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Sherborne Old Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Sherborne, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.9495 / 50°56'58"N

Longitude: -2.5019 / 2°30'6"W

OS Eastings: 364841.280743

OS Northings: 116797.899202

OS Grid: ST648167

Mapcode National: GBR MV.NHZ4

Mapcode Global: FRA 56NL.M4V

Entry Name: Sherborne Old Castle

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 3 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015328

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22986

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Sherborne

Built-Up Area: Sherborne

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Sherborne with Castleton Abbey Church of St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes an enclosure castle with a central building,
incorporating a great tower within a large bailey, an earlier Christian
cemetery, and Civil War siegeworks at Sherborne, situated on a natural knoll
in the Yeo Valley.
The earliest deposits identified at the site include the remains of the
Christian cemetery which dates from the ninth century AD. Part excavations
have located burials across the hilltop, although many had been disturbed by
the structures of the later castle. Some of the graves were found to have
distinctive rounded ends. The ditches of a rectangular enclosure have also
been identified nearby and this may be later than the cemetery. The function
of the enclosure is uncertain.
During the early 12th century an enclosure castle was built on the hilltop.
The site is now known as `Sherborne Old Castle', distiguishing it from the
later residence now known as `Sherborne Castle', 300m to the south.
The enclosure castle had at its centre a block of buildings constructed of
local stone, using a rubble core with Ham Hill ashlar facing. This was
surrounded by a curtain wall and outer ditch, enclosing an octagonal area of
1.4ha. The natural hilltop was extensively levelled for the construction
of the castle and to increase the gradient of the outer slopes, thus enhancing
its defences.
The central building survives as a partly upstanding ruin within the centre of
the bailey. The great tower consists of a main block, and a turret on the west
side and a southern extension. The central building dates from around 1130,
although the surviving remains also include at least three additional phases
of construction. The ground floor of the tower is divided by a spine wall,
aligned north-south, supporting two barrel vaults linking with added groined
vaults supported on a re-used 12th century cylindrical column. This vaulting
is a later insertion. The west wall of the main block of the tower stands to
first floor level and was supported by two buttresses. Access to the first
floor was by means of an internal staircase situated on the northern side. The
upper part of the south buttress of the tower retains its ashlar facing, and
its eastern wall retains junctions with the demolished walls of the east range
of the central building.
The turret on the west appears to have possessed no means of direct access to
the ground floor. A stone stair dating to the late 14th century, on the
northern side of the turret also provided access into the tower. To the north
of the great tower was a 12th century range of two storeys, which formed the
northern side of a small courtyard. The northern range contained chapels on
each floor. The ground floor was of four bays with buttresses to the north
wall. The three bays to the east were vaulted with groined rubble vaults, and
the western bay a barrel vault; all of which have collapsed. Much of the
southern and eastern walls survive to their original height, as does the
eastern part of the northern wall, however the remainder is now much ruined.
The eastern wall has a window, the southern wall evidence of two entrances,
and the northern wall several windows and a doorway. The former eastern range,
linking the chapel range with the south range is now much ruined.
Part excavations conducted at the site by Mr C Bean between 1932 and 1954 and
Mr P White between 1968 and 1978 have identified additional structural
foundations and buried deposits. The area south east of the central building
was found to contain building foundations which have been interpreted as a
kitchen block. The well to the south of this block was circular in plan, 1.5m
in internal diameter and retained by walls constructed of Ham Hill Stone
extending to a depth of 8.4m. Below this, the natural rock had been quarried
out. The well was excavated to a depth of 12.8m; the modern water table was
encountered at a depth of about 12m, and the well found to be rectangular in
plan at its lowest level. At a depth of 3.5m there was considerable wearing of
the wall surfaces. This has been interpreted as bucket-rub and may indicate
the normal water-level within the well during its use. The well contained
extensive archaeological deposits, including pottery, shells, domestic rubbish
and the remains of timber lifting gear. The deposits dated from the 13th
century and extended around the area surrounding the well-head. The
foundations of substantial buildings were also located within the area
adjacent to the south east corner of the curtain wall. These extended south
from the tower for a distance of at least 53m and included traces of doorways
thought to date from the 12th century.
The foundations of a possible garderobe tower have been identified within the
north western corner of the central building.
The remains of a tiled floor were identified within the north eastern area of
the Great Hall in the South Range. This included tiles arranged in alternating
colours of yellow and brownish-green, and an outer border of tiles of similar
alternating colours. The circuit of the outer walls was constructed as
straight flanks enclosing an interior area, with dimensions of 143m by
100m, forming an octagonal plan. The curtain walls have been largely reduced
to ground level along the northern and western flanks, although the eastern
end of the northern flank and part of the north eastern flank stand to a
