Ancient Monuments

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Nunney Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Nunney, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2102 / 51°12'36"N

Longitude: -2.3783 / 2°22'41"W

OS Eastings: 373671.533002

OS Northings: 145730.737613

OS Grid: ST736457

Mapcode National: GBR 0SL.5HQ

Mapcode Global: VH97C.QVK4

Entry Name: Nunney Castle

Scheduled Date: 10 April 1915

Last Amended: 10 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014716

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22077

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Nunney

Built-Up Area: Nunney

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a quadrangular castle in the centre of Nunney adjacent
to the church. The castle stands on the west bank of Nunney Brook at a point
where the Brook and the valley in which it lies change direction from north-
south to north east-south west.

The castle is of a highly distinctive design, consisting of a high four-storey
rectangular building containing principal rooms such as the great hall, with
large closely-spaced circular towers providing more private chambers. It
displays a high level of sophisticated planning. The towers still rise almost
to their full height, and are crested by a parapet surmounted by a drum
turret. The building is tightly enclosed by a wide moat.

Nunney Castle was built by Sir John de la Mare in 1373, when he obtained a
licence to `crenelate' his house. He held many offices, being in favour with
the king and he appears to have served in the French Wars. The family were
Royalists and Roman Catholic in the Civil War, and the castle was besieged by
the Parliamentarians in 1645, falling after two days when the north side of
the castle was severely damaged by gunfire. It was `slighted' thereafter,
although the walls were left intact, the north wall only finally collapsing in

Nunney Castle is in the care of the Secretary of State. The wooden bridge
spanning the moat, the bridge supports and the decking on the interior of the
moat are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath the bridge
supports is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or
sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls
formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and
occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly
defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but
sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of
quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and
intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly
from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of
massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the
main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in
buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An
important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built
to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did
not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples
of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also
began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the
14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples
demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of
defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They
provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural
and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout
England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable
coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north
near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are
rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern
type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited
with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, 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 of national importance.

The quadrangular castle known as Nunney Castle is considered by Pevsner to be
`aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset'. It lies in the centre
of Nunney, still surrounded by its water-filled moat, and is much visited. The
castle benefits from being flanked by an 18th century manor house which is
privately owned. The castle's builder, Sir John de la Mare, served in the
French Wars, and the castle is unusual in that it is more in the French
tradition of architecture than most in this country. It is an outstanding
example of its class and will contain archaeological information and
environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it
was constructed. The castle is well documented throughout its history, with
specific records of its construction and its significance during the Civil

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, (1958), 239

Source: Historic England

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