Last Photographed: Sunday 3rd October 2021
Farleigh Hungerford castle began life as a manor house belonging to the Montfort family during 1369-70AD. In 1370AD, it was sold to Thomas Hungerford, who began work converting it into a castle. After his death, Thomas' son Walter continued to expand and improve upon his father's project, turning the castle into a top-of-the-range medieval fortification.
Throughout their 200 year occupancy, the Hungerford's developed a reputation as a colourful and controversial family. This history began with the first foundation stone of the castle: Thomas undertook its construction without first obtaining the required 'license to crenelate' from the king, requiring him to seek a pardon that was granted in 1383AD.
Robert Hungerford was the next family member of notable poor judgement. After seven years spent as a prisoner of France during the Hundred Year War, he promptly returned to England just in time to select the losing side in the War of the Roses. He was executed for treason, closely followed by his son.
The next bloody chapter in the family history came when Lady Agnes Hungerford was hanged after being found guilty of poisoning her husband and arranging for his body to be burned in the kitchen furnace. Other versions dispute this, claiming that her husband was strangled by her accomplices.
The third wife of Walter Hungerford accused her husband of attempting to poison and starve her. He imprisoned her in a tower for three years due to suspicion of adultery. Her complaint was ignored, but Walter was subsequently executed on charges of treason and "unnatural vice".
Edward Hungerford continued the family theme when he accused his second wife of poisoning him. His case failed and he was jailed when he refused to meet the court costs.
Another Edward Hungerford contributed to the final chapter of the family's dubious history by gambling away the family fortunes. He lost 28 manors and vast amounts of capital and eventually died in poverty after being forced to sell the castle in 1686AD. By 1701AD, the castle was described as "ruinous" and it's glory days were over. The Hungerfords passed out of history, and their home was left to rot.
Today, Farleigh Hungerford Castle is an extremely ruinous but evocative site. Surviving features include the curtain wall, eastern gatehouse, two crumbling towers, the priest's house and the chapel. The priest's house served as a farm in later years, and so is largely complete. The chapel fell into ruin, but was later restored and found to contain rare medieval wall paintings. Underneath the chapel, reached by a small flight of stairs from the exterior, can be found a tiny crypt. This contains a number of lead coffins which are considered rare and significant.
Farleigh Hungerford is tucked away in a quiet corner of Somerset. It's one of those villages that you're unlikely to stumble upon unless you're specifically looking for it. The castle ruins are nestled amongst rolling wooded, hills, and the surrounding countryside gives the whole place a sleepy, timeless atmosphere. The striking landscape and the skeletal medieval remains definitely inspire a sense of other-worldliness, making this a well-kept secret and a must-see if you find yourself in the area.