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Latitude: 51.0364 / 51°2'11"N
Longitude: -2.0886 / 2°5'19"W
OS Eastings: 393881.927693
OS Northings: 126346.172475
OS Grid: ST938263
Mapcode National: GBR 2YL.SYC
Mapcode Global: FRA 66JC.S5K
Entry Name: Old Wardour Castle: a tower keep castle, 17th century stables and later garden features
Scheduled Date: 17 December 1929
Last Amended: 11 April 1996
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1013398
English Heritage Legacy ID: 26706
Civil Parish: Tisbury
Traditional County: Wiltshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire
Church of England Parish: Donhead St Andrew
Church of England Diocese: Salisbury
The monument, which lies 4.8km from the village of Tisbury, includes a 14th
century castle keep, altered in the 16th century and ruined in the Civil War,
an associated bailey, later buildings, which abut the bailey on its southern
side, and 18th century garden features to the north.
The hexagonal shape of the keep is broadly reflected by that of the bailey
within which it stands. The buildings, constructed after the Civil War,
include late 17th century stables, Listed Grade II, now ruined, built against
the curtain wall to the south of the bailey and an 18th century Gothick style
pavilion and `necessary house' on its south west wall. To the north east of
the keep, on a low terrace, lie a grotto, a stone circle and other structures
which form part of the late 18th century landscaping of the bailey.
The keep, or tower house, is a hexagonal structure, approximately 40m in
overall diameter. The symmetry of the overall plan is broken by the two
towers, surviving almost to full height, which flank the entrance on the north
east side. Within the keep is a central hexagonal courtyard, which is little
more than a light well for the rooms which surround it. Despite the extensive
damage caused to the south west side of the keep during the Civil War, the
layout of rooms at both ground and first floor level can be appreciated,
including focal elements such as the hall and possibly the chapel.
Originally built by John, fifth Lord Lovel, who obtained license to build a
castle in 1393, the keep was altered after 1570 by Sir Mathew Arundell. The
refurbishment, which provided classically inspired fronts to the main entrance
and also involved the replacement of many of the windows, may be attributed to
After the Civil War damage, in 1643 and 1644, no attempts were made to put the
castle back into a fit state for occupation and the ruined keep has
consequently remained as a focus for a series of landscape schemes.
The bailey, or outer courtyard, is very large, a maximum of 152m by 175m. The
shape, in which the symmetry of the hexagon is broken by walls extending in a
north east direction, reflects that of the keep and its towers. The thin
enclosing curtain wall survives for most of the circuit, and retains the
ground levels which have built up within the bailey. Soil levels within the
bailey are known from part excavation to have been raised in the 16th and 17th
centuries, thereby effectively sealing earlier medieval deposits beneath them.
The wall belongs to the 16th century alterations but is known from partial
excavation to be on the line of the original curtain wall.
Two vaulted cellars, with a fine rusticated entrance and openings looking
towards the castle, were also built in the 16th century within the curtain
wall, on the south side of the bailey. The present entrance into the bailey
is through an 18th century gateway, the ragged piers of which are probably the
work of Josiah Lane, the builder of the grotto. South of the bailey, outside
the curtain wall, lies the ruined shell of the stables built in 1686. The
building has two gable walls, each standing to first floor ceiling height,
linked on the southern side by a wall which incorporates a series of wide
arched openings. The northern side of the building is formed by the curtain
On the west side of the bailey lies a late 18th century Gothick pavilion,
rectangular in plan with canted ends. The pavilion may have been built on the
remains of a gatehouse. On the south east angle of the curtain wall, close to
the pavilion and sharing detail with it, is a privy, or `necessary house'.
In the early 18th century the castle ruins were surrounded by formal gardens.
After the construction of New Wardour Castle between 1769 and 1776, the bailey
was laid out in the `picturesque' manner and the grounds about it were
landscaped and planted. The most prominent feature of the landscaping within
the bailey is a series of terraces, facing the entrance to the keep and
running the full width of the bailey. The centrepiece of the lower terrace is
an elaborate stone, brick and plaster grotto built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of
Tisbury. To the north of the grotto, close to the most northerly point of the
curtain wall, is a miniature `Avebury' stone circle incorporating two rustic
alcoves which reuse decorative details from the castle. Additional stone
settings lie along the rear of the terrace.
Excluded from the scheduling are the reinforced concrete floors inserted into
the keep. Also excluded are all fences, paths, signboards, litter bins and
works or custodial buildings. The ground beneath these features is, however,
Old Wardour Castle, the Gothick Pavilion and the Grotto are all Listed
The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
Source: Historic England
A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the
principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a
defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes
are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of
various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be
defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into
the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a
gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops,
may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout
the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid-
15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were
constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new
creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading
families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are
widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh
border. They are rare nationally with only 104 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 to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining
significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally
Old Wardour Castle is a fine example of a tower keep castle, constructed in
the 14th century less for defence than for luxury and ostentation. Its form,
unique in England, clearly takes inspiration from France. It is argued by some
to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects.
Despite the damage sustained during the Civil War, sufficient of the structure
of the keep survives for the internal arrangements to be fully understood.
The survival of a substantial enclosure wall defining the extensive bailey,
ensures that the integrity of the overall castle layout can clearly be
The bailey was subsequently landscaped in the picturesque manner, the ruined
keep forming the focus of a scheme which includes a grotto and other
ornamental features. The enclosure wall also forms the focus for stable
buildings of 17th century date and a Gothick pavilion and privy of the 18th
Sample excavations have shown the present curtain wall, which dates to the
16th century, to lie on the line of the original. Excavations within the
bailey have provided evidence for the raising of soil levels in the 16th and
later 17th centuries, providing effective protection for underlying medieval
Source: Historic England
Books and journals
Saunders, A D, Pugh, R B, Old Wardour Castle, (1993)
Keen, L, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Excavations at Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, , Vol. 62, (1967), 67-78
Smith, G, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Excavation at Old Wardour Castle, 1983, , Vol. 80, (1986), 223-224
Source: Historic England
Other nearby scheduled monuments