Ancient Monuments

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Medieval fortified house at Castle Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Shaftesbury, Dorset

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Latitude: 51.0046 / 51°0'16"N

Longitude: -2.2056 / 2°12'20"W

OS Eastings: 385667.189722

OS Northings: 122824.692667

OS Grid: ST856228

Mapcode National: GBR 1XH.TDK

Mapcode Global: FRA 668G.8K9

Entry Name: Medieval fortified house at Castle Hill

Scheduled Date: 13 October 1951

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002724

English Heritage Legacy ID: DO 149

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Shaftesbury

Built-Up Area: Shaftesbury

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Shaftesbury and Enmore Green St James

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a medieval fortified house, situated on a small steep promontory of the prominent Castle Hill in Shaftesbury. The medieval fortified house survives as a triangular enclosed area defined by steep natural slopes topped with a bank up to 17m wide and 1m high on two sides and by an 18m wide and 2m deep ditch and rampart on the third. Within the interior is a central steep-sided circular depression up to 0.3m deep. Other earthworks within the interior include a low bank on the south west; a roughly rectangular mound of up to 0.3m high to the east; and several roughly rectangular platforms of varying size. The central pit also known as 'Cobbler's Pit' is thought to have marked the site of a central free-standing tower which was completely removed. Excavations by Jervoise in 1947-9 found a cut half-penny of Stephen in the bottom of the 'pit' with 12th -13th century pottery and beyond the defences to the south east the footings of several stone structures, including a circular building with rectangular chambers to the east. A human skull was found nearby. The lack of documentary evidence coupled with the dates of the finds suggest this is an adulterine castle, built without a Royal licence to crenellate during the first English Civil War between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda in 1135 - 1154. It is also known locally as 'Boltbury' and is according to tradition the site of the old town.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-206412 and 206483

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richer and more powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers.
The buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes with kitchens and storage areas. Some medieval fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, granaries and barns were located. The principal of building a fortified house dates back to the periods such as the first English Civil War when 'adulterine castles' were constructed privately without licence and to the period between the reigns of Edward I and Edward II when there were increased levels of issued licences to crenellate. Despite partial excavation, the medieval fortified house at Castle Hill survives comparatively well and will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, function, longevity, domestic arrangements, strategic significance, abandonment and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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