Bridgnorth Castle

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1004783

Date first listed: 05-Dec-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Nov-2018

Location Description:

Statutory Address: Castle Grounds, West Castle Street, Bridgnorth, WV16 4AG

Map

Ordnance survey map of Bridgnorth Castle
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Location

Statutory Address: Castle Grounds, West Castle Street, Bridgnorth, WV16 4AG

Location Description:

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

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bridgnorth

National Grid Reference: SO7165092779

Summary

Bridgnorth Castle, including the upstanding remains of the C12 tower keep, and the buried remains of the inner bailey.

Reasons for Designation

The buried and upstanding remains at Bridgnorth Castle are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: a good representation of a Norman tower keep castle, in royal use for five centuries, with a severely listing tower illustrating its slighting in the English Civil War;

* Survival: as a tower keep with substantial surviving fabric and detail, an exemplar of a form of prestigious medieval defensive and domestic construction, with considerable variation;

* Rarity: as one of a relatively small number of tower keep castles nationally;

* Documentation: the history and evolution of the castle and fortified borough is well-documented both historically and archaeologically, adding considerably to the sites’ interest;

* Potential: for the archaeological deposits which are highly likely to survive within the beneath the park and gardens;

* Group value: with Panpudding Hill, the scheduled remains of a ringwork and bailey castle to the south-west; their association has the potential to contribute valuable information relating to the settlement pattern, social organisation of the countryside and military technology during the medieval period.

History

In Bridgnorth, on a steep-sided promontory overlooking the River Severn, are the remains of a C12 tower keep castle. 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 the tower has 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-C15, with a peak in the middle of the C12. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations, which provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families. 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, and they exhibit considerable diversity of form, 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 important.

Bridgnorth’s tower keep castle is thought to have been founded in 1101-1102 by Robert de Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury, who had abandoned the castle and borough at Quatford, 6km to the south. The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester claims Bridgnorth Castle to be situated on the site of a Saxon burh, built by Ethelflaeda in 912 AD; opposing theorists place the burh at the mound known as Panpudding Hill, 250m to the south-west. Belleme surrendered the castle to Henry I in 1102; it then fell briefly into the hands of Hugh de Mortimer during Stephen’s reign (1135-1154), and was surrendered to Henry II in 1155.

The full extent of the castle was very large, at 380m from north to south. The outer bailey is likely to have been designed to accommodate a small borough, as a Quatford, and included the institutions of the old site, including the Collegiate Church of St Mary. Exchequer accounts of the C12 to C13 note a great hall with chimney and glass windows, a King's Chamber, a Queen's Chamber with an oriel at the door, a royal kitchen, pantry and buttery, and royal stables. Other sources note a great tower with a dungeon (Ethelfleda's Tower), turrets on outer walls, a tilt yard, a barbican with the constable's house and a prison, stables, a drawbridge and a well. In 1261 the sheriff was commanded to have the houses in the castle roofed and repaired where needful. By 1281, the castle was in a bad state of repair (Eyton,1854), and by Henry VIII's reign was ruinous. In 1646 the castle was surrendered to Parliamentary troops following a three-week siege. The buildings were stripped and the walls were systematically mined and blown up (Watkins-Pitchford, 1932).

The principal surviving upstanding structure of the castle is the severely listing tower keep, which serves as a reminder of the C17 attack. It is typologically of the early-C12, thus dating from Henry I’s occupation. Documentary evidence suggests that further work on the keep was carried out between 1166 and 1174 (Croom, 1992), possibly referring to the addition of a stone staircase and gatehouse.

The only remains now visible of the King's House, within which was the castle hall, are some fragments of masonry which stand close to the west side of the tower. It is said to have extended along the length of the western side of the inner bailey. The King's House was nominally maintained as a royal residence until the C17 (Watkins-Pitchford, 1947).

The outer bailey was situated to the north of the tower keep and by 1242 was legally part of the medieval town (Pounds, 1990). Its northernmost extremity is confirmed by the survival of fragmentary remains of walling at the site of the postern gate and in the gardens of the White Lion, 3 West Castle Street. On the east it is probable that Castle Walk and Bank Street mark the line of the defences. The remains of the wall of the enclosure form the eastern boundary of gardens to modern properties on the east side of East Castle Street. On the west, the line follows the castle grounds boundary wall along the south, and to the north, it is likely to have passed through the rear of the western plots on West Castle Street.

The original church of St Mary Magdalene stood within the castle grounds and was replaced by the present church in the C18. Both the grounds of Mary Magdalene Church and the majority of the outer bailey lie outside the scheduled area.

A public park was laid out upon the inner bailey in 1897.

A number of archaeological investigations have been made at, and around, the site. In 1991 an evaluation trench was dug in the grounds of St Mary's Rectory. Evidence for an east-west ditch was found, which might represent a defensive feature separating the inner and outer baileys of the C12 castle (Thompson, A and Walker, WS, 1991).

In 1995 a programme of evaluation was undertaken within the public park. A resistivity survey indicated main areas of disturbance, which informed the location of six trial trenches. Excavations revealed parts of the foundations of a building associated with C12-C14 pottery. The footings of the building survive from 0.5m below present ground level, to at least 1.2m below present ground level, although it is clear much robbing and destruction has taken place, as illustrated by the quantities of tumbled stones with mortar and plaster adhering to them. All the medieval pottery was fragmentary and in an abraded condition (West Midlands Archaeology, vol 38).

