Amberley Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Station Road, Amberley, BN18 9LT


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Statutory Address:
Station Road, Amberley, BN18 9LT

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

West Sussex
Horsham (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:


Amberley Castle is a bishop's residence of early C13 origins, with a significant late-C14 phase of fortification, and subsequent phases of alteration. The monument stands to the west of Amberley village, and to the immediate west of the parish church. The inhabited parts of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, as are various modern elements within the site, however the ground beneath all of them is included within the scheduling. Exclusions are detailed at the end of this entry.

Reasons for Designation

Amberley Castle, a bishop's residence founded in the early C13 and fortified in the C14, is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: the site represents a rare example of a medieval fortified bishop's residence; * Survival: the substantial C14 curtain wall and upstanding early-C13 and C14 fabric within it (some of which is excluded from the scheduling for management reasons) represents a good level of survival; * Historic interest: the monument is illustrative of the high status of bishop's residences in the medieval period, the varying status of spaces within this type of complex, and the fashion for aggrandising earlier domestic complexes through fortification; * Archaeological potential: there is good archaeological potential for buried remains of structures, features and artefacts associated with both the early C13 manor and its subsequent C14 expansion and remodelling, as well as later periods, increasing our understanding of the physical characteristics and nature of the buildings, the status of the site, and its evolution; * Group value: the site has group value with the adjacent Norman and C13 Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels, listed Grade I, to the immediate east, and the substantial former barn at Castle Farm, listed Grade II (now converted to a private house) to the immediate west.


The site now known as Amberley Castle began as a manor house belonging to the Bishops of Chichester. There is disagreement between sources as to whether the earliest substantive phase of the standing monument is C12, or early C13. For the purpose of this Scheduling Entry, the early-C13 date will be used. The early-C13 fabric, though altered through subsequent phases of remodelling, forms a substantial element of the inhabited part of the monument, and stands in the south-east corner of the present castle. Bishop William Rede gained a licence to crenellate in 1377, and between this date and at least 1382, built much of the castle as it now stands, including the curtain wall, gatehouse (S) and garderobe tower (N). The Great Hall, at right angles to the early-C13 hall, is believed to date from the first half of the C14, predating the fortification. Part of this hall survives within the occupied part of the building, but much survives only as a ruin. There are at least seven building phases contained within the monument, including one between 1508-36, associated with the occupancy of Bishop Sherburne, the last bishop to occupy the castle (it being leased thereafter until 1872). The castle was slighted in 1643 by General Waller, on account of the Royalist sympathies of the tenant, but the upper walls were subsequently restored and recrenellated. The surviving occupied parts have gone through more recent phases of remodelling, including a major phase in the late 1920s. The castle was converted to a hotel in the late 1980s, when various further works were undertaken to both the inhabited, and uninhabited parts of the castle.

INVESTIGATION HISTORY Amberley Castle is included in A Emery's The Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, volume 3 (2006). The entry provides a valuable overview of the monument's evolution, and an interpretation of standing fabric. The monument was studied by W. D. Peckham in the 1920s, when works for its 'reconditioning' exposed fabric-based evidence. In 1996, two ponds were dug approximately 170m to the south of the castle. A watching brief was carried out (by Southern Archaeology), and in an area cleared for soil tipping two stone spreads were identified, thought to be hardcore from the curtain wall foundations. A ditch was also found, and although it contained pieces of Roman brick, its date was uncertain.


A bishop's residence of early C13 origins, with a significant late-C14 phase of fortification, and subsequent phases of alteration.

MATERIALS: sandstone

PLAN: the built extent of the monument is defined by the C14 curtain wall, which in plan takes the form of an irregular quadrangle, with the main entrance to the centre of the south side. There are two projections on the north side: one for garderobes, and another larger one, believed to be the site of the kitchen. The curtain wall is ashlar, approximately 13m high; to the north and west sides the wall stands on sandstone approximately 4m high. Within the NE, NW and SW corners of the curtain wall were inwardly projecting square towers, of which only that in the NW corner stands (although remnants of the others may survive below ground).

