Farleigh Castle stood four miles west of Trowbridge and was situated on a ledge of terrace of a rocky eminence at the foot of which ran the river Frome. Henry Bayntun purchased the castle in 1686 from the Hungerford family and resided there for a few years prior to this death in 1691.


The home of Henry Bayntun and his wife, Anne, for a few short years prior his death in 1691

Farleigh Hungerford Castle was built sometime between 1370 and 1380 by Sir Thomas Hungerford, of Heytesbury – the first Speaker of the House of Commons (c1377). His family and their descendants continued to live here for nearly 300 years and were much connected with Wiltshire. They were one of the richest families in England for many years and owned land from Farleigh to as far as Salisbury.

Sir Thomas Hungerford served as Steward of the Household of John of Gaunt and Bailiff for the Bishop of Salisbury. He bought Farleigh Monford House in Somerset in 1369 and transformed it into Farleigh Hungerford Castle. He was knighted in 1377 and became Speaker of "The Bad Parliament" through the patronage of his friend John of Gaunt, the First Duke of Lancaster. He was also Sheriff of Wiltshire (1355 - 1360).

At that time, Farleigh Castle comprised of four lofty towers, 60 feet high, and two embattled gatehouses as part of its fortifications with high embattled walls and a moat and a drawbridge thrown across it. It was a strong fortress, set on a steep hill, with a stream at the rear. But Sir Thomas had neglected to procure the Royal Licence to execute these works and was obliged to pay a fine of 1000 Marks to King Richard II as a conditional pardon.

He was married to Joan Hussey, the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edmund Hussey of Holbrook and died on the 3rd December 1398. Sir Thomas was buried in the Chapel of St. Anne, the parish chapel outside the castle. His wife, Joan, died on the 1st March 1412 and was buried beside him. He was succeeded by his son, Sir Walter.

This Sir Walter Hungerford was known as the First Lord Hungerford. His principal residence was Heytesbury and he was married to Catherine Peverill, the daughter and heiress of Thomas Peverill. He was Lord High Treasurer of England (1426 - 1432) and First Lord Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset. He was also Sheriff of Wiltshire (1404 - 1407).

Like his father, he was also Speaker of the House of Commons and in 1426 was admitted to the House of Lords as Baron Hungerford.

He distinguished himself in the French wars of Henry V, especially at Calais, and was rewarded for his services by a grant of 100 Marks per annum, payable out of the town and Castle of Marlborough. He fought at Agincourt and at the Siege of Rouen and was the Executor of Henry V's will and a Member of Council under Henry VI.

In his time at Farleigh he greatly enlarged the outer court of Farleigh Castle, enclosing the parish church. When he died on the 9th August 1449 he was succeeded by his son, Robert.

Robert Hungerford was the 2nd Baron Hungerford and was married to Margaret Botreaux, the daughter of William Botreaux of the ancient Cornish family of that name. Like his father, he was a staunch supporter of the House of Lancaster and befitted the descendant of a Steward of John of Gaunt and proudly wore the collar of SSs of that House. He was taken prisoner after the battle of Hexham and later beheaded on the 18th May 1459. He was buried in the Hungerford Chapel in Salisbury Cathedral and was succeeded by his son, who was also called Robert.

This Robert Hungerford was known as Baron Hungerford and Lord Moleyns by right of his wife. He was married to Eleanor, the daughter of William Lord Moleyns. While fighting abroad he was captured at Castillon in 1453 – the very last battle of the Hundred Years' War – and imprisoned for seven years in France. When he returned to England, he joined the Lancastrian army in the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1485), but was again taken prisoner at the Battle of Hexham in 1464 and was attained.

As a result, by a Bill of Attainer, King Edward IV declared Robert Hungerford guilty of treason, and without the inconvenience of any trial, his estates were forfeited to the Crown and he was beheaded in 1464 for his support of the Lancastrian cause. His body was laid to rest in Salisbury Cathedral.

