Is there gold in them there Cheshire hills?
The mystery of a king’s missing millions at Beeston Castle

BEESTON Castle has been knocked about a bit during the past 700 years, but so far nothing has persuaded the historic pile to reveal its most intimate secret... is there gold and silver in them there hills ? Somewhere in the Beeston ruins, perched 500ft above the Cheshire Plain, there could be a vast fortune.
Legend has it that shortly before the end of his reign, King Richard II chose Beeston as a safe repository for his personal fortune of “100,000 marks in gold coin and 100,000 marks in other precious objects”.

Documentation from the 16th century suggests that some of the priceless artifacts included pieces such as a gold quadrant in a leather case, a golden reindeer lying on a green, a gold stag under a tree, a white helmet of St George, white hart brooches, cups and jewellery.

Today it could all be worth over £200 million !

One story claims that Richard stored his treasure at Beeston before leaving from Chester on an expedition to Ireland in 1399, the year of his death, and that he hid his fortune in the castle’s 360ft. deep well which apparently contains a number of passages.

It is said that when Richard returned from Ireland he was taken prisoner and thrown into the gaol of Flint Castle by the forces of Henry Bolinbroke, the Duke of Lancaster, later Henry IV. The garrison at Beeston surrendered and Bolinbroke made off with the treasure.

Another stab at the truth apparently surrounds old documents which were written in Norman French and point towards Holt Castle, rather than Beeston, as the resting place of Richard’s treasure.

Be that as it may, many have tried to solve the mystery of Beeston and if there really is treasure buried in the murky depths of the well then not a single trace has ever surfaced, despite the use of sophisticated ultra-sonic probes, seismo meters and magnetic detectors.

Two attempts to clear the well, in 1842 and 1935, also proved inconclusive although the latter exploration revealed some interesting facts. The explorers found entrances to what might possibly have been three passages, but these intrepid men only reached 339ft. and they believed that there was a fourth undiscovered passage at about 350ft.

Meanwhile, Beeston Castle stands as a silent testimony to the ravages of English history. Built in the 13th century by Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester, it was by the 16th century, according to John Leland, court antiquarian to Henry VIII, in a ruinous condition.

It was not until the Civil War that Beeston Castle was first used in anger. Garrisoned by a Parliamentarian force of 300 men, it was taken in 1643. A Royalist captain with eight brave men scaled the walls at night and threw open the gates. It was then held by the Royalists until, after a prolonged siege, they were starved out in 1645.

In the 18th century much of the castle’s stonework was plundered to “... build causeways through Cheshire”. At the same time the hill was extensively quarried. However, since 1959 the castle has been protected by English Heritage and is now open to the public on most days of the year.



BACK TO ARCHIVES INDEX