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Leicester Castle and the Magazine Gateway

A Scheduled Monument in Castle, Leicester

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Latitude: 52.6322 / 52°37'56"N

Longitude: -1.1406 / 1°8'25"W

OS Eastings: 458263.826915

OS Northings: 304178.162521

OS Grid: SK582041

Mapcode National: GBR FFL.59

Mapcode Global: WHDJJ.G33D

Entry Name: Leicester Castle and the Magazine Gateway

Scheduled Date: 26 June 1924

Last Amended: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012147

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17127

County: Leicester

Electoral Ward/Division: Castle

Built-Up Area: Leicester

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Leicester St Mary de Castro

Church of England Diocese: Leicester


The monument is located within Leicester city centre on the eastern bank of
the canalised River Soar. It includes the earthwork and buried remains of a
motte and bailey castle, the 12th century northern extension to the bailey,
and the northern part of the fortified enclosure known as The Newarke,
including the Turret Gateway and the Magazine Gateway. It is in two separate
areas of protection.

Excavations in the vicinity of the castle have recovered evidence to indicate
that Leicester Castle was originally inside the south west corner of the Roman
town defences. The motte and bailey castle was constructed in c.1068 by order
of William the Conqueror. It was handed over to Hugh de Grentmesnil and became
headquarters of a feudal `honor' of Leicester, a term applied to a group of
estates which came under a single administration. The motte is located in the
south western part of the site. It is approximately 50m in diameter and 9m
high. During the 19th century the motte was lowered and levelled and its
summit used as a bowling green. The bailey lies to the north and north east of
the motte and is approximately 6ha in area. Although no longer visible on the
ground surface, the bailey ditch survives as a buried feature for much of its
length and excavations have indicated that it was up to 12m wide and 5m deep.
In the eastern part of the site, the ditch and the adjacent part of the bailey
are intensively occupied by modern buildings. These structures are considered
to have so modified the site in this area that this part is not included in
the scheduling.

There is no surface evidence for the buildings which were located within the
bailey during the earliest period in the castle's history but remains are
thought to survive as buried features. St Mary de Castro Church, which stands
within the bailey area, has 12th century masonry within its fabric. It is
likely that the church originally served as the castle chapel and, when re-
built in the mid-12th century, parts of the early Norman chapel were retained
within its fabric. The church is Listed Grade I and is excluded from the
scheduling. The churchyard, which is no longer used for burials, will retain
important buried remains of the early buildings within the bailey and also
underlying Roman archaeological deposits; it is therefore included in the

In 1101 Ivo, son of Hugh de Grentmesnil, was involved in a rebellion against
Henry I and Leicester Castle was subsequently severely damaged. During the
mid-12th century the castle was rebuilt in stone by Robert de Beaumont, who
was later to become the first Earl of Leicester. A masonry wall was added to
the earthen defences and a barbican added to the northern side of the bailey.
Two sections of the defensive wall remain visible, one 50m to the west of the
motte and the second to the north; the northern section is Listed Grade II and
both are included in the scheduling. A number of buildings were also
constructed within the bailey during this period of reconstruction, including
a great hall and domestic accommodation. The hall was built by Robert le
Bossu, second Earl of Leicester, and is thought to be one of the earliest
surviving timber aisled halls in Europe. Its outer walls were constructed of
sandstone and the interior was originally divided into a nave and two aisles
by enormous timber arcades. It has been in continuous use for over 800 years
and has been much altered, particularly during its conversion to court rooms
in the 19th century. The hall is Listed Grade I and is not included in the
scheduling. Medieval service rooms were constructed between the hall and the
motte, and one of these, known as John of Gaunt's cellar (added between 1400
and 1410) remains visible. It lies beneath the ground surface with entrances
at either end and has a tunnel vaulted roof. The cellar, which is Listed
Grade I, is included in the scheduling.

A large enclosure, known as The Newarke (New Work), was added to the south
side of the motte and bailey castle by Henry, Duke of Lancaster in 1330. This
enclosure was approximately rectangular in plan, extending some 200m
southwards from the castle bailey, and some 300m westwards from the original
line of Highcross Street, as far west as the river. This large enclosure was
bounded by a major stone wall along its eastern and southern sides and
supported by at least two towers along its south side.

The Newarke enclosure was not densely packed with buildings during the
medieval period. The central part was occupied by the major collegiate Church
of St Mary of the Assumption, of which a small reconstructed arch within the
basement of the De Montfort University is the only known surviving fragment.
This masonry is ex situ and is not included in the scheduling. In addition to
the collegiate buildings, The Newarke also contained the important Hospital of
the Holy Trinity. This institution was sited along the northern side of the
enclosure and part of its hall and chapel, along with the remains of other
buildings incorporated into later houses, still survive. The most impressive
of these domestic buildings is the Chantry House, which is thought to date
from about 1511 (sited to the north east of Trinity Hospital). Several of the
hospital buildings, including the hall and chapel, are still in use as
almshouses. The area of The Newarke to the south and south east of the Turret
Gateway occupied by Trinity Hospital, Chantry House, modern buildings over
basements, such as those of De Montfort University, factories and new road
systems, is not included in the scheduling.

