Rufus Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 69682 71134


Tower keep castle called Rufus Castle and the Church of St Andrew, 120m ENE of Pennsylvania Castle.

Reasons for Designation

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 and 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.

A church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions. Churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. Churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. The tower keep castle called Rufus Castle and the Church of St Andrew, 120m ENE of Pennsylvania Castle, survive comparatively well and although much is already known of the church through excavation these two structures with their early medieval foundations indicate the importance and social and religious significance attached to this area in this period.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 15 December 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a tower keep castle and church situated on the summit of steep coastal cliffs on the east side of the Isle of Portland overlooking Church Ope Cove. The tower keep survives as a roofless irregular pentagonal plan tower. The walls to the north and west survive to full height and retain a number of shaped corbels for a parapet with machicolations. The south east wall is of thinner construction and has a blocked chamfered doorway. A gateway to the south west has an arched doorway. In the north and west walls at first floor level are five embrasures, internally splayed with circular gun-ports. Beyond the south gateway a section of curtain wall follows the slope and stands up to 1.5m high. To the east further buildings were removed by coastal erosion. The tower building dates to the 15th century and is approached from the north by a 19th century rounded headed arched gateway and bridge. The castle is thought to have been a reconstruction of an earlier castle captured by Robert Earl of Gloucester in 1142. It is also known as ‘Bow and Arrow Castle’. The castle is Listed Grade I.

To the south west is the church of St Andrew which stands on a level platform in the cliff strengthened by a retaining wall. The lower parts of the chancel walls and arch and southern nave and a part of a detached tower to the south of the west end of the nave are visible remains. Excavations and consolidation work carried out between 1978 and 1982 revealed the visible sections of church buildings belonged to a church which was constructed in the 12th century elaborately built with a central tower. The chancel was 10.5m long and the nave was 13.5m long. Following fire damage it was rebuilt with a narrower nave in the 13th century. The church was extended in the 14th century reaching its largest size in 1500 when the nave measured approximately 43.5m long and the detached tower was added in the 15th century. A geological fissure under the south east corner made extensive repairs necessary in the 17th century and a section of the nave wall had to be rebuilt on a supportive platform. However, the 12th century church was founded on the site of a much earlier church, possibly of Saxon origin but accurate dating was not possible. The minimum size for the earlier church nave was 18m long and it had a central lantern tower and a stone lined well to the north which had been filled with builder’s rubble relating to the construction of the 12th century church. There were several burials both within and outside the church. The clay used to level the nave floor of the 12th century church contained Romano-British pottery and some Iron Age material.

The church was abandoned as unsafe in 1756, although burials continued in the churchyard. A 14th century arch has been rebuilt into the north west boundary wall of the churchyard which also contains several 17th century headstones. The ruins of the church were further damaged by a bomb during the Second World War. St Andrews Church is Listed Grade II*.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 51
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument Nos:-451726 and 451729


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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