24 May 2009 - Chester (Beeston Castle), England

Beeston Castle is a former Royal castle in Beeston, Cheshire, England, perched on a rocky sandstone crag 350 feet (110 m) above the Cheshire Plain. It was built in the 1220s by Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, (1170–1232), on his return from the Crusades. In 1237, Henry III took over the ownership of Beeston, and it was kept in good repair until the 16th century, when it was considered to be of no further military use, although it was pressed into service again in 1643, during the English Civil War. The castle was partly demolished in 1646, to prevent its further use as a stronghold. During the 18th century the site was used as a quarry.
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Beeston - Outer lodge and towers

Beeston - Outer lodge and towers

Although in ruins, enough of the walls and towers are still in place to provide a clear picture of how it would have looked in its prime. It has a small museum and visitor's centre at the entrance. A lodge house was built by Tollemache in the 19th century, and was expanded in the 20th century. The lodge is two storeys high, with two circular towers either side of a central archway. These were not part of the orginal defences.
Beeston - The lodge from the other side

Beeston - The lodge from the other side

The rock of Beeston stands over one of the three gaps in the hills which encircle Chester, dominating the Cheshire plain. The idea of a castle dependent, at least in part, for its strength on deep, rock cut ditches owes much to the fortresses seen in the Holy Land on crusade by Ranulf, earl of Chester.
Beeston - The outer walls and beyond

Beeston - The outer walls and beyond

After passing the entrance towers you come to the actual medieval structure. This outer wall closed off a massive outer bailey. Towers, mostly D-plan, were built at regular intervals along the walls, the most massive to form gatehouses. This concept of castle defence was only to be fully developed at the end of the 13th century in Edward I's great castle building campaign in his conquest of Wales.
Beeston - Inside the outer bailey looking up to the castle

Beeston - Inside the outer bailey looking up to the castle

Beeston never had palatial buildings like in other castles, and throughout the 13th and 14th century remained a military base, spartan but effective.
Beeston - Standing sentry over the Cheshire plain

Beeston - Standing sentry over the Cheshire plain

The summit is the crowning glory of Beeston and the inner bailey is defended by a deep tock cut ditch. The inner bailey commands astounding views across eight counties, from the Welsh mountains to the west, to the penines in the east. It also contains the the 100m deep castle well.
Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey I

Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey I

As well as the deep ditch, the inner bailey is also defended by the mighty double towered gatehouse.
Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey II

Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey II

Beeston Castle experienced a final blaze of glory as an important English Civil War stronghold, which finally surrendered to Parliament in November 1645 after a long and eventful siege when only potential starvation caused its defenders to surrender.

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