Stafford Castle and associated medieval settlement


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Stafford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 90318 22209

Reasons for Designation

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Stafford Castle survives well and is a good example of a motte and bailey castle with two baileys. Partial excavation of the site has indicated that the castle retains important structural and artefactual evidence for the history of the castle's construction and for the economy of its inhabitants. The wealth and importance of Stafford Castle is reflected in extensive documentary records dating from the mid 14th century to the site's abandonment in the mid 17th century. The remains of the 19th century reconstructed keep represents an important early example of Gothic Revival architecture. Field survey and partial excavation of the medieval settlement remains have indicated that important archaeological deposits will survive undisturbed within the settlement site which will provide evidence of building plots and field and property boundaries, allowing an interpretation of the layout and date of the settlement and of its relationship in date and function to Stafford Castle.


The monument is situated 60m north west of St Mary's Church on the western outskirts of Stafford and includes the standing and buried remains of Stafford Castle, an associated medieval settlement and an early 19th century Gothic Revival reconstruction of the castle keep. The motte and two baileys are arranged on a north west-south east alignment and the settlement is situated to the east and south east of the lower bailey. The motte and double bailey castle, known as Stafford Castle, is thought to have been constructed towards the end of the 11th century or in the early 12th century by Robert de Stafford or one of his successors. The castle occupies a commanding position at the north west edge of an elevated ridge. It is surrounded and strengthened by a ditch which measures up to 22m wide. The south west side of the outer bailey is defended by the natural hillslope. Along the northern, western and southern sides of the motte and bailey castle is a counterscarp bank. Part of the north east section of this outer bank has been removed by a post-medieval quarry. The motte is situated at the north west corner of the site and has been artificially raised on the site of a natural hill. The ditch between the motte and the bailey has been infilled but a geophysical survey has indicated that it survives as a buried feature. The flat-topped motte measures 90m north west-south east and 70m north east-south west across its base. In the mid 14th century a stone keep was constructed on the summit of the motte by Ralph, Earl of Stafford. The rectangular keep measures 34m north west-south east and 14m north east-south west and there are octagonal towers, 9m across, at each corner. A fifth tower was added to the south wall of the keep between the mid 14th and early 16th centuries and, although it is not visible on the ground surface, it will survive as a buried feature. In 1984, an excavation at the base of the north west tower uncovered the foundations of an earlier octagonal tower. The standing remains of the medieval keep are Listed Grade II and are included in the scheduling. At the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1642, Stafford Castle was held by Lady Isabel Stafford for the Royalist cause. In the following year, the castle keep was demolished by the Parliamentarians and it remained a ruin until the early 19th century. During the early 19th century the Jerningham family of Norfolk attempted to reconstruct the medieval keep of Stafford Castle, using the earlier building's foundations. This 19th century structure, which has been built in the form of an elongated rectangle with an octagonal tower at each corner, was never completed. The eastern end of the keep was occupied for a period of time but, by the 1950s, the building had been abandoned. The remains of this Gothic Revival castle, which has recently been consolidated, are Listed Grade II and are included in the scheduling. The two baileys are separated by a 20m wide ditch. The inner bailey is crescent-shaped and contains an area of approximately 0.4ha. There is a slight earthen bank along the edge of the inner bailey and it is thought that the bailey was originally defended with a timber palisade. A resistivity survey along the line of the bailey rampart has indicated the remains of stone structures beneath the ground surface. These may mark the positions of stone mural towers. A small area within the western part of the bailey has been destroyed by a 19th century quarry. Excavations within the inner bailey have recovered evidence of a number of medieval structures of a variety of types. A number of post holes with connecting beam slots were thought to represent the remains of a bridge connecting the motte with the bailey. The outer bailey has an oblong plan and contains approximately 1.7ha. Access into the castle is by means of a causeway across the the central part of the south east outer bailey ditch. It is aligned with a causeway across the inner bailey ditch and is thought to mark the site of the original entrance to the castle. There is a second entrance across the outer bailey's southern defences and a modern access road runs northwards along the western edge of the castle's defences towards the motte. Immediately to the south east of the outer bailey are the earthwork remains of a medieval settlement associated with Stafford Castle. The north west boundary to the settlement remains is defined by the defences of the outer bailey. An earthen bank forms the southern, eastern and north east edges of the settlement site. Much of the south east boundary bank has been incorporated into private gardens and partly terraced, but it remains clearly visible. It can also be traced as an intermittent earthwork at the eastern and north east edges. There is no surface evidence for the boundary bank at the western edge of the site but this area is now occupied by the modern access road to Stafford Castle. A resistivity survey has indicated that a ditch defines the western boundary of the settlement to the north of the access road. A hollow way is visible running north west-south east from the entrance to the outer bailey, across the central part of the settlement site, towards Castle Church church. This earthwork is thought to represent the original approach road to Stafford Castle. An excavation within the central area of the settlement site revealed a complex series of features relating to medieval occupation, including a number of hollow ways and the remains of timber buidings. Finds recovered during excavations of the site support documentary evidence that the settlement was occupied between the 12th and the mid 15th centuries. The surfaces of all paths and driveways, display boards, floodlights, the flag-pole, wooden benches, modern floor surfaces, litter bins, concrete steps, modern walling and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Braun, H, The English Castle, (1936), 107
Dyer, S, A Geophysical Survey of Stafford Castle, (1990), 5
Dyer, S, A Geophysical Survey of Stafford Castle, (1990), 7
Klemperer, WD, Stafford Castle, (1985), 15
Hill, C, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Stafford Castle, , Vol. 25, (1981), 202
White, H, 'Staffordshire History' in Stafford Castle Project, (1985), 11
White, H, 'Staffordshire History' in Stafford Castle Project, (1985), 14
Moffett, C, Stafford Castle - An Archive Report on the Standing Structure., (1992)
Moffett, C, Stafford Castle - An Archive Report on the Standing Structure., (1992)
Moffett, C, Stafford Castle - An Archive Report on the Standing Structure., (1992)
Stafford Borough Council, Stafford Castle - A Brief History, 1992,


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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