The enclosure was entered from the east via a large gatehouse situated at the
bottom of Newarke Street, near the centre of the eastern wall. It is known as
the magazine by virtue of its use as such during the Civil War. This
gatehouse, Listed Grade I, survives intact and is a three-storeyed structure,
built of sandstone ashlar, with the gate passage offset to the north side. The
vaulted gate hall was entered through one of two arches, one for pedestrians,
and a larger one for wheeled vehicles. There is, however, only a single
archway towards the enclosure itself. A porter's lodge occupied the ground
floor chamber south of the gate passage and above were two pairs of fine
chambers reached from the porter's lodge by means of a spiral staircase near
the centre of the west wall. The chamber on the second floor has a passage in
the thickness of the south wall which originally gave access to The Newarke
curtain wall. Small garderobe chambers survive in the thickness of the wall in
the south west corner on both upper floors.

The gatehouse is now completely isolated from its surroundings, being sited on
a traffic island within the modern road layout. It is surrounded on all sides
by pedestrian underpasses and all traces of associated structures have been
removed. It has been quite heavily restored externally but internally it
retains many of its medieval features and has not been extensively modernised.
It is now used as a museum and storeroom and is included within the
scheduling in a second protected area, detached from the remainder of the

A third major period of construction at Leicester Castle occurred during the
15th century when the entire castle was remodelled. In 1399, Henry,
Duke of Lancaster and Earl of Leicester became King of England and Leicester
Castle assumed new importance. The line of the enclosure walls was altered,
the new enclosure around the castle hall being much smaller in area than that
preceding it. New gates were constructed to the north and south. The new
northern gateway was constructed to the north west of St Mary de Castro
Church, indicating that the northern bailey ditch had been abandoned by that
time. This new northern gateway was burnt down in 1444-5 and was subsequently
rebuilt as a timber-framed gatehouse. It is an inhabited Listed Building
Grade II*, and is excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath it
is included. The southern gateway, built in 1422-3, known as the `turret
gateway' (a Grade II Listed Building, included in the scheduling) is situated
35m east of the motte. It was erected as the main gate from the castle to The
Newarke. The gateway survives as a two storey stone building with an arched
gate passage and a portcullis chamber above. A third storey was destroyed in
an election riot in 1832. Two lengths of 15th century wall run from the gate
towards St Mary de Castro Church, and along the south side of the churchyard.
The latter stands to a height of approximately 5m and contains many put-log
holes, used in the construction of the wall which were later used as musket
holes during the Civil War when this part of the town came under severe
attack. The wall along Castle View is Listed Grade II and both sections of
wall are included in the scheduling. A length of wall dividing the motte and
Trinity Hospital dates from this period and is also included in the

A number of features within the two areas are excluded from the scheduling;
these are the castle hall (Listed Grade I), St Mary de Castro Church, which
remains in ecclesiastical use, the inhabited northern gatehouse (Listed
Grade II*), the houses and associated buildings of Nos.5-12 Castle View,
Castle House and its cellar (Listed Grade II), Nos. 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 20,
22, 24 and 45 Castle Street, that part of the 20th century warehouse building
to the north of Castle Street which falls within protected area, the Iron
Gates which are Listed Grade II* and the Leicester High Cross, Listed
Grade II, the buildings to the rear of the Newarke Houses which lie in the
protected area, all garden furniture, display boards, street lights, modern
walling, litter bins, the surfaces of all paths and driveways and the statue
of Richard III in Castle Gardens; the ground beneath all these features,
however, is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain
by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the
motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for
the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although
many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

Leicester Castle is a good example of a major castle which has been adapted
continuously in its role as a premier administrative centre over a period of
some 900 years. The site occupies part of the Roman town and so will retain
important information both for the understanding of the Roman town itself and
how its remains were adapted for use as a castle in the 11th century. The
remains of the motte and bailey castle are of great interest in illustrating
how such a major castle was adapted to a changing role in the medieval and
post-medieval periods, with major internal buildings being reconstructed in
stone, and old defences being abandoned in favour of a newly built, but less
well-defended core around the Castle Hall - the administrative centre for the

The addition of a large court to the south (The Newarke) is also of great
interest, since, as far as is known, this court, though strongly defended, was
used mostly as the home for newly founded and prestigious ecclesiastical
institutions. This close association between the administrative focus of the
county and major churches, first, St Mary de Castro, and then St Mary's
College, is also of great interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Chinnery, G A, Leicester Castle and the Newarke, (1981)
'Transactions of the Leicesteshire Archaeological Society' in The Great Gateway of the Newarke, Leicester, , Vol. 7, (1893), 150-52

Source: Historic England

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