Samuel Rudder was a Gloucestershire topographer, printer and antiquarian who was born in Uley and baptised there in 1726. He ran a printing and bookselling business in Cirencester in the 1750’s and wrote and published several important works on the history of Gloucestershire. ‘A New History of Gloucestershire 1779’ includes historical accounts of various towns in Gloucestershire. It was compiled from printed questionnaires, which Rudder said made him very troublesome to his friends. He also used the research of other people including Sir Robert Atkyns who wrote ‘The Ancient and Present State of Glostershire’ in 1712. Samuel’s work was well received by critics and Horace Walpole described it as ‘the most sensible history of a county that we have yet’. It had taken 12 years to complete.
For the purposes of this website, we have extracted that section of Rudder’s document which relates to Thornbury and the surrounding villages and then divided the transcription into separate pages covering different aspects of the historical account. The following text is a transcription of part of Samuel’s document as it relates to Thornbury Castle.
Of Thornbury Castle
There was very anciently a castle at this place but by whom it was originally built is at this time altogether uncertain. Hugh de Audley, earl of Gloucester, refusing to obey the summons of king Edward the Second, to come to the king at Gloucester on 3d of April, in the 14th year of that reign, the earl’s castle at Thornbury, and his other estates, were seized into the king’s hands; but they were restored in the first year of the next reign. Doctor Holland observes that Ralph lord Stafford built a house at Thornbury, in the reign of king Edward the Third. Perhaps this was done upon the seite of the old castle. And in the second year of the reign of king Henry the Eighth, Edward duke of Buckingham took down part of the house built by Ralph lord Stafford, and began a castle near the church, at the north end of the town; but he was prevented from finishing it by his attainder and death in the thirteenth year of the same reign. John Leland saw it soon after the duke was beheaded, and gives the following account of it in the seventh volume of his Itinerary:
“There was of ancient Tyme a Maner Place, but of no great estimation, hard by the Northe Syde of the Paroche Churche. Edward late Duke of Bukkyngeham likynge the Soyle aboute, and the Site of the Howse, and sette up magnificently in good squared Stone, the Southe Syde of it, and accomplishyd the West Parte also withe a right comely Gatehouse to the first Soyle; and so it standithe yete with a Rofe forced for a tyme. This Inscription on the fronte of the Gatehowse: This Gate was begun in the yere of Our Lorde Gode M CCCCC XI. The ii yere Of The Reyne Of Kynge Henri the VIII By me EDW duc of Bukkingha. Erlle of Harforde Stafforde ande Northamto. The Dukes Worde: DORENTE SAVANT, (upon a label). The Foundation of a very spacious Base Courte was there begon, and certeyne Gates and Towres in it Castlelle lyke. It is of a iiii or v Yardes highe, and so remaynithe a Token of a noble Peace of Worke purposid. There was a Gallery of Tymbre in the Bake Syde of the House joyning to the Northe Syde of the Paroche Churche. Edward Duke of Bukkyngham made a fayre Parke hard by the Castle, and tooke muche faire Ground in it very frutefull of Corne, now fayr Launds for Coursynge. The Inhabytaunts cursyd the Duke for the Lands so inclosyd.
There cummithe an Armlet of Severne ebbynge and flowyng into this Parke. Duke Edward had Thowght to have trenchyd there and to have browght it up to the Castle. There was a Parke by the Maner of Thornebyry afore, and yet is caullyd Morlewodde. There was also afore Duke Edward’s Tyme a Parke at Estewood, a Myle or more of: But Duke Edward at 2 Tymes enlarged it to the Compace of 6 Myles, not without many Curses of the Poore Tenaunts. The Severne Se lyethe a Myle and more from Thornebyrie, the Marches lyenge betwene.
Thus far Leland. But I have been favoured with a more particular description of this castle written, as I conjecture, about the time of king James the First, which, as it may be acceptable to many readers, is here inserted in the language of the writer.
‘The house or castle of Thornbury standeth within two miles of the river Seaverne, which runneth on the north side thereof. It is adjoining unto the church-yard of the parish church of Thornbury on the south part; the parke there, called New Parke, on the north and east parts, and a piece of ground called the Pitties on the west part. At the first entry is a faire back court containing two acres and a halfe, compassed about with buildings of stone for servants lodgings, to the hight of 14 or 15 foote, left unfinished without timber or covering, set forth with windows of freestone, some having bars of iron in them, some none.
At the entry into the castle on the west side are two gates, a greater and a lesser, with a wicket in the same. At the left hand thereof is a porter’s lodge, conteyning three roomes, with a dungeon or place of imprisonment underneath. Next adjoining is a faire roome called the Duke’s Wardrobbe, and within the same a faire room or lodging chamber with a cellar or vaught underneath; over all which are fower lodging chambers with chimneys. On the right hand of the gates are two faire roomes called the Duches Wardrobbe, and over the same are two faire chambers called the Steward’s Chambers.
Within all which is a court paved stone conteyning halfe an acre, encompassed with the castle buildings and leading from the gates aforesaid to the great hall, at the entry whereof is a porch, and on the right hand a small room called the Ewery.
On the left or north side of the court is a faire wett larder, a dry larder, a privy bakehouse, a boyling house, with an entry leading from all the said houses of offices to the great kitchin, over all which are five chambers for privet lodgings, and over all the same againe is one long roome called the Cockloft. The great kitchin having two great large flewes or chimneys and one lesser chimney and within the same kitchen is a privy kitchin with two flewes or chimneys in it, over the which last recited kitchin is a lodging chamber for cookes.