His eldest son, Thomas Hungerford, supported Edward IV but afterwards falling off, and endeavouring the restoration of King Henry VI, he was seized on and tried for his life at Salisbury, where he was judged a traitor and beheaded in 1469. For almost 20 years Farleigh was crown property.

Then in 1483 King Edward granted Farleigh Castle to his brother, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester – later King Richard III, who in turn, granted it to John Howard, Duke of Norfolk. However when King Richard was defeated by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, John Howard lost his life at the same battle.

Sir Walter Hungerford of Heytesbury and Farley, a nephew of the above mentioned Sir Robert Hungerford, the last proprietor of Farleigh, was knighted on the same battlefield by Henry VII and a year later he recovered Farleigh Castle in 1486 when the King gave it back to the Hungerford family. He had been an Esquire of the Body of Edward IV and had served under him in France in 1475, appointed Lieutenant of Dover Castle in 1472 and Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1510 and served as a Privy Councillor.

He was married to Jane Bulstrode, the daughter of William Bulstrode and when he died in 1516 he was buried in Farleigh Castle and was succeeded by his son, Sir Edward.

This Sir Edward Hungerford was Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1517 and was married three times. When he died, just six years after his father in 1522, he left his estate to his widow, Agnes, but she was arrested and hanged at Tyburn in 1523 on a charge of arranging the murder of her previous husband, John Cotell, after she strangled him and burnt his remains in the kitchen furnace. Sir Edward was succeeded by his son, Walter.

Like his father, Walter Hungerford was married three times. His first wife was Susan Danvers, the sister of Lucy Danvers who was married to Sir Henry Bayntun of Bromham House, Wiltshire and the daughter of Sir John Danvers, of Dauntsey, Wiltshire. After the death of his first wife he married Alice Sandys, the daughter of William, Lord Sandys in 1527 but she was accused of poisoning her husband some years later and hanged, along with one of her servants.

In 1533 he was remarried, for the third time, to Elizabeth, the daughter of John Lord Hussey and in the same year he was made Sheriff of Wiltshire. He is said to have abused Elizabeth terribly and he imprisoned her for more than three years in the south-west tower of the castle, with little to eat or drink, allowing her to see no one but his chaplain. This tower is still standing and since then has been known as 'The Lady Tower'.

Upon her release from imprisonment in 1536 she was driven to appeal to Thomas Cromwell for protection, fearing she might be locked up again and claimed he had tried to poison her on a number of occasions. Cromwell however ignored her plea, seeking to protect her husband who was his friend. In fact Cromwell suggested he be rewarded and the same year Sir Walter was made Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, with the right to sit in the House of Lords and a 'Squire of the Body' to Henry VIII.

But his favour at Court did not last long and he was charged with treason in 1540. The same year his friend Oliver Cromwell also fell from power and they were both beheaded on Tower Hill, the same day, on the 28th July 1540. He therefore lost his Manors in Chippenham, Sheldon and Lowdon and a very considerable number of good Wiltshire manors elsewhere – not to mention Farleigh Castle.

As a result, and for the second time, Farleigh Castle passed to the King and the lands were passed onto Sir Thomas Seymour. However Seymour was also beheaded for treason in 1549 and in 1554 Queen Mary restored Farleigh back to Walter's eldest son, Sir Walter Hungerford, later called 'The Knight of Farleigh'.

 

The main entrance to the castle (pictured left) as it stands today.

This Sir Walter Hungerford was Sheriff of Wiltshire (1557, 1572, 1581 and 1587). He was married to Anne Bassett but later remarried Anne Dormer, the daughter of Sir William Dormer. He accused his second wife of adultry and attempted poisoning her, however the charges were dismissed. But rather than pay the legal fees, he went to prison instead. He died in 1596 without an heir – his only son, Edward, had pre-deceased him in 1583.

Sir Walter believed that after his death Farleigh would pass to his mistress, but instead it was settled upon his wife – Lady Anne Dormer and when she died, in 1603, the castle passed to Edward Hungerford – Walter's half-brother. But Edward Hungerford also died without an heir in 1607, leaving Farleigh Castle to his widow, Jane, for life with the remainder to his great-nephew Sir Edward Hungerford.

