What is Weoley Castle?
Although often referred to as a castle, these ruins are the remains of a medieval manor house, once surrounded by a wide, water filled moat.
What you see today dates mostly from the 1270’s, when the Lords of Dudley were given permission by the King to build and fortify their castle in stone. It was called a castle because it had a moat, curtain wall, towers, battlements and arrow slits. However, it did not have a keep or the defensive position required by a castle as it is located in a valley. The Bourn Brook that once fed water into the moat flows today in a culvert under your feet.
Weoley Castle reconstruction drawing from 1424 survey
During the Middle Ages the castle was at the heart of a large deer park covering nearly 1000 acres. There were fields, smallholdings and a mill close by. People living around here would have paid the Lords of Dudley a tithe, or percentage, of their crops as rent for their land.
There was also a regular court held in the great hall where the lord presided over local disputes between neighbours, and punished those found poaching on his land.
By the mid-17th century Weoley was referred to as a ‘ruyned castell’ and in the following centuries a farmhouse was built where the education room is now. The brick wall along the right hand arm of the moat and a few apple trees are all that now remain of the farm. In the late 18th century the Dudley Number 2 Canal was dug along the northern boundary and the spoil was dumped in the moat. Stone from the castle was used in the construction of canal bridges.
In 1930 the estate was bought by the Birmingham Corporation. The new housing scheme built was modelled on the nearby Bourneville Village. This gave rise to the large tree-lined avenues and green spaces, of which the ruins was a focal point.
Who lived at Weoley Castle?
During its history the castle and surrounding lands had many owners whose names are recorded in road names nearby.
For example Alwold Road is named after Alwold, the Saxon chieftain of the Weoley area. After the Norman Conquest the land was awarded to William Fitz Ansculf, who became the Lord of Dudley and lived at Dudley Castle. For a long period Weoley Castle was part of the Dudley barony, and most of the stone walls you see today were built by Roger de Somery, the Lord of Dudley in the late 1200s. The castle was constructed with an imposing gatehouse and an impressive great hall. There were private rooms for the lords and ladies of the manor and a kitchen with a large fireplace for cooking. The family had their own chapel and stable range with lodging rooms above.
The castle was eventually owned by Joan de Botetourt who inherited by marriage and used Weoley as her main residence and home. Little is known of her but she may have had a kitchen garden within the walls of the castle. After her death the castle changed hands numerous times resulting in a legal dispute over inheritance. As a result we have a detailed survey of the castle dating back to 1424. By 1485 it was in the ownership of William Berkeley who lost the castle at the Battle of Bosworth where he fought for Richard III. In 1531 the castle and surrounding land was sold by the Dudleys to a wealthy cloth merchant called Richard Jervoise. He did not live here but built a more comfortable home nearby in Northfield.
In the 18th Century a farmhouse was built beside the moat and part of the farmyard wall is still visible today. The surrounding area remained rural until Mr Ledsam, the then owner, sold the land in 1930.
A series of archaeological digs in the 1930s and 1950s uncovered a rich collection of finds. These objects illustrate the wealth and lifestyle of the people that lived and worked at Weoley Castle. A very fine communion cruet was found, as well as painted glass that would have made up the windows to the chapel. Medieval floor tiles were revealed depicting an archer and a green man. Discovery of a jet die gives an idea of some of the leisure pursuits of castle owners.