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Bolingbroke Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.1643 / 53°9'51"N

Longitude: 0.0168 / 0°1'0"E

OS Eastings: 534928.548877

OS Northings: 364916.230569

OS Grid: TF349649

Mapcode National: GBR JT6.R2F

Mapcode Global: WHHKS.7Q8K

Entry Name: Bolingbroke Castle

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 16 June 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008318

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22623

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Bolingbroke

Built-Up Area: Old Bolingbroke

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Bolingbroke St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes the remains of Bolingbroke Castle, built in the early
13th century by Randulph de Blundevil, Earl of Chester and Lincoln. In the
late 13th and early 14th centuries it served as an administrative centre for
the extensive estates of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, before passing by
marriage in 1311 to the house of Lancaster. Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt and
Blanche of Lancaster, was born here in 1366. The castle was extensively
rebuilt in the 15th century, but by the early 17th century had fallen into
disrepair. In October 1643 the Royalists stood siege here and were defeated by
the Parliamentarians, who held the castle before leaving it to ruin. The
structure further deteriorated through the succeeding centuries until the late
20th century when it was excavated and consolidated. The monument includes the
remains of the castle and its associated earthworks.

Bolingbroke Castle is situated in a valley at the point where the wolds rise
out of the fenland of eastern Lincolnshire. The site lies in an area of
grassland on the south side of the village of Old Bolingbroke. In the northern
part of the monument are the standing remains of the castle, a stone-built
structure of roughly hexagonal form enclosing an area of approximately 0.25ha.
The curtain wall, constructed of Spilsby sandstone with Ancaster limestone
dressings, incorporates five round corner towers and a double-towered
gatehouse. The wall stands to a height of up to 2m above the ground level of
the interior, the towers up to 3m. The gatehouse, on the north, is composed
of two round towers with a cobbled road between. Alterations to the eastern
tower, including the insertion of brick walls and a staircase to a basement
chamber, date from its later conversion to a prison. Later alterations,
including limestone openings, are also evident in the castle's north western
tower which continued in use into the 17th century as a store for the castle's
records and accounts. The north eastern tower was levelled in post-medieval
times and its position is marked by modern stone slabs.

The interior of the castle is largely level apart from the earthworks of
structures which have been investigated by excavation. These include,
adjoining the gatehouse and curtain wall on the north east, the remains of the
castle's great hall, a rectangular structure with stone foundations
constructed in the 15th century. Adjoining the north western tower are the
earthworks of a porch and garderobe, with a kiln mound to the south. On the
south side of the enclosure is a raised area, standing approximately 1m higher
than the rest of the interior, representing the remains of a complex of
service buildings.

The castle buildings are surrounded on all sides by a moat, partly
water-filled, approximately 30m in width. It is crossed by two post-medieval
causeways: that on the north leads from the gatehouse and replaces an earlier
drawbridge, while that on the east runs across the levelled north east tower.
The moat is surrounded on the south, west and south east by an external bank.

Outside the castle, in the southern part of the monument, is a large
rectangular enclosure of approximately 4ha bounded on the north by the
external bank of the castle moat, on the south and west by a further linear
bank, and on the east by a series of interconnected ponds. The ponds are
roughly rectangular in shape and form a chain running along the western edge
of the stream, from which they are separated by a narrow bank. About 20m to
the west, lying near the centre of the large enclosure and on the same
alignment, is a rectangular earthwork approximately 90m x 60m consisting of a
central area surrounded by a linear bank and external moat; there is a further
external bank on the south and west. The banks stand to a height of up to 1m
above the surrounding ground surface, and the moat 1m below. Channels have
been cut through the northern and south western parts of this earthwork to
connect it to drains running from the castle moat in the north towards the
stream in the south. The enclosure in which this earthwork lies, together
with the pond complex, are medieval in origin and represent an outer bailey of
the castle for use as a tilting ground and animal enclosure with adjacent
fishponds; these features are believed to have subsequently formed part of a
garden. Documentary sources indicate that by the end of the 16th century the
enclosure was in use as a 'Rout Yard', an animal pound for the collection of
stray cattle. The central earthwork is thought to have been associated with
the Civil War siege, later serving as a pen and watering place for empounded
animals. Bolingbroke Castle is Listed Grade 1.

Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and modern buildings, although the
ground beneath these structures is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

The site of Bolingbroke Castle includes significant architectural remains and
associated earthworks surviving in very good condition. Being principally of
one build, the structure is a valuable illustration of castle design and
layout in the mid-13th century, and our understanding of it has been enhanced
by recent partial excavation and consolidation. Associated earthworks of both
medieval and post-medieval date have survived intact in the southern part of
the site, preserving the relationships between a diversity of activities.
Waterlogging in the area of the moat indicates the likely survival of organic
remains. The castle is both well documented historically and well known as the
birthplace of Henry IV; as a monument open to the public it thus functions as
an important educational and recreational resource.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beresford, M W, St Joseph, J K S, Medieval England: An Aerial Survey, (1979), 150-152
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 284-285
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 284-5
Smith, A, Jones, M J, Bolingbroke Castle Survey 1987: The Kilns, (1987)
'Lincolnshire History and Archaeology' in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, , Vol. 10, (1975)
'Middle Ages' in History of the King's Works, , Vol. II, (1963), 571-572
Drewett, P L, Freke, D J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in The Great Hall at Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, (), 163-165
Holmes, C, 'History of Lincolnshire' in Seventeenth Century Lincolnshire, , Vol. VII, (1980), 170-171
Platts, G, 'History of Lincolnshire' in Land and People in Medieval Lincolnshire, , Vol. IV, (1985), 97-100
Thompson, M W, 'Archaeological Journal' in Old Bolingbroke Castle, , Vol. 131, (1975), 314-317
17thc [BM Harleian MS 6829 f.161], Holles, Gervase, Church Notes, (1911)
AJWhite's notes on document at SMR, Document DL 44/4,
AJWhite's notes on document in SMR, Document DL 44/604,
Cruickshank, Christopher, Lincolnshire From The Air, (1993)
Guide, Hall, Reverend , (1848)
texts for interpretation boards, Field, Naomi, Bolingbroke Castle, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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