In 2000 eight sites were subjected to resistivity survey. The limited size of the target areas hampered interpretation and made the results largely inconclusive. However, there were a few responses of archaeological potential, some of which proved on excavation to be associated with wall foundations, solid surfaces and a large inner bailey ditch (Gaffney, C, Gater, J, 2000).

Following on from this, the Time Team undertook a programme of excavation. A full report on the excavations was not produced and thus detailed results are not available. However, excavations at 23 East Castle Street produced stone foundations, suggested as representing a tower. A trench dug within the castle grounds revealed a feature interpreted to be part of the inner bailey ditch (Time Team, 2001).

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the monument includes the remains of a Norman tower keep castle and the buried remains of the inner bailey. It occupies the southern end of the steep-sided promontory which in 1897 was laid out as a public park.

DESCRIPTION: the principal upstanding structural remains of the castle are the shattered walls of a square Norman tower keep, constructed in the early C12. Three sides of the ruined keep survive, standing approximately 20m high and leaning to the east at an angle of 17°. Fragments of curtain wall extend from its southern wall, bearing evidence of a portcullis gateway. The north side has angle buttresses of the Norman type, and on the south wall are the scars of the pitched roof. The keep also has a plastered window head, the jamb of a fireplace, and a stone basin. Joist holes in the masonry indicate the floor levels. Ten metres to the south-east is a large slab of fallen masonry, probably from the keep.

Archaeological deposits relating to the inner bailey are likely to survive as buried remains beneath a public park and the garden to No. 2 East Castle Street which lies to the east of the keep. A stone wall, 163m in length, much rebuilt but incorporating fabric from the defensive walls, follows a sinuous course on the east of East Castle Street. The park has formal gardens laid out upon geometric axes to the north of the keep, and lawns and meandering tarmac pathways following the gentle hill to the south, leading to a bandstand.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduled area includes the southern end of the promontory, 115m at its widest point and 165m in length, which, since 1897, has been laid out as a public park. It is defined, mainly, by the park and garden boundary walls.

EXCLUSIONS: structures related to the public park are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: SA 22

Legacy System: RSM - OCN

Sources

Books and journals
Anderson, JC, Shropshire, Its Early History and Antiquities, (1864), 11
Colvin, H M, The History of the King's Works, (1963), 576-577
Duckers, Peter, Duckers, Anne, Castles of Shropshire, (2006), 31-33
Emery, A, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales 1300-1500: Volume 2: East Anglis, Central England and Wales, (2000), 476
Eyton, RW, Antiquities of Shropshire, (1854), 253-289
Fry, PS, Castles of the British Isles, (1980), 194
Harvey, Alfred, Castles and Walled Towns of England, (1911)
King, DJC, Castellarium Anglicanum, (1983), 421
Mackenzie, JD, Castles of England; their story and structure, (1896), 127-129
Mason, JFA, The Borough of Bridgnorth, (1957), 47
Oman, Charles WC, Castles, (1926, 1978 edn), 133
Pettifer, A, English Castles, A Guide by Counties, (1995), 209-210
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (1958), 82-83
Pounds, NJG, The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: a Social and Political History, (1990), 196
Renn, D, Norman Castles in Britain, (1973), 114, 116-117
Salter, Mike, Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire, (2001), 24-25
Salter, Mike, Midlands Castles, (1993), 33-35
Watkins-Pitchford, W, Brief History of Bridgnorth Castle, (1951)
'Evaluation' in West Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 38, (1995), 49-52
Croon, JN, 'The Topographical Analysis of Medieval Town Plans: the Examples of Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth' in Midland History, , Vol. 17, (1992), 16-38
Roe, A, 'Bridgnorth, Shropshire' in West Midlands Archaeology, , Vol. 26, (1983), 86-87
Watkins-Pitchford, DW, 'A visit to Bridgnorth' in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, , Vol. 52, (1948), 153-178
Watkins-Pitchford, DW, 'Collections for a history of Bridgnorth, Salop: a MS by William Hardwicke' in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, , Vol. 49, (1938), 199-204
Watkins-Pitchford, DW, 'Bridgnorth Castle and Ethelfleda's Tower' in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, , Vol. 46, (1932), 3-12
Clark, GT, 'Bridgenorth, Oldbury and Quatford' in Archaeologia Cambrensis, , Vol. 29, (1874), 263-273
Websites
Buteux, Victoria, 2005, 'Archaeological assessement of Bridgnorth, Shropshire' in Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 , accessed 13/09/2018 from http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/marches_eus_2005/downloads.cfm?CFID=2127801&CFTOKEN=24481470&county=shropshire&area=bridgnorth
Gaffney, C, Gater, J., 2000, Geophysical Survey: Bridgnorth, Shropshire Report No. 2000/109. Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (GSB Prospection): Thornton, Bradford , accessed 13/09/2018 from http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/library/browse/issue.xhtml?recordId=1100021&recordType=GreyLitSeries
Shropshire Historic Environment Record, Bridgnorth Castle (ref 00371), including full bibliography, via Heritage Gateway, accessed 19/09/2018 from http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MSA275&resourceID=1015
Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2001 (1st broadcast), 'The Leaning Tower of Bridgnorth, Shropshire' [TV Programme] (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4), accessed 13/09/2018 from http://www.channel4.com/programmes/time-team/on-demand/29766-011
Other
Field survey report: Thompson, A and Walker, WS. 1991. The archaeological implications of the construction of a new parish centre at St Mary's Rectory, Bridgnorth. Gifford and Partners Report

End of official listing