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Oswestry Castle: motte and adjoining section of the town wall immediately north east of Christ Church

A Scheduled Monument in Oswestry, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.8611 / 52°51'39"N

Longitude: -3.0552 / 3°3'18"W

OS Eastings: 329050.840357

OS Northings: 329809.07112

OS Grid: SJ290298

Mapcode National: GBR 73.RVRD

Mapcode Global: WH89X.1BDZ

Entry Name: Oswestry Castle: motte and adjoining section of the town wall immediately north east of Christ Church

Scheduled Date: 9 November 1961

Last Amended: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019300

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33815

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Oswestry

Built-Up Area: Croesowallt

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Oswestry St Oswald King and Martyr

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte, which was
originally part of a motte and bailey castle, the ruins of a stone keep built
upon its summit and an adjoining portion of the town wall.
The castle is referred to as `castelle Lurve' in the Domesday Survey and was
constructed by Reginald, Sheriff of Shropshire. Throughout the medieval period
the estate of Maesbury (Oswestry) was held by the FitzAlan family, who
developed their landholding into the marcher lordship of Oswestry by the late
12th century. The castle was never used as a principle residence of the
FitzAlans, but served as a depot for major campaigns against the Welsh, as
well as forming the base for a defensive force of light cavalry. The castle
was strengthened at the end of the 13th century, but its military significance
declined shortly afterwards, although it was used to muster Welsh troops for
the war in France in the 14th and 15th centuries. The castle was the scene of
a parliament held by Richard II in 1398. It was garrisoned by Royalist troops
during the Civil War, but was slighted by Cromwellian forces in 1644, and had
been largely demolished by about 1650.
A natural isolated oval mound, probably of glacial origin, has been adopted
and utilised to form the motte. It is about 12m high and measures
approximately 52m by 72m at its base. Upon the summit and around the top are
the in situ and collapsed remnants of the stone keep possibly dating to the
13th century, replacing earlier structures probably built of timber. The
remains of the keep are a Listed Building Grade II. The internal layout of the
keep is not known, but an inventory compiled in 1398 notes a great chamber, a
middle chamber and a high chamber, the Constables Hall, a wardrobe, a chapel
dedicated to St Nicholas, a kitchen, larder and buttery. From the evidence of
the standing fabric it is considered that the keep was a square or rectangular
To the south east of the keep are the remains of a probable bastion, largely
rebuilt in the late 19th century. It is a Listed Building Grade II and is
included in the scheduling. The base of the mound is defined by substantial
revetment walls of probable late 19th century date, incorporating two gate
piers removed from one of the former town gates known as the Beatrice Gate.
These walls and the gate piers are also Listed Grade II and included in the
The castle bailey, which lies to the south of the motte, probably served as
the initial focus for the development of the town. The town had certainly
grown beyond the original limits of the castle bailey before the second half
of the 13th century when the town walls were constructed. The location of the
bailey is recorded in the street names Bailey Street and Bailey Head, although
its exact extent is not certain and is therefore not included in the
An archaeological excavation on top of the motte undertaken in 1988 revealed a
metre thick layer of demolition rubble dating to the 17th century, whilst in a
trench dug at the base of the mound a small section of a substantial wall,
thought to be part of the 13th century town defences, was found. This wall is
approximately 2m wide, aligned south west-north east, and is built of mortared
rubble with its eastern side faced with dressed sandstone blocks. An opening
though the wall was uncovered and is believed to mark the position of an
original postern gate. The wall would appear to overlie the remains of the
motte ditch and it thus post-dates the construction of the motte. This section
of the town wall has been consolidated and remains have been exposed.
In the late 19th century the castle mound was extensively landscaped in order
to create a public pleasure ground. The earliest large scale Ordnance Survey
map published in 1874 shows a series of terraces defining a spiralling path
around the mound. This scheme formed the basis of the subsequent landscaping
which included the construction of a stone wall around the top of mound. All
these structural features are included in the scheduling.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; the surfaces
of all modern paths, all modern fences and railings, the floodlights and the
Victorian fountain to the south of the mound; the ground beneath all these
features is, however, 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.

The remains of the motte, forming part of the motte and bailey castle in
Oswestry, survive well. The motte, together with the area of the bailey
indicated by street names, provides evidence of the changing nature of the
military and economic conditions during the medieval and post-medieval periods
which shaped the town. Episodes in the history of the castle and the town are
well documented.
In addition to the remnants of the stone keep, buried remains of earlier
structures that stood on the motte will survive. The surviving structural,
artefactual and organic remains, together with the historical sources, will
provide valuable evidence about the activities and the lifestyle of the
inhabitants of the castle. Archaeological investigation undertaken in 1988
has helped to demonstrate the nature and extent of the buried remains of the
castle and the adjoining part of the town wall.
The monument is a significant public amenity and has considerable educational
value. It remains a prominent feature within the landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Howard, A, Management Plan for the Future Management of Oswestry Castle, (1997)
Worthington, M, Oswestry Castle and Town Wall: Report on the Excavations in 1988, (1989)
Worthington, M, Oswestry Castle and Town Wall: Report on the Excavations in 1988, (1989)
Dalwood, H, 'Hereford and Worcester Archaeol Rep 333' in Archaeological Assessment of Oswestry, Shropshire, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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