Hartlebury Castle has a fascinating history, with many intriguing stories to tell…
First given to Bishop Aelhun in 855AD, the Castle was the home of the Bishops of Worcester until 2007. Three of its bishops became saints, two were burned at the stake for their faith, one became the Pope who refused Henry the VIII his divorce and another was present at the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. They have amazing stories to tell and their history and that of Hartlebury Castle is inextricably linked with the history of the nation.
Three great experiences in one
Today the Castle offers three great experiences in one ticket. Discover the lives of those who lived and worked at Hartlebury Castle in the Bishop’s Palace, explore the fascinating history of the county in Worcestershire County Museum, and relax with a peaceful stroll around grounds taking in the wildlife and views across the moat. With hands-on displays and enthralling themes, Hartlebury Castle is a great day out for all the family.
The Bishop’s Palace
Marvel at talking portraits, grand State Rooms and the unique Hurd Library as you uncover the fascinating lives of the Bishops of Worcester and their amazing roles in history. Hear captivating tales from characters in the Castle’s past, including the butler who nearly sent the Prime Minister to the tradesman’s entrance and the beloved toy rabbit saved for the bishop’s granddaughter in their free audio guide, which also includes a children’s tour option.
Worcestershire County Museum
Take a walk through the history of Worcestershire via fascinating objects and collections including toys, period costumes and the incredible transport gallery featuring a Victorian fire engine, a Penny Farthing and a large collection of beautifully decorated Gypsy caravans. Step back to Victorian times in the schoolroom and scullery and take a glance at Worcestershire’s agricultural past in the Cider Mill and blacksmith’s forge.
Why is it called a ‘Castle’?
When first owned by the Bishops of Worcester, the site at Hartlebury was referred to as a ‘manor’. It officially became a Castle in 1268, when Bishop Giffard was given permission to fortify the site. The fortifications remained for nearly four centuries, until they were destroyed in 1648 at the end of the Civil War ensuring that it was never defendable again. When the Castle was restored in 1675 by Bishop Fleetwood, there was no longer any need for a fortified castle and so the beautiful country mansion that you see before you was created. In more recent centuries, the Castle also became known as the Bishop’s Palace, the official name given to a Bishop’s residence.
Relax in the peaceful grounds of Hartlebury Castle as you stroll around the historic moat. Get back to nature as you encounter the Castle’s wildlife while following the nature trail and take in the floras’ colours of the seasons. Discover the 280 year old Mulberry tree and the wonderful variety of fruits on site including the famous Worcestershire black pear. The open spaces are perfect for children to run around in and enjoy outdoor games.
NB The Perimeter Walk includes steps and uneven surfaces, therefore is not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies.
Following the decision to move the Bishop of Worcester’s main residence to Worcester city centre and put the Castle up for sale, the grounds at Hartlebury Castle became overgrown and were untamed for over 10 years. Working with Worcestershire Woodland Project a group of Grounds Maintenance and Gardening volunteers have been working to restore them. If you would like to join their volunteer team visit their Volunteer page.
We allow dogs into the Grounds and reception building; Assistance Dogs only are allowed into the main Castle and outer buildings.
Café & Shop
After you’ve explored the Castle and grounds, a visit to Hayley’s Kitchen at Hartlebury Castle Cafe is the perfect way to relax. Their Castle shop offers a variety of lovely souvenirs and gifts from local businesses.