I’ve lived in the Houston area for a total of 14 years, which is just slightly older than I was when I first invaded Texas from Europe. How did I only just discover this unusual attraction last year?? I mean, it’s not but a lunch break’s driving distance away.
In any case, I’ve taken MaiTai twice. The first time he was highly impressed and the second time he was upset we were visiting with a crowd of excitable kids again, so we cut the trip short to quietly antique shop in downtown Bellville.
This place is worth a look if you’ve got medieval fever, if your kids love swords and dungeons and knights and all that cool stuff, or if you really wanted to go to RenFest but couldn’t afford it (admission is much cheaper here for a similar experience). I’ve seen in person how Newman’s Castle is an inspiration to kids and adults alike.
Web Site Link: Newman’s Castle
Description: Via web site – “Experience the old world charm of Newman’s Castle, a one-of-a-kind custom creation hidden just outside of town in the Bellville countryside. The castle features its own moat (watch out for gators!), a massive working 3000 lb. drawbridge with an accompanying portcullis, a chapel, five round corner turrets, a courtyard, and a central keep with a dramatic view of the surrounding lands. A perimeter wall encompasses the castle, ensuring you are safe from oncoming marauders during your visit.”
Location: Newman’s Bakery — 504 E Main St, Bellville, TX 77418. Newman’s Castle — 1041 Old TX-36, Bellville, Texas 77418.
Hours: On tour day, arrive at Newman’s Bakery around 10:30 a.m. to receive directions to the castle when your whole group has assembled. The castle tour and lunch will last approximately 1.5 – 2 hours. Newman’s Bakery is open Mon. – Fri. from 4 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Sat. – Sun. from 4 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fee: Day tour is $15 per person over the age of 6, and $7.50 for under age 6 (with or without lunch). Infants in arms are free.
Food: Included in the admission price is lunch prepared fresh from Newman’s Bakery. You’ll let them know in advance if you prefer a turkey sandwich, ham sandwich, or salad (specify if you need it to be vegan). They also had coffee, tea and water to drink and a selection of freshly baked bread and pastries for dessert.
Bathrooms: Both the bakery and castle have bathrooms. The castle bathrooms have iron spouts, cement sinks, and a general appeal for medieval aesthetic authenticity.
Contact Them: (979) 865-9804 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other: The castle is available for day tours and special events such as weddings, mystery dinners, wine tastings, birthday parties, and more. By reservation only. Groups of any size are welcome.
Photos & Feelings
We were instructed to meet at Newman’s Bakery and wait for most of our group to assemble, grab a pastry in the meantime, and familiarize ourselves with a slip of paper featuring typed directions down country roads to the castle.
A pleasant ten-ish minute drive later, we all pulled up to…. this!
This, a freakin’ castle! And a homemade one, as Texas would have it.
Per the web site, a peek into the history behind the castle and it’s owner, permanent resident/King, Mike Newman:
“Mike Newman is the creative force behind both the bakery and castle bearing his name. Since exploring Europe in his early 20′s, he had the dream to build his own castle, and has made that a reality in the Bellville countryside. Exhibiting the same hard work and determination that built his successful bakery of nearly three decades, Mike broke ground on his mighty fortress in 1998.”
Mike explained that after his previous home burned down, he and his right-hand man Jose then built the 3,400 sq. ft. structure almost entirely by themselves (other than letting a crew pour the foundation in 1998) based on designs of European castles. Mike was even quoted as saying he built the furniture himself too as he had difficulty finding appropriate items “off the shelf.”
First things first: Prove the catapult works.
Mike didn’t let the kids down. A big rock was launched into the moat and we all found simple joy in watching it splash to its final resting place.
Second things second: Distribute the sharp pointy objects.
Or dull wooden sticks, rather — but thankfully the kids’ imaginations were in high enough gear. Mike welcomed them to choose a sword of their liking. The kids were particular about which would be their very own Excalibur and took their time. Mike was in no rush.
After the swords were claimed by their rightful owners, Mike asked them to line up so he could proceed with a knighting ceremony. Then they all rampaged the castle in grand attack. Thankfully, despite the onslaught of youthful rambunctiousness, roars, and laughter upon the castle entry, it remained standing.
Then they were officially Knighted (is that traditionally capitalized? It should be).
There is something to be said for the mechanical wonder that is the drawbridge. It features a giant squirrel cage that requires two biggish people to get inside the wheel and run, effectively lifting the nearly 3,000-lb entry gate.
The Torture Chamber
Once inside the castle, a loose tour is in effect but you’re free to roam and explore as you please. The torture chamber seems to be at the top of the To See list for most, with its bed of nails, hanging cage, stocks, and assorted chains. Feel free to try it all on for size… if you dare!
The Grand Feasting Hall
This hall holds a 32 ft. long table that seats 27 noble ladies and gentlemen. No feasting took place here during our group tour, but I imagine it might serve for weddings, dinner theater, and other special events.
The Chapel and More
Quaint little chapel with pews and religious artifacts.
Resident Irish Wolfhound named Avalon.
The Belltower (entry is off to the left) is currently being completed. The castle features several other huge turrets on the roof, which you can look out from. I don’t recommend climbing the staircase with babies or young children.
After a tour of all the rooms, we took a nice walk around the castle perimeter, along 20 acres of lily-pad covered moat, cedar forest and hills.
I hear there’s a liquor room here too, but sadly I didn’t get a chance to sniff around for it. MaiTai’s always gotta be cramping my style… 😉
Speaking of sustenance, lunch marked the end of our tour. We didn’t eat in the grand feasting hall but instead in the kitchen, which is superbly charming in impressive old-world fashion with a giant oven and lots of space for a big touring group to sprawl out comfortably.
More rooms are found adjacent to the lunching area as Mike’s living quarters are steps away (and they don’t fail to continue the standard of medieval authenticity!). Upstairs you can check out the guest bedrooms. Or avoid the vertical climb with little ones and stay downstairs in the cozy sitting room, where you can watch a clip from a movie that was filmed at this location.