Second Stop: Tamworth
Next on our list was Tamworth Castle, a fine example of Norman construction located next to the River Tame, in the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire, England. While we were staying in Stoke-on-Trent we chose to visit Tamworth simply because it was the closest castle we could find, and still being virgin castle seekers we would have been happy with anything. Luckily, Tamworth Castle turned out to be more than all right. We had a great time patrolling its high, shell wall over-looking the gardens and the river, exploring the old Norman Tower, and finishing with the armoury filled with gleaming medieval weapons and armour.
The original timber fort, on the hill where castle Tamworth now stands, was Mercian built in 913 by Queen Ethelfleda (daughter of Alfred the Great) to help repel the invasion of Danish Viking raiders. The Mercians were an Anglo-Saxon people who were the early settlers of the English Midlands, and Tamworth was where the Mercian’s capital city once stood, the seat of their high kings. When the Normans invaded in 1066, William the Conqueror gave the fort to one of his supporters, Robert De Marmion, who rebuilt and enlarged the castle into what you can see today.
Tamworth is considered to be one of the best preserved ‘motte-and-bailey’ castles, a design introduced to England and Wales by the Normans after their invasion. It was built on raised earthwork, a ‘motte’, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or ‘bailey’, surrounded by a protective ditch. Motte-and-bailey castles could be constructed extremely quickly with an unskilled workforce (usually slaves), only needed basic materials, and had excellent defensive capabilities despite being cheap to build. Tamworth Castle itself has a stone shell keep with a mighty three story tower known as the Norman Tower (the oldest part of the castle) and a herringbone stone causeway crossing the deep, dry moat.
The middle room of the Norman Tower is said to be haunted by a ghostly nun known as the ‘Black Lady of Tamworth’. According to legend, the Black Lady is the spirit of a nun named Editha, who founded her Convent in the 9th century. Long after her death, Robert de Marmion decided to expel the nuns from their convent for one reason or another (just to show how big of a douche-bag he is I suppose). The nuns prayed to their long dead mother Editha to help them, and so with swift justice on her heels, Editha rose from the grave and attacked Robert in his bed one night. She warned him that unless the nuns were restored to their convent, the Baron would meet an untimely death. Just before she vanished the spectre hit the Baron on the side with the point of her crosier, just to help get the point across. The wound from the crosier was so terrible that Marmion’s cries awoke the whole castle. His pain only ceased when he conceded and the nuns returned happily to their convent.