Today, very little remains of the castle from which the village takes its name. However, Elmley Castle lives on in the stone used to build the local houses, farms and drywalls, and even the old bridge that crosses the Avon at Pershore.
The castle was built on top of Breedon Hill, shortly after the Norman Conquest. When the nearby Castle of Worcestershire was damaged in the feudal wars between 1135 and 1153, Elmley Castle became the seat of the influential Beauchamp family.
The castle fell into disrepair after the death of the Beauchamps – so poor was its condition that it was worth just 6 shillings 8 pence according to one early 14th century valuation. The ruins were sold to the Savage family in 1544, who built an Elizabethan mansion close by, where the squires of Elmley lived until 1948.
Elmley Castle Village
The land on which the village stands was cleared and settled by the Saxons as early as the 7th century AD. Throughout its long history, Elmley Castle has earned the favour of English monarchs, including King Henry III who granted residents the right to hold a market every Wednesday and an annual two-day fair in August, and Queen Elizabeth I, who visited the village in 1575. The Queen’s Head pub, open to this day, is a reminder of the royal occasion, and the area of Besscaps gets its name from residents having to doff their caps (tip their hats) when the Queen passed by.
The Church of St. Mary was built in the late 11th century and contains ancient oak pews, a font beautifully decorated with serpent and dragon carvings, and effigies of the Savage family. The deer that still roam in the park behind the church were a gift from the King in 1234.
The main street has changed little over the years, although the additions of a school, cricket club and local amenities bring the village into the 21st century.
If you visit Elmley Castle on a clear day, it is well worth climbing to the top of Breedon Hill, where you can cast your eye over the village from the perspective of the once-great castle.