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Shell keep castle, part of the associated outer bailey, ninth century cemetery and a Civil War siegework at Taunton Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Taunton Manor and Wilton, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0154 / 51°0'55"N

Longitude: -3.1045 / 3°6'16"W

OS Eastings: 322619.905423

OS Northings: 124581.256892

OS Grid: ST226245

Mapcode National: GBR M1.J7BL

Mapcode Global: FRA 46DF.DCL

Entry Name: Shell keep castle, part of the associated outer bailey, ninth century cemetery and a Civil War siegework at Taunton Castle

Scheduled Date: 25 July 1933

Last Amended: 7 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013541

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22851

County: Somerset

Electoral Ward/Division: Taunton Manor and Wilton

Built-Up Area: Taunton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

The monument includes a shell keep castle, part of the associated outer
bailey, associated features including a Civil War siegework on the north west
side of the castle, and an earlier, ninth century cemetery which underlies the
northern part of the castle, all situated on the southern river terrace of the
River Tone at Taunton.

The existing fabric of the castle (the inhabited parts of which are Listed
Grade 1), dates from the 13th century and has evolved over a period of several
centuries. The castle is thought to have developed from an earlier motte and
bailey castle. The castle site was utilised throughout the post-medieval
period and successive redevelopments have led to the integration of much of
the monument into the modern town centre.

The earliest archaeological features identified at the site include human
burials, recorded during the replacement of the floor of the local history
library in 1972. Human remains including 12 skulls were identified and a
radiocarbon determination of AD 860+/-70 was obtained from a bone sample.
This, together with the wide occurrence of the human remains, suggests the
presence of a cemetery dating from the Saxon period underlying the northern
part of the castle site. The cemetery may be associated with the minster
church known from historical documents to have been constructed during the
12th century.

The earliest fortifications known at the site relate to the Norman keep or
`Great Tower' which dates from the 13th century. Partial excavations conducted
by St George Gray from 1924-29 identified the foundations of the keep within
the north eastern area of the castle site. The foundations remain in situ and,
when surveyed in 1977, were found to survive to a maximum height of 2.85m and
to include 17 visible stone courses. The stonework was of a Norman character
and predominantly included grey sandstone along with some Hamstone. Historical
records suggest that the keep originally had five towers, a hall and soldiers'
chamber. The records also document a refurbishment between 1364-5, from which
time a tower was reserved for the holding of prisoners. The keep is thought to
have been demolished following the Civil War.

The castle site was defined by an external moat. This is known from partial
excavations at Mill Lane in 1980 to have dimensions of 12m in width and over
3m in depth. The moat enclosed two areas, an inner ward to the north and a
larger outer bailey immediately to the south.

The inner ward, which had maximum dimensions of 104m from east to west and 68m
from north to south, contained the main castle buildings, including the keep
and the bishop`s great chamber. Excavations have demonstrated that the
bishop's chamber was constructed during the early 12th century and had
dimensions of c.16m by 13m. During the 13th century the structure was
modified; it was reduced in width to about 9m and extended to c.21.5m in
length. To the south of the hall is the bishop's camera or private chamber
which was constructed around AD 1245. To the east of the camera lie the
bishop's apartments including part of a tower rebuilt during the 18th century.
Other features recorded in historic documents include a pantry, a kitchen, a
tower and bridge leading to a garden behind the keep, as well as a chapel of
St Nicholas which was located next to the inner gate. Partial excavations
within the inner ward have demonstrated that archaeological deposits survive
beneath a sealing deposit which was created during the 18th century when the
interior was levelled.

The outer bailey had dimensions of 140m from east to west and 120m from north
to south. It is known from historical sources to have accommodated storage
facilities and to have contained various auxiliary buildings. Access was
provided via an eastern gatehouse, situated next to the constable`s
apartments, around which were chambers for a guard, clerks and the land
manager. There were two barns near the east gate, a cowshed within the centre,
as well as a chapel to St Peter. Other outbuildings included the granary,
three stables, a dairy, dovecote, press and a store for surplus building
materials. The area of the outer bailey is now extensively built over; however
the foundations and lower levels of internal structures, together with other
features such as pits and postholes, as well as the outer ditch, will survive
as buried deposits.

The Old Grammar School, which is Listed Grade II* and which occupies part of
the outer bailey, is likely to include some of the fabric of the `scolehouse'
built by Bishop Fox in 1521, but it is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath is included.

On the north eastern side of the castle and adjacent to the keep, is what has
been recorded as a Civil War siegework. This is thought to date to between
1644-45 and overlies the outer rampart of the castle. The siegework includes a
trapezoidal shaped earthwork, with outer banks c.3m high, enclosing an area of
c.0.18ha. This is now partially overlain by shops and other buildings.

There are documentary references to a settlement known as `Tantone' soon after
AD 710, and Queen Frethogyth bequeathed the lands of Tantone to the Bishop of
Winchester prior to her pilgrimage to Rome in AD 737, explaining the strong
influence held by the Bishop of Winchester over Taunton from early in the
medieval period.

