Archives and Library


Archives dating from 1154

Though modest in size compared with those of other great houses, the Berkeley archives are rich both in age and quality. The earliest documents date from 1154 and are older than the castle itself.

All the documents dating from before 1492 (the date at which the castle passed into royal hands for over 60 years) have been catalogued in A Catalogue of the Medieval Muniments at Berkeley Castle, edited by Bridget Wells-Furby, published by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (BGAS) in 2004. This is available on the National Archives’ Discovery catalogue portal. All these documents and most of those for the Tudor period have been microfilmed and can be consulted at Gloucestershire Archives.




Enquiries about former estate properties and tenants should be directed in the first instance to Mr Peter Yardley, an expert on the 19th and 20thcentury of the estate. He will make a small charge for the benefit of Berkeley Castle Charitable Trust. All other enquiries should be sent to Karen Davidson, the Estate Archivist at the Castle. This service may attract a search fee.

Those wishing to see the archives and who cannot find out what they need to know from the microfilms at Gloucestershire Archives may visit the Muniment Room by appointment with the Estate Archivist. Research space at the Castle is very limited. Access is only possible on Mondays and Tuesdays, so if you do need to visit, please give as much notice as you can so that we can make arrangements for you to view the documents you would like to see.

For further information about the types of material we hold and the enquiries we can answer, please see the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section.



Editions of some of the more important documents have been published via the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (BGAS):

R W Hoyle (ed) The Military Survey of Gloucestershire, 1522 BGAS 1993

D Walker (ed) The Cartulary of St Augustine’s Abbey, Bristol BGAS 1998

B Wells-Furby (ed) The Great Cartulary of Berkeley Castle c.1425 BGAS 2014

A detailed economic and social study of the medieval estate has also been published:

B Wells-Furby The Berkeley Estate 1281-1417: its economy and development BGAS 2012

A detailed account of the evidence from the Castle muniments about the last months of Edward II and his imprisonment at the Castle appears in Edward II: his last months and his monument by J Barlow, R Bryant, C Heighway, C Jeens and D Smith, published by BGAS and Past Historic in 2015. (Written by the former Castle Archivist and one of our long-standing volunteers)

The more recent of these volumes can be purchased from the BGAS or from the Castle shop.

The old library is also housed in the Muniment Room. It is a small collection but contains some volumes of which few copies are recorded elsewhere in the UK. There is an author index which is at present only available at the Castle. Enquiries should be directed to the Estate Archivist.


The Lives of the Berkeleys by John Smyth is a collection of detailed biographies of the main members of the family from the 11th century to the early 17th century. It is available online here: Volume I and Volume II.

A Description of the Hundred of Berkeley by John Smyth is a detailed history of the Hundred and forms volume III of his work on the family muniments. It is available online here: Volume III.



A grant by Henry II

To St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester, of his manor of Maisemore. It is part of the archives of the Berkeleys of Spetchley.  The deed was taken back into Crown hands at the dissolution of the monasteries and then went to the Compton family when they acquired Hartpury later in the 16th century because included in the grant (though not stated) is 200 a. of woodland in Hartpury.


An illuminated book

From the family collection. The illumination comes from the Neville Hours, c1410, purchased by the Eighth Earl because he thought it had a family connection.


A medical treatise

Describing characteristics of the four humours (sanguine, choleric, etc.)

Frequently asked questions about the archives


“Do you hold records of individual members of the Berkeley family? Do you hold letters and diaries of family members?”

We do not hold any personal records of the Berkeley family in the Muniment Room. The Castle muniments focus on the estates and properties owned by the family over the centuries.


“Do you hold records of families descended from the Berkeley family of the Castle?”

We only hold records of the main Castle branch of the family and their estates and properties. We do not hold records of other branches of the family, for example the Berkeleys of Stoke Gifford near Bristol, the Berkeleys of Bruton in Somerset, the Berkeleys of Cotheridge in Worcestershire and the Barons Berkeley of Stratton in Cornwall. Most of these families split off from the main family in the medieval period. We also do not hold records of the Berkeley family of Dursley, who held the Castle before it passed to the current family in 1154.


“I am/I think I may be descended from the Berkeley family/my family name is Berkeley/one of my ancestors had Berkeley in their name. Can you tell me more about my possible link to the Castle?

We have pedigrees of the main Castle family and can sometimes verify whether a particular individual is related. However, we do not keep records of every person with the surname of Berkeley. We recommend that you try to make the link yourself before contacting us. As the main Castle family have been quite prominent throughout history, there is lots of information about them online, including on websites such as thepeerage and Wikipedia, as well as John Smyth’s biographies of the main members of the family between the 11th and 17th centuries (available online here: Volume I and Volume II).


“I need to look at documents which are not available on microfilm for my research. Can I visit the Castle to see them?”

If you need to look at original documents for your research, you may visit the Muniment Room by appointment with the Estate Archivist. Research space at the Castle is very limited and access is only possible on Mondays and Tuesdays, so if you do need to visit, please give as much notice as you can so that we can make arrangements for you to view the documents you would like to see.


“I need to come and see documents held at the Castle. Can I bring my friend/partner/colleague with me?”

It is not generally possible to accommodate people other than the person who needs to see the documents, as the space available for research is very limited.


“Can I make copies of any of the documents?”

Copying is not permitted without the express written permission of the Estate Archivist, whether it is by means of photography or by printing from the microfilms held at Gloucestershire Archives. Copying requests for private research purposes are usually granted, but written permission must be gained in advance.


“Can I use images or extracts from the documents in my book/article/academic paper?”

Permission must be sought if images of or extracts from the documents are to be published, even if you have already been given permission to make copies for your research. Acknowledgement must be made with any publication and the form of words to be used for this will be supplied by the Archivist if permission is given. We do not make a copyright charge, but we do ask for a copy of the publication for our records.


“I am not able to visit the Castle to look at the documents I need for my research. Can you send me photographs?”

It may be possible to arrange for photographic copies to be made and sent to you. This will attract a fee to cover the cost of producing the documents for photography and the photography itself. Please contact the Estate Archivist for more details.


“I am not able to visit the Castle to do my research. Can you do it for me?”

The Estate Archivist can undertake research in the muniments. Brief enquiries can be answered free of charge, but those requiring more detailed research will attract a fee. This is currently £25 per hour. We make a minimum charge of £50 to cover up to two hours’ research, and then an additional £25 for each further hour’s work. The Archivist will make an estimate of the time required to complete the work and will provide a quotation and details of how to make payment. Payment must then be received before the research can be undertaken.

Enquiries about the 19th and 20th century history of the estate can be sent to Peter Yardley. He will make a small charge for the benefit of Berkeley Castle Charitable Trust. Because of the way the records were kept, we will need to know the name of a tenant at a particular date in order to find out information about estate properties. We have very little information about estate employees.


“How can I see a list of the documents available on microfilm at Gloucestershire Archives?”

All of the medieval and most of the Tudor period documents have been microfilmed and can be accessed in the research room at Gloucestershire Archives. You can see a list of these microfilms by going to Gloucestershire Archives’ online catalogue and performing an ‘advanced search’ for keyword “Berkeley Castle” and finding ref “MF*” [without the quotation marks but with the asterisk]. This list gives brief descriptions and covering shelf marks of the documents on each microfilm.

Please note that the catalogue references in the Medieval Catalogue do not appear on the microfilms; they use the shelf marks which are included at the end of each description in the Medieval Catalogue.


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