GATE TOWER AND SOUTH WALL: the gate tower comprises a square, inwardly projecting, tower with castellated parapet, flanked by two semi-circular outwardly-projecting towers of approximately 18m in height, with arrow loops and also with castellated parapets. At the base of the gate tower is a four-centred carriage arch with chamfered jambs and a portcullis groove; on the inner side of the tower buttresses flank the arch. The south wall appears to have been largely blind, although there is a pair of balistrariae to the west of the gate tower, and later windows inserted to the east of the gate tower.

Outside the south wall of the castle is a dry moat which never had a draw-bridge, and there is no evidence to suggest the moat ever extended around the sides of the castle. The moat is approximately 12m across; the north bank is approximately 1.5m high, and the south bank is approximately 2.5m high. A land bridge across the moat leads up to the gate tower. To the east side of the bridge the bottom of the moat has been landscaped to create a sunken croquet lawn. The stretch of moat to the west of the bridge has not been formalised and is just grassed.

NORTH, EAST AND WEST WALLS: in the centre of the north wall is the small rectangular projection for the garderobes, and to the west the large rectangular projection which was the kitchen. The north wall has balistrariae and pointed windows, with paired trefoil-headed lights; there are also doorways, fireplaces and in some places remains of the crenellation with a parapet walk behind it. In the east and west walls are various door and window openings, those in the south-east corner being of varying age and design (including several arrow loops) and lighting the inhabited part of the monument. The window and chimney openings to the north and west indicate that internally the walls were lined with two-storey lodgings and service rooms of varying status (some heated, some not).

WITHIN THE CURTAIN WALL: the north wall of the later Great Hall survives as a ruin. Running east to west it marks the lower end of the hall. It has three pointed archways which gave access to the buttery and pantry to either side, and the kitchen through the centre. Above the arches is the lower part of a large hall window. The wall returns slightly to the north, indicating the side walls of the buttery and pantry, and returns to the south at the west end, with the west doorway of the cross-passage surviving. Weathered head corbels flank the doorway, one from the east doorway also survives, and several survive in the inner corners of the hall.

The tower in the north-west corner of the curtain wall is largely unrestored (although internally floors have been reinstated, and an external stair built to give access). To the west of the entrance gate tower, running parallel with the south wall is a stretch of wall which is a single storey high and has a number of door and window openings; the wall is believed to be contemporary to the curtain wall and will have enclosed some form of lodging. From within the space contained by this wall, there is access to the base of the west semi-circular gate tower, which contains an oubliette.

EXCLUSIONS Inhabited parts are excluded from the scheduled monument (but are separately listed Grade I, NHLE 1027499): these comprise a long range lining the inside face of the south wall to the east of the gate tower; an inverted L-shaped range (forming part of the original early-C13 house) running north/south from the south-east corner and turning at right angles to run east/west, parallel to the south range, to which it is connected by a covered passage; and a near-detached block to the north-west, which includes the remodelled southern end of the later Great Hall. Where the inhabited parts form part of, or are built against, the curtain wall, the curtain wall remains part of the scheduled monument, but modern internal wall finishes applied to the inside face of the curtain wall do not. The Bishopric Suites which stand outside the curtain wall on the west side of the dry moat are also excluded.

Modern joinery, stairs, window casements and the portcullis with associated mechanism, inserted into the fabric of the scheduled monument, are excluded.

Modern hard landscaping and garden features, including paved, gravelled and tarmacked surfaces, stone-lined beds, low stone walls, steps, stone-lined ponds, and stone features associated with the landscaping of the croquet lawn, are all excluded from the scheduled monument.

The ground below all excluded elements is, however, included in the scheduling.


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

Legacy System number:
WS 1
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Cathcart-King, D J, Castellarium Anglicanum, (1983), Vol. 2, pp. 469
Emery, A, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales 1300-1500. Volume 3: Southern England, (2006), pp. 297-300
'Royal Archaeological Institute Journal' in Royal Archaeological Institute Journal, , Vol. 142, (), pp. 60-61
W D Peckham, , 'Sussex Archaeological Society, Sussex archaeological collections: relating to the history and antiquities of the counties of East and West Sussex' in , , Vol. 69, (1928), pp. 226-8
W D Peckham, , 'Sussex Archaeological Society, Sussex archaeological collections: relating to the history and antiquities of the counties of East and West Sussex' in , , Vol. 62, (1921), pp. 21-63


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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