This Sir Edward was Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1631 and during the Civil War he commanded the local forces of Wiltshire for Parliament in 1642-45. But in October 1642, his neighbour, Sir Edward Bayntun was appointed Commander-in-Chief for Wiltshire County and he too commanded a force for Parliament in the early part of the Civil War and was also a Commissioner of the English Parliament to the Scots Army.

Hungerford was very jealous of Bayntun's appointment and the two fellow Commanders are said to have quarreled a lot, each accusing the other of treachery. This eventually led to the withdrawal of Bayntun from active soldiering. Bayntun subsequently made approaches to the King (for which he was imprisoned for some time in the Tower) and the Bayntun family mansion – Bromham House – was taken and burned to the ground by Royalist Forces from Devizes on 5th May 1645.

Farleigh Castle was held for the King by Colonel John Hungerford, said to be the owner's half-brother.

Sir Edward Hungerford died in 1648 and his tomb is situated in the chapel at Farleigh. This time Farleigh passed to another half-brother, Anthony Hungerford, who died at Farleigh in 1657. He was survived by his eldest son, Edward Hungerford.

This Sir Edward Hungerford was known at the time as 'The Spendthrift'. He was one of the least worthy members of the Court of Charles II, and spent most of his time entertaining extravagantly and gambled away in succession 28 manors and was eventually forced to sell most of the Hungerford lands, under the necessity of assigning his estate to trustees for the benefit of his creditors. He is said to have wasted £80,000 capital and £14,000 a year. He is also said to have paid £500 for a wig he fancied and lost £50,000 across the green cloth.

In 1684 Henry Bayntun of Spye Park – the grandson of the above mentioned Sir Edward Bayntun – purchased Hinton Priory from Sir Edward Hungerford and the Manor of Tellisford, Wick Farm, the Manor of Norton St. Philips, the Manor of Wellow, the Manor of Rode, the Manor of Langham and lands elsewhere in the neighbourhood. In fact when any of the Hungerford properties came under the hammer, they were bought up by Henry Bayntun.

This was known as The Great Sale and in 1686 Bayntun bought the Manor and Castle of Farleigh for £56,000 from Sir Edward Hungerford. This certainly would not have pleased any of Hungerford's immediate family, to see the Castle pass into outside hands for the third time.

Then in 1687, Sir Edward Hungerford also sold the Manor of Ilford to Bayntun and Henry devised it on trust for sale and in 1700 his trustees sold the Manor of Ilford and the Manor of Rowley to William Chanler of Bradford.

It is said that Hungerford lived the last 30 years of his life on charity and died in 1711 at a poverty-stricken old age at his only remaining manor – Black Bourton in Oxfordshire.

Henry Bayntun died suddenly in 1691 at the age of 27 but he and his wife, Anne, had resided at Farleigh Castle for a short while prior to this. Henry had been previously living at the family mansion at Spye Park, near Bromham but must have liked Farleigh Castle very much to have left the family home to reside there

In the years 1700-1702, Henry's widow – Lady Anne Wilmot – was forced to sell most of the Hungerford estates, including the manoral lands at Farleigh and the castle to Joseph Houlton. The Houlton family are recorded to have carried off its panelling and carved beams to their other house at Trowbridge, but the bulk of the stones went to build the handsome Farleigh House in the park outside the castle. Sadly from this time onwards, the castle structure went into decay.

In the early years of its occupation, Farleigh Castle is described as almost unchanged from the time of the old English Barons, but by 1701 a long process of decay had begun to take its toll. The shell of the gatehouse and what was the southern entrance to the castle is still standing and the extent of the enclosed area and the walls and forms of the towers may still be traced.

The castle chapel contain many family monuments and paintings. In the chapel's crypt, the coffins of many hungerfords are still visible, several with attached death masks.



A north view of Farleigh Castle in 1733 from an engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. The beginning of its decay is evident in the two towers on the right of the picture.

 


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