Late Medieval & Reformation Period

After Henry III’s death in 1272, Marlborough Castle passed into the possession of successive queens as a dower house until 1369. The Castle had by now become militarily, administratively and politically obsolete. The buildings in the bailey area remained serviceable as living quarters, but queens were not as wealthy as kings and so upkeep of the fabric of the Castle was neglected. A small fortune had to be spent to make it respectable for Edward II’s new queen, Philippa, when she was given it in 1331. It must have remained habitable until the 1360s because the couple came to Marlborough on a number of occasions up to 1369. In 1391, however, local craftsmen refused to give an estimate for the cost of repairs because they judged that the Castle could scarcely be repaired without being completely rebuilt. Given the Castle’s declining status, the cost of rebuilding evidently proved prohibitive because the Castle was in ruins by 1403, though it remained Crown property.

Nowadays, no physical evidence of the stone castle remains above ground. One suspects that much of it was removed by the local worthies who rebuilt (the now redundant) St Peter's Church nearby, and completed their works in 1460. It must have been tempting to use the readily available and inexpensive materials from the decaying Castle for their works. In 1498, Thomas Wolsey was ordained a priest at St Peter's. He later rose to become a Catholic Cardinal and Lord Chancellor for Henry VIII before England’s split from Rome.

There is a certain irony, therefore, that Henry VIII’s Protestant son, Edward VI, then passed Marlborough Castle estate to the family of Jane Seymour - his mother's Protestant relatives who lived locally at Wolf Hall (near Burbage and Grafton). The Castle estate was, by then, no longer fit for royalty. John Leland’s Itinerary in 1541 describes:

“The chief paroche church of the town standythe at the very weste end of it, beynge dedicate onto Saint Peter. By it there is a ruine of a great castelle, hard at the west end of the town, whereof the Doungeon Tower is party yet standith.”

The Seymour family then continued to hold the dilapidated Castle’s estate from c.1550 until 1779.