of which make great places to visit on your holidays.


Other places to visit

Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey – Both have several tombs of knights, most with effigies (carvings) of knights in full armour.

Tretower Court & Castle – A double-site showing the transition from defended military site to peaceful country manor house.

The Matthew – Based at Bristol, this is a fantastic reconstruction of a late medieval/Tudor ship.  Ships like this one were used by knights as warships when required.

Some knights had their body buried in one place but their heart buried in another.  When Crusader Sir Giles de Berkeley died in 1295 his body was buried in Malvern but his heart was buried at Coberley church!

Coberley church is also notable because it has a knight’s horse buried in the churchyard - the horse was called ‘Lombard’ and he was the warhorse of Sir Giles de Berkeley!


Local events

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival – Held every July, this event is the largest festival of its kind in the world and sees a recreation of the Battle of Tewkesbury with over 2000 medieval re-enactors taking part.

Berkeley Skirmish! – Held at Berkeley Castle, this is a 2-day event that recreates a medieval tournament complete with jousting and a melee.