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Bampton Castle, Oxfordshire, England

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Bampton Castle, Oxfordshire, England

Image from From old Books Wood, Anthony: “The Life Of Anthony à Wood” (1772); Status: out of copyright (called public domain in the USA)

In 1314-15, during the reign of Edward II, Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, obtained a license from the king to “make a castle of his house at Bampton.” This is the origin of ‘Bampton Castle’ – in the days before the all-number telephone numbers, the Bampton exchange was called ‘Bampton Castle’, and the nearby RAF communications station still retains that name. The Castle has long since gone, being demolished prior to 1789, but a farmhouse, Ham Court, incorporates part of its west gatehouse and curtain wall.

Over the next few centuries, there was piecemeal allocation of land around the manor to various lords, which resulted in Bampton having several manor houses. During the 12th century, the church was rebuilt, with its distinctive spire added in the 13th century.

The 13th century arguably saw the beginning of the decline of Bampton, at least in commercial terms. Witney overtook Bampton in terms of population, industry and wealth. It gained borough status, and had the privilege of sending two of its burgesses to parliament. The sheep on the Cotswolds, the waters of the Windrush, and its favoured position on the London to Gloucester road, all combined to establish a very strong woollen industry in the town. Burford also flourished. From early days, it was a popular stopping place on the London to Gloucester road, and like Witney, Burford boasted a woollen industry. In contrast Bampton had little to offer other than a market, and this was facing fierce competition from the likes of Faringdon.

And so to 1645, and Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell and his army were in mid-Oxfordshire, and on arrival at Bletchington, was advised that there was a sizeable body of Royalists at Woodstock, on their way to Faringdon. Cromwell immediately decided to engage the enemy, which he did at Bampton. The Royalists holed up in what Cromwell described as a ‘pretty strong house’, but after an overnight siege, eventually surrendered to superior forces. Quite which building was the ‘pretty strong house’ is not unequivocally known, although Bampton Castle is favoured by many historians. Against this is the fact that it is known that when the Roundheads captured a Royalist castle, they destroyed it. Cromwell would surely have therefore destroyed Bampton Castle if that had been the ‘pretty strong house’, but no mention is made of it in his report.

References and Sources

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