Also known as Bampton Castle. The gatehouse and curtain wall of an early 14th century castle built for Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, who obtained a licence to crenellate in 1315. The castle was adapted into a dwelling in the 17th century, and was extended in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not open to the public.
The ruins of this castle lie in the S.W. corner of the county, 14 miles from Oxford: a flat, low tract of land, much overflowed by the river Isis, as the Thames is called in those parts. The castle of Bampton was on the W. of the church and deanery, separated from it by a brook, which drove the mill and supplied water to the moat. The ruins of it, which are incorporated in two farmhouses, called Ham Court and Castle Farm, are but scanty, and consist of little more than the old gatehouse, whereof the great gateway is now divided by a floor into upper and lower rooms, the former retaining two bays of a finely groined roof; this upper chamber was fitted up not long ago and used as a Catholic chapel. There are also a spiral stone staircase and a double-light Decorated window, and the old loops remain below; and there is a fragment of crenellated wall with its loopholes.
According to Anthony à Wood’s MS. this castle formed a quadrangle with a round tower at each corner, having a wide moat surrounding the whole fabric. On both W. and E. sides were large and lofty gatehouses, the existing remains being part of the western one. When: à Wood visited the place in 1664, nearly the whole of that front was standing.
The manor of Bampton was given in 1249 by Henry III. to his half brother, William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, whose son Aylmer, or Andomar, succeeded in 1296. He obtained a licence from Edward II., in 1315, to crenellate his house, and he then erected this castle. This powerful noble, though thrice married, left no issue, and his inheritance fell to his three sisters: Isabel, married to John, Lord Hastings, Joan, the wife of John Comyn, of Badenoch, in the North, and Agnes, who married, firstly, Maurice Fitzgerald, secondly, Hugh de Baliol, and thirdly, John d’Avennes, but died s.p.
Edward II. disposed Bampton to Elizabeth, the daughter of Joan de Valence and John Comyn, who died, seised of this manor and castle, October 1356. She married Sir Richard Talbot, who, taking part against the Despensers and the King, was captured, together with Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and the Lord Badlesmere (see LEEDS, KENT), after the disaster at Boroughbridge; but he was not executed like them, perhaps because Despenser, having seized Talbot’s wife, Elizabeth, at her house of Kennington, in Surrey, kept her a close prisoner for more than a year, until she gave up to him her manor of Painswick in Gloucester, and Goodrich Castle, Hereford. Another Sir Richard Talbot, the fourth Baron Talbot, being the great-grandson of Joan de Valence, held Bampton, and at his death, his son Sir Gilbert succeeded, after his widow, and dying in 1419, left a daughter, Ankaret. She died during her minority, when the Talbot estates, including Bampton, fell to the great warrior, Sir John ‘Talbot, her uncle, the first Earl of Shrewsbury, who so gloriously sustained the cause of England in France (see SHEFFIELD). In the Talbot family this manor remained, or rather a part of it, since it had been divided into three (temp. Edward IV.).
About fifty years ago some outlying portions of the Shrewsbury estates were sold, including this relic of the ancient castle, which then passed to the possession of Jesus College, Oxford. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)