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The Lords of Tamworth Castle

So far as is known, the various lords of the Castle did not take an active part in the affairs of the town; this may have been because the castle was outside the borough boundary, and in any case they had other residences or were abroad at times. We find however from the court rolls that some held the position of High Steward of the borough, in which capacity they sometimes took oaths of allegiance from those who were admitted as burgesses.

There are doubts as to the identities of the first and second holders of the Castle. Dugdale, in "The Antiquities of Warwickshire," gives the first as Robert Marmion and the second as Robert his son. Palmer, in "The History of the Town and Castle of Tamworth," says that the first baron was Robert Marmion, lord of Fontenay in Normandy and that the second was Robert his son, after having considered whether Robert Marmion and Robert Dispensator or Royal Steward were one and the same person; however, in his later work "The Baronial Family of Marmion" he altered this, saying that Robert Dispensator was lord of the castle in the time of the Conqueror, but that he fell into disgrace with Henry I, and forfeited his estates, which were then given to a kinsman, Sir Roger Marmion, who was the son of Sir Robert Marmion, Lord of Fontenay. This question has also been dealt with by J. H. Round in "Feudal England" (1895) in which he agrees with Palmer's later work, and says that the actual relation of the Marmions is a problem as yet unsolved, but that it is certain Tamworth Castle originally belonged to Robert Dispensator and equally certain that it was held successively by Roger Marmion and his son Robert under Henry I.

The date of the building of the castle by its first Norman lord is not known, but was probably between 1070, when William I had completed his conquests, and 1080.

The Marmions did not reside at the castle continuously. They had other possessions, including, probably from the time of Sir Roger Marmion, the manor at Middleton, a few miles from Tamworth, and when they were not engaged in wars abroad or at home, they lived sometimes at the Castle and sometimes at Middleton.

The way in which the castle descended from the first lord to its acquisition by Tamworth Corporation in 1897 is summarized below:

c.1070: Robert le Dispensator, (Marmion?) to whom the Conqueror gave the site of the castle, and adjoining lands. The date of his death is uncertain, but is believed to have taken place at the beginning of the twelfth century.

c.1101: Sir Roger Marmion. He entertained King Henry I at the castle.

1129: Sir Robert Marmion, son of Sir Roger. He is believed to have entertained Henry I; reinstated at Polesworth the nuns who had been expelled from Tamworth by the first lord; slain at Coventry.

1143: Sir Robert Marmion, son of Sir Robert, died in Normandy, where he had spent much of his time.

1158: Sir Robert Marmion, son of the previous Sir Robert, received Henry II and Thomas a Beckett at Tamworth Castle.

1185:   Sir Robert Marmion. He was a renowned student of the law and was one of the itinerant justices appointed by Henry II in 1176, serving in this capacity in the Midland counties for many years. Having joined the barons in the struggle against King John, the latter ordered the destruction of the castle, but met with such resistance that the order was not carried out.

1217:   Sir Robert Marmion, son of the previous Sir Robert. His brother was also called Sir Robert. "Sir Robert the Younger" held the castle for a time while "Sir Robert the Elder" was abroad.

1241:   Sir Philip Marmion, son of Sir Robert the Elder. He entertained Henry III at the castle, and was sometime sheriff of Warwick and Leicester. He received grants of the two parts of the borough in 1266, and in exercising this proprietorship he antagonised the burgesses, by encroaching on the market place to extend his grounds and by attempting to deprive them of their rights to elect the town bailiffs; founded the Hospital of St. James in Ashby Road. He was the last of the male line of the Marmions.

1291:   Joan Mortein, eldest daughter of Sir Philip.

1294:   Sir Alexander Freville, husband of Jane Cromwell who was the niece of Joan Mortein and grand-daughter of Sir Philip. Sir Alexander and his wife assigned the castle to their son Baldwin in 1323 on the condition that they were to be allowed to live in it for the rest of their lives. In 1327 he performed the office of Royal Champion at the coronation of Edward III.

1328:   Jane Freville, widow of Sir Alexander.

1340:   Sir Baldwin Freville, son of Sir Alexander. He held the Warwickshire part of Tamworth by grant from Edward II from 1317 to 1319, when the King granted it to the burgesses.

