Sources for Beeston Castle

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Beeston Castle.

Detail of an engraving of Beeston Castle in 1727, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

An engraving of Beeston Castle in 1727, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. It shows the crag without the trees that cover the site today

Primary Sources

Ranulf of Chester and the Building of Beeston Castle (1220–37)

Two medieval chronicle sources record the construction of Beeston Castle in the 1220s: the Annals of Chester and the Chester monk Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon. Both exist in published form:

  • Christie, RC (ed), Annales Cestrienses: or Chronicle of the Abbey of St Werberg, at Chester, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, 14 (1886)
  • Lumby, JR (ed), Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis, Rolls Series, 41, vol 8 (London, 1882).

The Latin text and a translation of the Annals of Chester can also be accessed via British History Online.


A Royal Castle (1237–1602)

Records of the building works at the castle during the reign of Henry III are held at The National Archives (TNA), but are calendared in the volumes published by the Public Record Office. The majority of references are to be found in the Calendar of Close Rolls (C 54), Calendar of Liberate Rolls (C 62) and Calendar of Patent Rolls (C 66).

The Pipe Rolls are also held at TNA (E 372) but entries for Cheshire are published in:

  • Stewart-Brown, R (ed), Cheshire in the Pipe Rolls, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, 92 (1938).

Primary sources for the building works at the castle in the 14th century are enrolled in TNA SC 6/771–23, SC 6/772/3 and SC 6/772/4 and have been published as:

  • Stewart-Brown, R (ed), Accounts of the Chamberlains and Other Officers of the County of Cheshire, 1301–1360, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, 59 (1910) [TNA SC 6/771–23]
  • Booth, PHW and Carr, AD, Account of Master John de Burham the Younger, Chamberlain of Chester, of the Revenues of the Counties of Chester and Flint, Michaelmas 1361 to Michaelmas 1362, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, 125 (1991) [TNA SC 6/772/3 and SC 6/772/4].

Material relevant to medieval Peckforton is to be found in the Black Prince's Register (held at TNA, classed in Treasury of the Receipt, Miscellaneous Books, E 36/144), printed in:

  • Dawes, MCB (ed), Register of the Black Prince, 4 vols (London, 1930).

Civil War

For the Civil War period the majority of information about the castle is to be found in the letter books of the Parliamentarian commander Sir William Brereton (British Library, London, Add. MSS 11331–11333). These are published in:

  • Dore, RN (ed), The Letter Books of Sir William Brereton, 2 vols, Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, 123 and 128 (1984–90).

Various documents relating to Beeston are also published in:

An account of the fighting between Royalists and Parliamentarians can also be found in ‘Thomas Lancaster, more Exact Relation of Chester’s Enlargement’, which is part of the Thomason Tracts held in the British Library (Fortescue, GK, Catalogue of the Pamphlets, Books, Newspapers, and Manuscripts Relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and Restoration, Collected by George Thomason, 1640–61, vol 1, 419, London, 1908) and available through Early English Books Online (subscription required).

Records relating to the history of the castle during the period of Sir Thomas Mostyn’s ownership are contained within the Mostyn Manuscripts at the archives of Bangor University, Gwynedd.

Beeston as a Picturesque Ruin

Papers relating to the ownership by the Tollemache family are held privately at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk.

                  

Other Printed Primary Sources

Booth, PHW, The Financial Administration of the Lordship and County of Chester, 1272–1377, Chetham Society, 3rd series, 28 (1981)

Visual Sources

  • Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, ‘The South View of Beeston Castle Near Chester’, 1727, published in Views of Ruins of Castles & Abbeys in England, Part 2 (1726–39)
  • J Boydell, ‘A View of Beeston Castle’, c 1747 (engraving based on 17th-century drawing), British Library, London, Maps K Top.9.17.a
  • George Barret the elder, ‘View of the Upper Ward at Beeston Castle, River Gowy in the Distance’, c 1770, Grosvenor Museum, Chester [accessed 10 October 2014]
  • JMW Turner, ‘The Outer Ward at Beeston’, 1809, Ulster Museum
  • Moses Griffith, ‘Beeston Castle from above Tarporley’, before 1819, Grosvenor Museum, Chester
  • Moses Griffith, ‘Beeston Castle, Church and Trees in Front’, before 1819, Grosvenor Museum, Chester
  • John Glover, ‘Beeston Castle from a Distance’, Grosvenor Museum, Chester [undated]
  • Thomas Bailey, ‘Pencil Drawings, Beeston Castle 17th July 1846’, Grosvenor Museum, Chester
  • JH Hanshall, ‘Gate of Beeston Castle’, in Hanshall, JH, The History of the County Palatine of Chester (1817), 116

The Cheshire Archives and Local Studies service holds a series of historic photographs and sketches of the castle, including:

