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Tower keep castle at Lower Lea

A Scheduled Monument in Lydham, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.4967 / 52°29'48"N

Longitude: -2.9574 / 2°57'26"W

OS Eastings: 335102.232215

OS Northings: 289186.46511

OS Grid: SO351891

Mapcode National: GBR B8.HSNT

Mapcode Global: VH75Y.PHFW

Entry Name: Tower keep castle at Lower Lea

Scheduled Date: 7 June 1974

Last Amended: 8 September 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021064

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34934

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Lydham

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Bishop's Castle

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the standing structural and buried remains of a tower
keep castle at Lower Lea, which forms part of the hamlet of Lea. The tower
keep is believed to have been built in the late 13th or early 14th century
for the Corbet family. The earliest known occupant, Robert Corbet, is
mentioned in a document of about 1328-29. The Corbets were still in
possession of the castle in 1645 when Parliament ordered a Royalist garrison
to be removed and the castle destroyed. A farmhouse, of probable 17th
or 18th century date, was built immediately next to the tower keep to the
south. The farmhouse was enlarged in the mid-19th century and contains a
wooden panel inscribed with a date of 1560, which has been reset into the
modern extension. A 19th century cartshed and granary abut the remains of the
tower keep to the north. The tower keep, farmhouse, cartshed and granary are
all Listed Buildings Grade II.

The tower keep occupies a slightly elevated position in an area of undulating
land and is overlooked by higher ground to the south east. The tower keep is
rectangular in plan, with three of its walls extant and standing to a maximum
height of 9m. The extant remains measure approximately 10m east-west by 13m
north-south, with walls about 2.5m thick. The tithe map of 1844 shows the
outline of the tower keep prior to the demolition of the northern part of the
building and the construction of the granary and cartshed. It would appear
from this map that the tower keep was originally about 16m long (north-south).
The foundations of the northern part of the building, together with the
contemporary remains of internal floor and external yard surfaces, will
survive as buried features. The tower keep is a three-storeyed structure with
a basement, a first floor hall, and private chambers above. It is constructed
of coursed limestone rubble with dressed sandstone around the door and window
openings. In the southern wall of the basement is a splayed opening, blocked
with stone and incorporating a modern wooden lintel. Along the western wall
the division between the basement and the first floor is marked by a
scarecement (a ledge created by the additional thickness of the lower part of
the wall to support floor joists). At first floor level in the south western
corner of the building are the remains of two blocked doorways. Access to the
first floor from outside was through the doorway in the southern wall, visible
as a pointed (four-centred) arch with a portcullis groove and drawbar holes.
Next to this doorway in the southern wall is a splayed window opening,
adjacent to an external stone balcony with a dressed sandstone plinth and
supported by four dressed sandstone corbels. Access from the first and second
floors would have been by means of an internal circular stairway, remains of
which were noted in 1858 prior to the demolition of the northern part of the
building. In 1844 excavations, undertaken in the course of building work
close to the tower keep, found the remains of an arch about five feet (1.5m)
wide and five feet high.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the
farmhouse, cartshed, granary and all agricultural buildings, a shed, an
oil storage tank and the concrete and brick base on which it stands, yard
surfaces, modern walls, fence and gate posts; however, the ground beneath
all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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

Despite its ruinous condition, having been used as a source of stone for the
construction of later buildings, the tower keep castle at Lower Lea is a good
example of this class of monument. The extant and buried remains of the tower
keep will provide significant information about the construction and
development of tower keep castles in the Welsh Marches. The buried deposits
within and immediately surrounding the tower keep will contain artefactual
remains, which will provide important evidence about the social standing and
lifestyles of the castle's inhabitants. The importance of the castle is
further enhanced by the documentary references regarding its ownership in the
14th and 17th centuries.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jackson, M, Castles of Shropshire, (1988), 32
Edwards, E, Notes on Castellated Structures of Shropshire, 1858,
Title: Lea and Oakley Townships 1844: Tithe map
Source Date: 1844

Source: Historic England

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