Astley Castle, Warwickshire

A ruinous and derelict site has been transformed by innovative thinking, along with funding, support and advice, to create an exciting holiday home within an ancient fortified manor.

Where: Astley, Near Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Years on register: 1998 - 2012

Ownership through the centuries

Astley Castle in North Warwickshire was a substantial fortified manor on a moated site: a licence to crenellate was granted in 1266. Most of its remains date from the later 15th-17th centuries. Ownership over the centuries has passed through several families, including Elizabeth Woodville who lived here before her marriage to Edward IV. The castle was later owned by Sir Henry Grey and his daughter, Lady Jane Grey. It was a hotel from 1952 until a devastating fire in 1978 after which it was abandoned. Astley Castle was added to the Heritage at Risk (HAR) Register in 1998.

Astley Castle before restoration, with stone archway entrance
Astley Castle before restoration, with stone archway entrance © Landmark Trust

Finding a viable restoration scheme

The Landmark Trust initially acquired the site on a long lease from the Arbury Estate in 1998 and although several schemes for its full restoration were proposed, nothing happened because of the extent of the damage and the prohibitively high repair costs.

Following an architectural competition in 2005, the winning scheme by Witherford Watson Mann Architects created a four bedroom holiday apartment within the existing building footprint. What could be saved of the original fabric was repaired and new work knitted the historic fabric with the new - leaving the castle’s beautiful form in the rural landscape largely unchanged.

Children from four local schools visited Astley Castle during its restoration and took part in a cross-curricular project
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, 160 children from four local schools visited Astley Castle during its restoration and took part in a cross-curricular project © HLF

How we made a difference

Historic England provided specialist advice, and targeted financial support totalling £360,351 for repair works to the historic fabric, in a project that cost over £2.5 million.

Astley Castle is an outstanding example of how innovative and modern design, coupled with the right technical advice and a timely grant, has saved one of our most special historic buildings. Astley was brought back to life and continues to be enjoyed by whoever comes to visit. It shows that with the investment, skills and in working together, exciting solutions can be found. Even those historic buildings most at risk can be transformed for modern living whilst at the same time, revealing what makes them special.

Veryan Heal, West Midlands Planning Director, Historic England
Astley Castle restored in 2014 with stone archway entrance
Astley Castle restored in 2014 with stone archway entrance © Landmark Trust

Astley Castle was removed from the HAR Register in 2012. It was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize for excellence in architecture in 2013. It has become one of the Landmark Trust’s most popular properties, giving visitors the opportunity to stay within the remains of a fortified manor house.

Accommodation is arranged on two floors with an internal lift providing ease of access for all and a stunning bronze and timber staircase. The site is also a place where local people are actively engaged and can visit during open days and other special events.

See Astley Castle on the National Heritage List

Living space on the ground floor with views towards the parish Church of St Mary the Virgin
Living space on the ground floor with views towards the parish Church of St Mary the Virgin © Landmark Trust

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need the most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses.

See more of our top 20 heritage rescues

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