Betchworth Castle

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Betchworth Castle

Betchworth Castle is a mostly crumbled ruin of a fortified medieval stone house with some tall, two-storey corners strengthened in the 18th century, in the north of the semi-rural parish of Brockham. It is built on a sandstone spur overlooking the western bank of the Mole in Surrey in England. The ruin is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is in the lowest category of listed architecture, Grade II, 1.2 miles (1.9 km) due east of Dorking railway station in Dorking and 4 miles (6.4 km) due west of Reigate. Although close to the river and edge of the course it is surrounded by "Betchworth Park" Golf Course named after the village 1 mile (1.6 km) east.

History[edit]

Mediaeval period[edit]

Betchworth (or Beechworth among other forms) Castle was the seat of the manor of West Betchworth and was held by Richard de Tonbridge at the time of the Domesday Survey. It started as an earthwork fortress built by Robert Fitz Gilbert in the 11th century. It was granted in 1373 to Richard FitzAlan, 3rd or 10th Earl of Arundel. His son Sir John FitzAlan, Earl Marshall of England, turned it into a stone castle in 1379. It passed by marriage to Sir Thomas Browne, Sheriff of Kent, who in 1448 rebuilt it as a fortified house.[1]

Browne landowners[edit]

Sir Thomas Brown(e) was also Treasurer of the Household to King Henry IV.

Post-Restoration of monarchy and the enlightenment[edit]

Betchworth Castle remained with the Browne family until the death of second and last baronet Sir Adam Browne, 2nd Baronet in 1690.[1][2][3][4] Alterations were later made in 1705 using an unknown architect, and in 1799 by Sir John Soane, architect.[5] In 1725 Mrs. Margaret Fenwicke of Betchworth Castle left £200 equivalent to £26,599 in 2015 to buy lands, to provide for apprenticing children, and for marrying [with a small dowry] maidservants "born in Betchworth and living seven years in the same employment", the surplus, if any, to go to the poor.[6] St Martin's church, Dorking has plaque to Abraham Tucker, author of A Picture of Artless Love and The Light of Nature Pursued, who lived at his estate of Betchworth Castle until his death in 1774.[1]

In the 19th century, people saw little practical use for castles, and this one was outshone by a newer, bigger house in the larger grounds so soon abandoned, in the 1830s. The castle was bought by banking dynasty co-heir Henry Thomas Hope to add to his Deepdene estate in 1834, who demolished part of it to reuse the building material elsewhere. Without a permanent tenant, the remainder gradually fell into ruin, and became treated as a folly.[1]

The historian and topographer Malden, in 1911 wrote:

"Judging by the print in Watson's 'Memoirs,' the mansion which, in the middle of the 15th century, replaced an earlier fortified house or castle, must have been extremely picturesque with its battlemented gables, clustered chimneys and oriel windows, standing among lawns and gardens descending to the Mole. The ivy is disintegrating the walls, and almost the only architectural feature is the arch of a fireplace. A remarkably fine avenue of lime trees leads to the ruin."

[1]

Hauntings[edit]

The castle is haunted by a black dog (death dog) that prowls the ruins at night, also the grounds of the castle (Betchworth Park golf course) is haunted by evil or unexplained things, one[who?] has photos to prove this. Owner "Lord Hope" (Either a mistaken reference to Henry Thomas Hope or his grandson Francis Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 8th Duke of Newcastle who was forced to take that name by his grandmother) - see above (the latter became the lord of the manor of Brockham rather than owner of Deepdene)[6] chased and killed an escaping convict with his sword. He later found out that it was in fact his own son he had killed. Lord Hope is said to now walk around the ruins in regret.

Use[edit]

A route of public access (by foot) to the site was granted through a deal in 2005 with Betchworth Park Golf Club, however the local council has not yet finalised its part of the deal. The entire ruin is currently surrounded by sturdy railings for safety reasons as much of the masonry could collapse at any time. There are also unstable subterranean cellars, some of which have already collapsed. Although the council has posted signs banning access, visitors can get relatively close to the ruins, by studying it through its protective railings.

Future[edit]

Mole Valley Council, which owned the castle, sold it in 2008 for £1 to local man Martin Higgins who has undertaken to conserve the structure and grounds, with financial support from English Heritage, Surrey Historic Buildings Trust and Mole Valley District Council, together with his own and other private funds, so that the public can be admitted.[7][8]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Dorking". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  2. ^ History of St Michael's Church of Betchworth
  3. ^ History of Dorking
  4. ^ Exploring Surrey's Past
  5. ^ Grade II listing Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1378073)". National Heritage List for England. 
  6. ^ a b H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Betchworth". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  7. ^ http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2037209_pound_purchase_means_castle_is_martins_for_keeps
  8. ^ Betchworth Castle owner hoping for restoration funding, Leatherhead Advertiser, 22 Nov 2012

Coordinates: 51°14′15.04″N 0°17′46.28″W / 51.2375111°N 0.2961889°W / 51.2375111; -0.2961889