On the backside of all which recited buildings are certaine decayed buildings sometimes used for a bakehouse, and an armoury with certaine decayed lodgings over the same. From the great kitchin leading to the great hall is an entry, on the one side is a decayed roome called the scullery, with a large flew or chimney therein, and a pantry adjoyning. On the other side of the entry are two old decayed roomes heretofore used for cellars, on the backside whereof is a little court adjoyning to the great kitchin, and in the same is a faire well or pump for water, partley decayed; betweene the decayed cellars and the lower end of the great hall is a buttery; over all which last recited roomes are fower chambers called the Earle of Stafford’s Lodgings, partly decayed, with one roome thereunto adjoyning called the Clerkes Treasury.
From the lower end of the great hall is an entry leading unto the chappell, at the corner of which entry is a cellar. The utter part of the chappell is a faire roome for people to stand in at service time, and over the same are two roomes or partitions with each of them a chimney, where the duke and the duches used to sitt and heare service. The body of the chappell it selfe fairely built, having twenty and two settles of wainscot about the same, for priests, clerkes and quieristers.
The great hall, faire and large, with a hearth to make fire on in the midest thereof. Adjoyning to the upp end of the same is one faire roome called the Old Hall, with a chimney in the same. Next adjoining to the same is a faire cloyster walke paved with bricke, leading from the Duke’s Lodging to the privy garden, which garden is fower square, conteyning about one third part of an acre, three squares whereof are compassed about with a faire Cloyster or walke paved with bricke, and the fowerth square is bounded with the principal parts of the Castle called the New Buildings; over all which last recited Cloyster is a faire large gallery, and out of the same gallery goeth another gallery leading to the parish church of Thornbury, at the end whereof is a faire roome with a Chimney, and a Window into the said Church, where the Duke used sometime to heare service. Neere adjoyning unto the said large gallery are certain roomes or lodgings called the Earle of Bedford’s lodgings, conteyning 13 roomes, whereof six are below, three of them having chimneys in them, and seaven above, whereof fower have chimneys likewise. All which houses, buildings and roomes aforementioned are for the most part built with freestone, and covered with slatt or tyle.
The lower part of the principall buildings of the castle is called the New Buildings, at the west end whereof is a faire tower, in which lower buildings is conteyned one great chamber, with a chimney in the same, the sealing and timber worke whereof is decayed. Within the same is another faire chamber with a chimney therein. And within the same againe is another faire lodging chamber, with a chimney therein, called the Duke’s Lodging, with one little roome or Clossett betweene the two last recited chambers. Within all which is one roome, being the foundation or lowermost part of the tower called the Duke’s Clossett, with a Chimney therein. From the which said Duke’s lodging leadeth a faire gallery paved with bricke, and a stayer at the end thereof ascending to the Duke’s Lodging, being over the same, used for a privy way.
From the upp end of the great hall a stayer ascendeth up towards the great chamber, at the top whereof are two lodging roomes. Leading from the stayers head to the great chamber is a faire room paved with bricke, and a chimney therein, at the end whereof doth meete a faire gallery leading from the great Chamber to the Earle of Bedford’s Lodging on the one side, and the Chappell on the other side.
The great Chamber very faire with a chimney therein. Within the same is one other faire Chamber, called the Dineing Chamber, with a chimney therein likewise. And within that againe, is one other faire chamber alsoe, called the Privy Chamber, with a chimney in that likewise. And within the same againe is one other chamber or clossett called the Duke’s Jewell Chamber. Next unto the Privy Chamber on the inner part thereof, is a faire round chamber, being the second story of the Tower, called the Duke’s Bedchamber, with a chimney in the same. From the Privy Chamber a Stayer leadeth up into another faire round chamber over the Duke’s Bedchamber, like unto the former, being the third story over the Tower, and soe upwards into another like chamber over the same, called the Treasury, where the Evidences do lye. All which last recited buildings, called the New Buildings, are built faire with freestone, covered with lead, and embattelled.
On the east side of the Castle is one other garden, conteyning three quarters of an acre, adjoining upon the Earle of Bedford’s Lodgings, at the west corner whereof is a little void court of wast ground. On the north side of the Castle, adjoyning upon the Chappell, is a little Orchard conteyning half an acre, well sett with trees of diverse kinds of fruites. All which Castle buildings, with Orchards and Gardens aforesaid are walled about with a Wall of Stone, part embattelled, ruined and decayed in diverse places thereof, conteyning in circuit and quantity, by estimation, twelve Acres of Ground, or thereabouts. On the east side of the said Castle, adjoining unto the outer Side of the Walls thereof, is one faire Orchard quadrente, conteyning by Estimation fower Acres, palled about well, and thick sett with trees of diverse Kinds of fruites.
I shall close this account of the castle by observing, that the gatehouse, and much of the castle walls, and outer wall that inclosed the whole, with loop holes at convenient distances to shoot thro’ with bows and cross bows, are now standing; and some of the rooms of the castle are occupied as a farm house. The foregoing inscription on the gatehouse is as I found it myself, and not exactly as in the Itinerary, for Leland had not copied it accurately. Besides the inscription there are several ornamental devices upon it, with the Staffords Knot; and the present remains of the castle shew the design to have been noble and magnificent, tho’ imperfectly executed.
In the year 1539, king Henry the Eighth and Anne of Bulloigne were entertained at this place for ten days.
The town of Thornbury was fortified for the king in the great rebellion, by Sir William St Leger, to restrain the garrison at Gloucester.