Castle iconHamelin Plantagenet: the 5th Earl of Surrey: Designer & Builder of the Castle

The Warren Family

Hamelin Plantagenet is widely regarded to be the designer and builder of Conisbrough Castle in South Yorkshire. He was married in 1163 to Isabel widow of King Stephen's son William De Blois following Williams death. The marriage was arranged by none other than Henry II himself. Hamelin Plantagenet was the 5th Earl of Surrey and Henry's illegitimate half-brother.

Early Life

Hamelin Pantagenet was born in 1130 in Anjou Pays de La Loire France an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Adelaide of Angers. Hamelin was also uncle to Richard 1st and his brother Prince John. His early years were blighted by the rumours of his illegitimacy but he none the less progressed in life through marrying well and keeping in favour with Henry II.

Marriage and Family

Following his marriage to Isabel De Warenne Hamelin took the name De Warenne, while consequently his descendants were known as De Warenne thereafter. The couple had six children namely

  • William Earl of Warren and Surrey
  • Ella Plantagenet
  • Isabel Plantagenet
  • Maud Plantagenet
  • Mary De Warenne
  • Suzanne De Warenne

The Earl and Conisbrough

Conisbrough Castle

The De Warenne family owned much land in Yorkshire at this time, while Hamelin De Warenne set about redesigning Conisbrough Castle near Doncaster. The family earned money from an entitlement they had to receive one third of all fines levied in the county court in Surrey, while they also owned castles in Mortemer and Bellencombre in Normandy France.

Hamelin spent much of his time at Conisbrough favouring the castle above all other of his residences. He held the title of earl for almost forty years and it was during this time that building work on the castle was at its height.

The magnificent keep of Conisbrough was built at this time around 1180, while its magnificence made it a place suitable for eminent visitors, one of which was King John himself. The unique circular design of the keep, chosen by Hamelin himself is the only architectural example of this type of keep in Britain. The stone curtain walls soon followed, while further building is thought to have been at the order of Hamelin's son William.

Hamelin's Final Years

Hamelin remained in King Henry's favour for the remainder of his life. He was entrusted to escort the Kings daughter Joan to Sicily in order for her to marry William II of Sicily, while even though many of Henry's supporters began to desert the king Hamelin remained loyal throughout.

Hamelin also supported the denunciations of Thomas Becket but following Becket's death he fully supported Becket's canonisation as a saint. This was said to be because Hamelin believed that Becket had cured his ailing eyesight.

Hamelin lived long enough to witness both the coronation of Richard I in 1194 and John in 1199. Hamelin died in 1202 and was buried beside his wife in the Chapter House at Lewes Priory in Sussex.