1343:   Sir Baldwin Freville, son of the previous Sir Baldwin. In 1348 he quarrelled with the burgesses, who besieged him in his castle and cut off all supplies of food for some time. He fought in wars with France, where he died, having spent his later years there.

1375:   Sir Baldwin Freville, son of the previous Sir Baldwin. He lost his claim to act as Royal Champion at the coronation of Richard II in 1377, when it was adjudged that the right was attached to the manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire, an estate which had descended through the Marmion family.

1387:   Sir Baldwin Freville, son of the previous Sir Baldwin.

1400:   Sir Baldwin Freville, son of the previous Sir Baldwin. He was only two years old when his father died. He himself died unmarried.

1418:   Elizabeth and Margaret Freville, as sisters and co-heiresses of the last Sir Baldwin.

1423:   Thomas Ferrers, husband of Elizabeth Freville, to whom the castle was assigned upon a partition of the estates of Sir Baldwin; heiresses automatically transferred their rights to their husbands. He made Tamworth Caste his principal residence.

1458:   Sir Thomas Ferrers, son of Thomas Ferrers. He was  knighted in 1461. Buried in Tamworth Church. His son John predeceased him.

1498:   Sir John Ferrers, grandson of Sir Thomas. He was High Steward of Tamworth. Buried in Tamworth Church.

1512:   Sir Humphrey Ferrers, son of Sir John. He also was High Steward. It was during his time that Leland, the historian and surveyor to Henry VIII, visited Tamworth and recorded of the Castle:- "the base court and great ward of the castle is cleane decayed, and the wall fallen down, and therein be now but houses of office, of noe notable buildings," referring to the buildings below the mound, and adding "the Dungeon Hill yet standeth, and a great round tower of stone wherein Mr Ferrers dwelleth, and now repaireth it. "Sir Humphrey spent the later years of his life at his manor of Walton-on-Trent.

1554:   John Ferrers. He was High Steward of Tamworth.

1576:   Sir Humphrey Ferrers, son of John Ferrers. He was High Steward of Tamworth until the Earl of Essex was appointed to that office by the charter of 1588. He lived alternately at Tamworth and Walton-on-Trent.

1607-8: (1) Sir John Ferrers, son of Sir Humphrey. He was knighted in 1603. MP for Tamworth; entertained King James I at the Castle, which he repaired and altered, although he spent much of his life at Walton-on-Trent. Buried in Tamworth Church.

1633:   Sir Humphrey Ferrers, son of Sir John. He was knighted in 1617. He lived to own the castle for a few months only, although he had resided in it for some time while his father lived at Walton-on-Trent.

1633:   John Ferrers, son of Sir Humphrey. In 1642 the castle was occupied by the Royalists in the Civil War, but it surrendered to Cromwell's forces in the following year.

1680:   Anne Ferrers, grand-daughter of John Ferrers. She succeeded to the castle as her father had been accidentally drowned in the Trent two years previously.

1688:   Robert Shirley, by his marriage to Anne Ferrers.

1697-8: (1) Robert Shirley, son of Anne Ferrers. Died unmarried.

1714:   Elizabeth Shirley, sister of Robert Shirley and daughter of Anne Ferrers.

1714-15: (1) James Compton, 5th Earl of Northampton, by marriage to Elizabeth Shirley.

1754:   George Townshend, by marriage to Lady Charlotte Compton, daughter of the 5th Earl of Northampton. He was created Marquis Townshend in 1786.

1807:   George Townshend, 2nd Marquis Townshend, son of the 1st Marquis. Who restored and made major alterations to the Castle.

1811:   George Townshend, 3rd Marquis Townshend, son of the 2nd Marquis who rejected his eldest son as heir and, after his death, the ownership of the Castle was contested.

1821:   John Robins, a London auctioneer, who occupied the castle after seven years' delay involving legal proceedings to complete the purchase, after claiming the Castle to settle debts owed him by the 2nd Marquis.

1833:   Lord Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend, brother of the 3rd Marquis, purchased the Castle back into the Townshend family.

1853:   John Townshend, 4th Marquis Townshend, cousin of the 3rd Marquis.

1863:   John Villers Stuart Townshend, 5th Marquis Townshend, son of the 4th Marquis.

1897:   Castle purchased by Tamworth Corporation.

(1) Until 1752, the first day of the year began on 25th March, so dates in the period from 1st January to 25th March were expressed by quoting both years.