From AD 1207 the Winchester Pipe Rolls provide detailed documentary evidence
that the castle was enlarged and strengthened as part of a wider programme of
fortification of castles in Somerset and Dorset by Peter de Roches. The Pipe
Rolls detail the cost of this work. Men were employed to construct a moat
around the town and the castle and carpenters were employed to enclose the
town and work in and around the castle. The purchase of 450 oak boards and
73 other boards suggest that there may well have been a palisade forming at
least part of the enclosure. Smiths and masons were also employed at the
castle and materials such as stone, wood, sand and lime were transported to
the site.

Weapons were also stockpiled at the site and from the later 13th century the
castle provided the primary administrative centre for the manor of Taunton
Dene. It was also used to hold Assizes from AD 1280.

Although of little strategic significance, the castle was besieged by Yorkists
in 1451. The fortications were improved during 1578 in preparation for an
anticipated Spanish invasion. The strategic significance of the site increased
during the Civil War. The town and castle were besieged and captured by the
Parliamentarians under Sir Robert Pye and General Blake in 1644. During 1645
the fortification of the castle and defences of the town were enhanced by
Blake, although the later besiegement by Royalist forces led to the virtual
destruction of the town. In 1662 an order to destroy the fortifications at
Taunton is likely to have caused the infilling of the moats and the
destruction of the Norman keep at the castle.

A prison was maintained at the castle until the late 17th century and the
great hall continued to be utilised for public meetings during the 18th and
19th centuries.

In 1873 the Somerset Natural History and Archaeology Society bought the great
hall in order to preserve the surviving structure of the castle building; it
is now used to house the county museum and local history library.

There are a number of exclusions from the scheduling. These include the
buildings in use as the county museum and local history library, the Old
Grammar School building which is now in use as local government offices, and
the timber framed almshouse within the inner ward of the castle, which is
Listed Grade II and represents a reconstruction originally situated elsewhere;
also excluded are the structure of Castle Bow which does not certainly
represent the original structure of the eastern gate to the castle (Listed
Grade 1), the Castle Hotel, Castle Lodge, and the Winchester Arms which are
all occupied and Listed Grade II, the modern shop and office buildings
situated along Mill Lane, North Street, Fore Street (some of which are Listed
Grade II), Castle Bow, Corporation Street and Castle Way, the bus station
office, pavements, metalled road surfaces, the metalled surface of Castle
Green car park, the modern boundary walls, lamp posts, road signs and notice
boards, although the underlying ground is included in each case.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A shell keep castle is a masonry enclosure, extending around the top of an
earlier motte or castle ringwork, and replacing the existing timber palisades;
there are a few cases where the wall is built lower down the slope or even at
the bottom. The enclosure is usually rounded or sub-rounded but other shapes
are also known. A shell keep is relatively small, normally between 15 and 25m
diameter, with few buildings, and perhaps one tower only, within its interior.
Shell keeps were built over a period of about 150 years, from not long after
the Norman Conquest until the mid-13th century; most were built in the 12th
century. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading
families and occur in both urban and rural situations.
Shell keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a marked
concentration in the Welsh Marches. The distribution also extends into Wales
and to a lesser extent into Scotland. They are rare nationally with only 71
recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two
examples being exactly alike. Along 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 education 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 important.

Despite urban development, the shell keep castle and associated outer bailey
and other features at Taunton are known from survey and partial excavation to
survive comparatively well. The core buildings of the inner part of the castle
survive as upstanding structures and the wall fabric is largely original. The
outer moat will provide conditions suitable for the preservation of water
logged deposits, providing a valuable insight into the economy of the site's
inhabitants and those of the surrounding area. The castle is associated with a
set of detailed historical records contained within the Winchester Pipe Rolls.
These document the dates and costs of the construction of the castle, the
structures it contained and the later developments at the site. These records
provide an unusually detailed background to the development and use of the
castle and to its wider role within contemporary society.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Hollinrake, N, The Courtyard, Inner Ward, Taunton Castle, (1992), 1-9
Leach, P, The Archaeology of Taunton, (1984), 1-201
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 13-19
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 16
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 13-19
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 13-19
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 15-16
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 15-16
Raleigh Radford, C A, A Description of Taunton Castle, (1954), 17
Burrow, I, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in Excavations at Mill Lane, Taunton, 1980, (1984), 53-58
Burrow, I, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in Excavations at Mill Lane, the castle moat and associated feature, (1984), 53-58
Bush, R J E, Meek, M, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The castle: History and Documentation, (1984), 14-15
Bush, R J E, Meek, M, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The castle: History and Documentation, (1984), 15
Bush, R J E, Meek, M, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The castle: History and Documentation, (1984), 14-15
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Clements, C F, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in The Inner Ward: Burials beneath the South Range, (1984), 26-31
Pearson, T, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in H St George Gray's Excavations: A Summary, (1984), 17-20
Pearson, T, 'The Archaeology of Taunton' in H St George Gray's Excavations: A Summary, (1984), 17-20
Other
Construction during Civil War,
Details of historical sources, Vivian-Neal, A W, Notes on the history of Taunton Castle, (1954)
Details of historical sources, Vivian-Neal, A W, Notes on the history of Taunton Castle, (1954)
Interpretation as a siegework,
Mention of motte and bailey castle,
Mention site of motte and bailey,
Outer banks 3m high,
Size of feature,
Vivian-Neal A W, Notes on the history of Taunton Castle, 1954, Details of repairs 1644

Source: Historic England

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