Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Donnington Castle (Berkshire) - Past and Present

An English castle makes a rare appearance in our Past and Present series.

LEFT: Donnington Castle today
RIGHT: Vegetation begins to cover Donnington's walls

Visible for miles around the tall, twin-towered gatehouse of Donnington Castle stands high on a hill above the village of that name. This is not a castle in the true sense, but a luxurious residence, albeit fortified. Built in the 14th century it displayed all the comforts of life that could be enjoyed by a rich noble of the time.

A curtain wall with four round towers and two square towers complemented the gatehouse. These provided accommodation and extra room was supplied by buildings set against the wall.

LEFT: Donnington Castle's gatehouse today – the red brick marks areas repaired after cannon damage
RIGHT: Donnington Castle as it was

Due to its strategic position Donnington was to figure prominently in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms – the struggle between the King and parliament for supremacy.

King Charles had Donnington’s defences improved by the addition of a bastioned earthwork bristling with cannon. This proved a shrewd tactic as the castle was able to repel multiple attacks by the parliamentary army between 1644 and 1646 when, having played his last card, Charles surrendered.

Parliament, to prevent reuse of Donnington Castle, ordered its complete destruction.

Donnington is now in the much gentler hands of English Heritage.

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 04 Sep 2022 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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