We have lived just six miles from Tutbury Castle for over 40 years and have seen it from the outside many times but until quite recently I had never actually been into the grounds. In July, as lockdown restrictions continued to be relaxed, Tutbury Castle reopened for three days a week and we took the opportunity to visit. It turned out to be a good choice as it was a beautiful day and there were not too many people about.
Tutbury Castle sits on a hill close to the Staffordshire/Derbyshire boundary which at that point is the River Dove. There are excellent views towards the river and hills of Derbyshire.
The first record of the castle is 1071 as one of the new castles built to stamp the authority of the Norman conquerors across the Midlands.
The castle is best known as one of the prisons of Mary Queen of Scots, who was held here on four occasions. It was here that she became involved in the plot that ultimately led to her bloody execution at Fotheringhay.
Her first visit began on 4th February 1569 when she arrived with no fewer than sixty attendants. She had been many hours in the saddle and for the first time since her arrival in England, she realised that she was now in prison. Mary loathed Tutbury, not only because of what it represented but also because it was cold, draughty and extremely damp – threatening her already delicate health. She wrote of its miseries and rather than waxing lyrical about the magnificent view Tutbury offered, she described it as ‘sitting squarely on top of a mountain in the middle of a plain’, subjecting her to all the ‘winds and injures of heaven’.
It is suggested that letters to and from Mary were smuggled concealed inside beer barrels from the brewers of nearby Burton on Trent who were supplying Tutbury Castle.