Delve into the history of Croft Castle

A photograph of staff from a bygone era at croft castle, Herefordshire

The Croft family have been key players and confidantes to England's leaders since 1055. From Edward the Confessor to Winston Churchill, find out how the family played their part in major historical events.

Back to the Domesday book

Take a look at the video below for a brief introduction to Croft's fascinating history.

The Croft estate was founded by a Norman knight, Bernard de Croft and is recorded in Domesday in 1085.

Owain Glyndŵr

Sir John de Croft married Jonet, daughter of Owain Glyndŵr in the 1390s and it is thought that following the Welsh leader’s victory over Sir Edward Mortimer at the Battle of Glyn Blas in Powys in 1402, he sent forces to occupy the defensive site of Croft Ambrey.

The White Roses

During the Wars of the Roses, Sir Richard Croft fought alongside Edward, 4th Duke of York at the nearby Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461, later becoming a trusted confidante when Edward was crowned King.

Richard's wife, Eleanor served as governess to Edward IV's sons, better known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’ who, having been imprisoned there by their uncle, Richard III, later disappeared without trace.

The Crofts and the Tudors

Sir Richard became Henry VII’s Treasurer to the Household and Steward to the King’s son, Prince Arthur when he and Catherine of Aragon resided at Ludlow Castle from 1501-2.

Look for Sir Richard and Eleanor’s elaborate tomb in the church at Croft.

Sir Richard’s grandson, Sir James Croft served Edward VI as Lord Deputy of Ireland but was later implicated in the infamous 1554 Wyatt rebellion against Mary I.

He was eventually pardoned and became Elizabeth I’s Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1570. Sir James probably pulled down the old castle creating a more comfortable Elizabethan house surrounded by formal garden terraces.

The Crofts and the Civil War

Sir James’s grandson, Sir Herbert Croft built the shell of the present castle in the early 17th century before converting to Catholicism and retiring to a Benedictine Monastery in France.

Three of his sons inherited Croft. The eldest son, Sir William Croft fought with the Royalist army during the Civil War and, after a fierce battle against the Parliamentarians at Stokesay Castle in 1645, was killed on his retreat to Croft.  

The second son, James Croft also fought in the Civil War but died without an heir. Croft passed to the youngest son, the Reverend Herbert Croft. He was rewarded for his loyalty by Charles II and was appointed Bishop of Hereford in 1660 and the Dean of the Royal Chapel in 1668. He spent money restoring the castle following damage inflicted during the Civil War.

The loss of Croft

Reverend Herbert’s son and grandson were both connected to Britain’s colonial interests. Herbert Croft was given a baronetcy in 1671 and became an MP with links to the East India Company. His son, Sir Archer Croft, 2nd Bart invested in the South Sea Company which speculated on the supply of enslaved Africans to the Spanish Americas on behalf of the British government. Following its collapse in 1720, Sir Archer lost most of the family’s wealth and was forced to sell Croft in 1746.

The family spent the following 170 years away from Croft Castle, but they nevertheless made their mark on history.

The Reverend Sir Herbert Croft, 5th Bart revised and attempted to publish an updated version of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. Recent research has revealed that through marriage to his first wife, Sophie Cleeve, he had links to a plantation in Antigua.

The royal obstetrician

Sir Richard Croft, 6th Bart was a leading obstetrician chosen to care for Princess Charlotte, daughter of George, later King George IV, during her pregnancy and labour. Charlotte was married to Prince Leopold, later King of the Belgians. Their son was stillborn in November 1817 and Charlotte died soon afterwards leading to a public outcry and later Sir Richard’s suicide.

Family associations with the East India Company continued with the marriage of Sir Archer Croft, 8th Baronet to Julia Corbet whose father served as Chief Engineer and Surveyor General in Bengal.

Crofts return

The family repurchased Croft in 1923 for the young James Croft, 11th Bart. When he died in 1941 it was inherited by his cousin Sir Henry Page Croft. However, he did not live in the castle, as it was used as a school until 1946.

Churchill's advisor

Sir Henry Page Croft had served as a Brigadier General during the First World War and later as an MP. He was made 1st Lord Croft in 1940 and inherited the estate while working as Under-Secretary of State for War in Churchill’s war time cabinet. He was an unwavering supporter of the British Empire, co-founding the National Party in 1917. He also opposed the League of Nations and the bill for self-government in India in 1935.

Saved for the nation

Croft was inherited by Michael, 2nd Lord Croft, in 1947. He and his sister Diana Ulhman worked tirelessly to save Croft for the nation, seeking support from the Land Fund, gathering objects and collections relating to members of the wider Croft family for public display and ensuring its permanent preservation through the National Trust.