  • Bunbury Collection, Canon Maurice Hill Ridgway Papers
  • scrapbook with photographs, c 1950s (D 3277/179)
  • photographs of Beeston Castle (D3277/184)
  • sketches of Beeston Castle, 19th century to 1954 (D6335).
A shallow pewter bowl, or porringer, excavated at Beeston Castle. Dating from the first half of the 17th century, it would have been used for eating soup or stew. It probably belonged to troops stationed at the castle during the Civil War

A shallow pewter bowl, or porringer, excavated at Beeston Castle. Dating from the first half of the 17th century, it would have been used for eating soup or stew. It probably belonged to troops stationed at the castle during the Civil War

Material Sources

The majority of artefacts, almost 4,000 items, recovered during the excavations, together with the paper-based excavation archives, are held at the English Heritage Archaeology Store, Helmsley, North Yorkshire. A small collection of the most enigmatic and important finds, including Bronze Age axe-heads and Civil War remains, are displayed in the museum at the castle.

The British Museum holds a finger ring found on the site as well as further visual sources.

Secondary Sources

The most useful sources are marked with an asterisk.

‘Exploring Beeston's ancient well’, Cheshire Life (October 1937), 16–17

‘The passages explored’, Cheshire Life (November 1937), 7–9

Barber, E and Ditchfield, PH, Memorials of Old Cheshire (London, 1910), 55–7 [accessed 10 October 2014]

Barraclough, G, ‘The earldom and County Palatine of Chester’, Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 103 (1951), 23–57

*Barratt, J, Civil War Stronghold: Beeston Castle at War 1642–5 (Birkenhead, 1995)

*Brown, RA, Colvin, HM and Taylor, AJ (eds), The History of the King’s Works, vol 2: The Middle Ages (London, 1963)Dore, RN, ‘Beeston Castle in the Great Civil War, 1643–46’, Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 75–6 (1965–6), 3–22

Eales, R, ‘Henry III and the end of the Norman Earldom of Chester’, Thirteenth-Century England, 1 (1986), 100–112

Eaves, I, ‘On the remains of a jack of plate excavated from Beeston Castle in Cheshire’, Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, vol 13, no. 2 (1989), 81–154

*Ellis, P, Beeston Castle, Cheshire: Excavations by Laurence Keen and Peter Hough, 1968–85, English Heritage Archaeological Report 23 (London, 1993)

Erdeswicke, S, A Survey of Staffordshire … with a Description of Beeston Castle in Cheshire (London, 1717)

Grose, F, The Antiquities of England and Wales, 1 (London, 1787), 27–32 [accessed 10 October 2014]

Harris, BE (ed), The Victoria County History of the County of Cheshire, 1 (London, 1987), 36–114

Hicklin, J, The History of Beeston Castle (Chester, 1845)

Hough, PR, ‘Excavations at Beeston Castle, 1975–77’, Journal of the Cheshire Archaeological Society, 61 (1978), 1–28

Hough, PR, ‘Beeston’, Cheshire Archaeological Bulletin, 8 (1982), 22–30

Hough, PR, ‘Beeston Castle’, Current Archaeology, 8 (1984), 245–9

Jones, P, Incidents and Accidents Round About Beeston Castle (London, 1897)

*Liddiard, R and McGuicken, R, Beeston Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2007) [buy the guidebook]

Mackenzie, J, The Castles of England, 2 (London, 1897), 163–6 [accessed 10 October 2014]

Matthews, S, ‘The Cheshire estates of John Tollemache of Peckforton, 1861–1872’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 154 (2005), 117–36

McGuicken, R, ‘Castle in context? Redefining the significance of Beeston Castle, Cheshire’, Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society, 81 (2006), 65–82 [accessed 10 October 2014] 

McGuicken, R, ‘Castle in context? An analysis of heritage interpretation and presentation at Beeston Castle, Cheshire’, Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society, 81 (2006), 83–91 [accessed 10 October 2014]

Morris, RH, ‘The siege of Chester, 1633-1646’, Journal of the Chester and North Wales Architecture, Archaeology and History Society, 25 (1923)

Neaverson, MC, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A Study of Sites, Water Supply and Building Stones (London, 1947)

Ormerod, G, The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, 2 (London, 1819) [accessed 10 October 2014]

Ridgway, MH, ‘An introduction to the story of Beeston Castle’, Cheshire Historian, 7 (1957), 35–8 [also reprinted as the castle guidebook, 1957]

Ridgway, MH and King, DJ, ‘Beeston Castle, Cheshire’, Journal of the Chester and North Wales Architecture, Archaeology and History Society, 46 (1959), 1-23

Stow, J, Annales, or, A General Chronicle of England (London, 1631)

Thompson, M, ‘Castles’, in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, ed D Brewer and J Gibson (Woodbridge, 1997), 119–30 [accessed 10 October 2014]

Tunstall, B, The Story of Beeston Castle (Chester, 1933)

Weaver, J, Beeston Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1987)

Webb, W, ‘Perambulation of Cheshire’, in King, D, The Vale Royal of England (London, 1656)


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