height of 8.4m. The walls had an inner walkway and originally incorporated
four towers. Two of the towers had gates providing access into the bailey. The
main entrance was through the south west tower which faced towards the town
and was designed to be impressive upon approach. This tower was built over the
scarp of the ditch and had the appearance of a three storey structure from
outside the castle, but only two storeys from within. The second entrance was
provided through the smaller north eastern tower. On the northern flank there
was also a central gateway protected by a small outer court from which a
narrow barrel vaulted passage descended to the level of the former lake or
mere on the northern side of the castle.
Outside the bailey was a substantial rock-cut ditch which survives between 5m
(in the south eastern corner) and 15m (in the south western corner) wide. On
the southern side, the ditch has a depth of between 8m-10m below the base of
the curtain wall.
To the west of the site is a semi-hexagonal earthwork which is approximately
25m in diameter and c.1.5m high. This represents the remains of a Civil War
siegework. To the north east the foundations of a small rectangular late
17th century building and the remains of 12th century ranges partly robbed out
during the Civil War were excavated by C Bean. They are all within the area of
the scheduling.
Sherborne Old Castle was constructed by Roger de Caen, Bishop of Sarum 1107-
1139. Roger was also the Abbot of Sherborne and a principal advisor to King
Henry I, who eventually assumed the role of vice-regent while Henry was
abroad. Roger relinquished his abbacy in 1122, although he retained the
episcopal estate surrounding Sherborne and Sherborne Castle. Following Henry's
death in 1135, Roger lost royal favour and in 1139 the castle was seized by
King Stephen. Later it was maintained as a royal castle and accommodation at
the site was enhanced by the construction of a court with ranges on the west
side of the central building.
In 1354 the castle was regained by Bishop Wyvill of Salisbury and reused for
administrative and residential purposes by the bishopric. As a result, less
finance was available for the maintainance of the castle and this led to some
contraction in the size and number of the internal buildings in use.
Structures such as the garderobe turrets, areas of the west court and the
northern postern appear to have been demolished during the 15th century. It
may not have been until the late 15th century that any refurbishment or
significant improvements were made to the site. Leland records that Bishop
Langton built a new work at the western end of the hall during the period
1485-87, and part excavations suggest that an extension was added to the
southern tower. During the 16th century extensive diocesan boundary changes
contributed to a change in the ownership of the site. In 1592 Sir Walter
Raleigh gained possession of Sherborne Castle and began to remodel the castle
including the great tower and south west gate tower. However, he turned his
attention to developing the former hunting lodge to the south of the castle as
his home, and the castle became less important.
During the Civil War, the castle proved useful as a Royalist stronghold and
resisted a siege by Parliamentarian forces in 1642. However, following a
further siege in 1645, the castle was stormed by the Parliamentarians on
August 15th and surrendered to General Fairfax. The fortifications of the
castle were slighted soon afterwards to prevent re-possession. This included
the reduction of the eastern defences. From this time the castle remained
unoccupied and, in the 18th century, its ruins were incorporated as a feature
in the landscaped park and gardens of the former lodge to the south now called
Sherborne Castle. Sherborne Old Castle is now in the care of the Secretary of
State and is open to the public. It is also a Listed Building Grade I.
Excluded from the scheduling are the modern office buildings situated on the
south western side of the castle entrance, the timber structure of the
entrance bridge across the castle moat, all benches, all notice boards
and other modern fixtures and fittings, the wooden gate along Pinford Lane,
the stone wall flanking the road to the north and all fence posts; however the
ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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
important.

The enclosure castle at Sherborne survives well as a combination of upstanding
ruined structures and buried deposits, as recorded in part excavations on
the site. The site is one of only two enclosure castles in Dorset and
represents one of the best examples of 12th century architecture in the
county. Sherborne Castle has a different internal design from many
contemporary enclosure castles: a great tower formed part of a central block
which, unusually, was arranged around a central courtyard. This design is
comparable to that of a cloister, a factor which may reflect the
ecclesiastical background of Roger de Caen who designed the structure at
Sherborne as his own residence. The historical role of the castle is well
documented and it is known to have formed the administrative centre of a large
and wealthy estate. An extensive archive of records has been maintained.
Sherborne Castle is open to the public.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 66
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65-6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 64
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 65
Other
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
10th century date, White, Peter , Sherborne Old Castle, The Archaeological Journal, (1983)
Details of 1953-4 excavations,
Details of debris around well head,
Details of lifting gear of well,
Details of south-eastern structures,
Details of tiled floor,
Details of well,
Mention excavations,
Mention interpretation of kitchens,
Occurrence of graves across hilltop,
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date:
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Interpretation as a possible chapel

Source: Historic England

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