The early history of Tong, Salop (1066-1760) is dominated by the Castle and the Lords of the Manor who owned the land. Tong Castle stood in the village for nine hundred years, controlling the community and providing employment for the villagers. As the eminence of the Castle owners ebbed and flowed so did the fortunes of the village.
“Over time the prosperity of the manor increased. As the population grew, these defences were, by stages, strengthened and extended; using stone instead of wood, to keep pace with the advances in the techniques of warfare. From the 12th century, most English castles were built or rebuilt in stone.”
Chapter 2 documents the lives of the early owners of Tong up to the middle of the eighteenth century. It includes a number of family trees that show how the ownership of Tong passed amongst the leading land-owning families of the time. These include the Montgomery - Earls of Shrewsbury ; de Belmeis family; la Zouche family; de Harcourt families. It was the Pembrugge family who made Tong Castle more of a home than a fortification. They had a major impact on the village by building the present Church and founding Tong College. Ownership passed by marriage into the rich and prominent Vernon family followed by the Stanleys (Earls of Derby). During the time of Sir Henry Vernon, Tong was at its height of national importance as the Vernon family prospered under Henry VII (the Vernons had fought for Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth). See also: Sir Richard Vernon; Henry Vernon; Sir William Vernon; .
“Prince Arthur spent time with Henry Vernon at Haddon Hall; where there is a room known as 'The Prince's Room'. His tutor would have been
there with him. One tutor was Arthur Vernon, son of Henry, who later became Rector of Whitchurch. The Prince had several tutors. The principal
tutor, appointed in 1496, was Bernard Andreas. (He was also Poet Laureate). Andreas was an Oxford graduate who was introduced to Henry VII by
Bishop Fox of Winchester (1401-29).
Prince Arthur moved to Ludlow Castle in 1501 and Henry Vernon witnessed the marriage contract of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. The marriage took place in St Paul's Cathedral on 14th November 1501.”
When Tong was sold in 1603 to Sir Thomas Harries the country was in the troubled times of the Reformation and then the Civil War. Ownership passed on by marriage to the Pierrepoints (Dukes of Kingston). William Pierrepoint (William the Wise) was a trusted negotiator between King Charles I and Parliament after the 1649.
“William's home was Holme Pierrepoint at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire. He chose to remain there during the Civil War, and was buried there. Tong Castle was involved in two sieges during the hostilities between the Royalist and Parliamentarian sides. There was some damage to the east wing of the Castle, as well as to the Church. Afterwards, William Pierrepoint arranged for repairs to be carried out, and made other alterations, (including the creation of a hanging garden). The remains of the old keep were levelled and landscaped. New features included a fountain in a pool along the western promontory, and an Italianate garden to the east of the house.”
Tong became a distant outpost of their estate and not a permanent residence. It was not until 1764 when George Durant bought the Manor of Tong that any great changes took place.
Nathaniel Buck engraving of Tong Castle in about 1731. Excavations of Tong Castle in the last 30 years have shown a very complex sequence of building and re-building confirming the engraving as a fair representation of the Castle at the time.
For more about the nine distinct buildings on the Tong Castle site unearthed by Alan Wharton please visit our Castle Excavation pages.
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