There were already defences in place at Warwick in 1068 when William the Conqueror established a motte and bailey fort on the site. Alfred the Greats daughter Ethelfleda had ordered the building of a burh as defence against the invading Danish in 914 A.D.
In 1088 Williams appointed Henry de Beaumont as the 1st Earl of Warwick and constable of Warwick and as such it fell to him to maintain order in the midlands while William pushed northwards. Henry also founded the church of All Saints within the castle by 1119. The Bishop of Worcester however thought that a castle was possibly not the best place for a church and removed it in 1127.
In 1153 the wife of Roger de Beaumont 2nd Earl of Warwick was tricked into believing her husband was dead and surrendered the castle to Henry of Anjou (future Henry II) on hearing this Roger dropped dead. Henry later returned the castle to the Earls of Warwick in recognition of their support of his mother the Empress Matilda. During the reign of Henry II the motte and bailey was replaced with a stone castle.
The castle passed out of the de Beaumont family when Thomas the 6th Earl died without issue and it passed to his sister Margery Countess of Warwick in her own right. Her husband died shortly after however and so Henry III ‘took care of it for her’ while she looked for a suitable marriage. When she married John du Plessis the castle was returned to her.
During the second Barons War (1264-67) William Maudit 8th Earl of Warwick and supporter of Henry III was caught by a surprise attack launched by the forces of Simon de Montfort from Kenilworth Castle four miles away. The Earl and his wife were taken prisoner and held for ransom.
In 1312 Piers Gaveston 1st Earl of Cornwall was captured by Guy de Beauchamp 10th Earl of Warwick and imprisoned at the castle until his execution.
Under Thomas de Beauchamp 11th Earl, the castle defences were significantly enhanced between 1330 – 60 a gatehouse and a barbican were added as well as a tower on either end of the wall named Caesars and Guys Towers, there was also a water tower added around this time. Both Caesars and Guys were residential and have vaulted stone ceilings on every level, Caesars also has a dungeon in the basement.
The line of Beauchamps’ ended in 1449 when Anne de Beauchamp died. Richard Neville became the next Earl through his wife’s inheritance of the title.
During the summer of 1469 Neville rebelled against King Edward IV and imprisoned him at Warwick, however the protest made by the kings supporters forced Neville to release him. Neville was killed two years later at the Battle of Barnet. The castle then passed to George Plantagenet (brother of the king) who was married to Isobel, Neville’s elder daughter. George was executed for plotting against his brother the King (not for the first time) and the lands unusually passed to his son Edward (lands and titles of a convicted traitor are forfeit) but as Edward was only two years old when his father died the lands were taken into the custody of the crown anyway. He was eventually executed for treason by Henry VII in 1499. Edward was the last Earl of Warwick of the first creation.
In the early 1480’s King Richard III (married to Anne the younger Neville daughter) instigated the construction of two gun towers, Bear and Clarence towers, which were left unfinished on his death at Bosworth in 1485.
While in the care of the crown Warwick underwent some repair and renovation. In 1547 the castle and it’s lands were granted to John Dudley with the second creation of the title Earl of Warwick.
Dudley was unimpressed by the state of the castle but he did not choose to repair it himself instead when Queen Elizabeth I visited in 1566 and again in 1572 for four nights, a timber building was erected in the castle for the duration of her stay. When Elizabeth made later visits to the castle when Ambrose 2nd Earl (older brother to Robert) was in charge, he simply left the castle to her use. When Ambrose died the title became extinct for a second time.
Sir Fulke Greville was granted Warwick castle by King James I (VI of Scotland) in 1604, by which time the lead had been stolen from the roof and the stone had started to be robbed out.
Fulke Greville spent over £20,000 renovating the castle but was murdered by his manservant Ralph Haywood when Haywood discovered that he wasn’t in the will.
The grounds were turned into a garden, but the castles defences were enhanced in the 1640’s to prepare for action during the Civil War. Robert Greville 2nd Baron Brooke was a parliamentarian and Warwick was laid seige by the Royalists, it withstood this however and was subsequently used to house Royalist prisoners.
In 1660 the Council of State ordered the castle governor to disband the garrison that had been stationed there and to hand the castle over to Francis Greville 4th Baron Brooke.
The state apartments were found to be in poor repair. Under Roger and William Hurlbutt master carpenters of Warwick an extensive modernization and refurbishment was undertaken.
In 1749 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown while still head gardener at Stowe, was called in by Lord Brooke to give Warwick Castle a ‘more natural connection to the river’.
In 1802 George Greville 2nd Earl Warwick of the new creation had debts of £115,000. The earls estates including Warwick were given to the Earl of Galloway and John FitzPatrick 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory, but the castle was returned in 1813.
In 1978 after 374 years in the Greville family it was sold to the Tussauds Group who opened it as a tourist attraction.