Historian Rupert Willoughby gave his audience a peep into the medieval past when he presented a talk on Odiham Castle as part of a series of lectures organised by The Arts Society Alton (TASA).

TASA secretary Kate Faulkner provided this report: “Odiham Castle is now a sorry-looking ruin beside the Basingstoke canal. But Rupert brought the castle back to life with his vivid description of its importance to the history of England in the 13th century.

“Odiham Castle was built more than 800 years ago during the reign of King John. It was a fortress in a strategic location between Winchester and Windsor.

“King John stayed at Odiham in the days leading up to his negotiations with the Barons that resulted in the Magna Carta being signed and sealed in June 1215 at Runnymede.

“In 1236, the castle was gifted by King Henry III to his sister, Eleanor of England, two years before her marriage to Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman by birth who became one of the most powerful men in England and Earl of Leicester. 

“The life and times of the medieval castle were vividly described, from the physical structure – a three-storey, stone-faced castellated building, protected by two moats and palisades – to the fascinating facts of living conditions and everyday life, revealed in the detailed records that were kept by Eleanor. 

“Odiham Castle and Simon de Montfort were closely associated with the foundation of Britain’s constitutional democracy. For a short time de Montfort became de facto ruler of England, having defeated Henry III at the Battle of Lewes in 1264. 

“Simon de Montfort summoned barons and knights to his parliament in 1265 – and for the first time also included elected representatives from selected boroughs.

“Although he was defeated and killed later that year, at the battle of Evesham, the principle of elected representatives was established, which later evolved into the House of Commons. 

“Rupert Willoughby’s fascinating lecture about such a local landmark included slides of some beautiful contemporaneous paintings.”

For further details of upcoming lectures, visit the website www.TASAlton.com