Eccleshall Castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008801

Date first listed: 28-Feb-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 17-Jan-1994


Ordnance survey map of Eccleshall Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: Stafford (District Authority)

Parish: Eccleshall

National Grid Reference: SJ 82821 29572


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the 14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, 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 of national importance.

Eccleshall Castle is a well documented example of a quadrangular castle with historical records dating back to its construction. The site has been the subject of trial excavations which established that it retains important evidence of multi-period occupation. Only a small proportion of the site has been excavated and substantial important deposits will survive undisturbed. The moated island will retain structural and artefactual evidence of the original castle whilst the ditch fills have been shown to contain important evidence for the environment and the economy of its inhabitants.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument is situated 330m north of Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall and includes the 14th-century bridge, the quadrangular castle and its associated moat and an area of the adjacent mere. The site includes a square enclosure bounded by a moat on the south and east sides and a mere to the west and north, formed by damming the River Sow. The moat and the mere are now dry. The retaining bank which controlled the level of water within the mere remains visible 180m north-west of the castle. It forms part of the embankment of the modern road to the west of the site and is not included in the scheduling. The moat is flat-bottomed and measures approximately 21m wide and 4m deep. There is a vertical stone retaining wall on the outer edge of the southern arm of the moat. During excavations by J Fisher between 1972 and 1975 the eastern arm of the moat was sectioned. Organic material such as wood and leather were exposed in a waterlogged layer of black earth and silt above the sub-soil. Access to the island is by a 14th-century stone bridge of two spans with pointed arches. The bridge has a plain parapet and four cutwater butresses. The section at the southern end of the bridge contains infill material, indicating the site of the drawbridge, and the thickening of the central pier may indicate the site of an integral gatetower. The castle gatehouse is thought to have been demolished in the late 18th century. The south, east and north sides of the moated island are revetted by a stone wall. The wall is battered (it has a sloping plinth) and forms the curtain wall of the castle. The revetment walls and the bridge spanning the moat are Grade II listed buildings. The area contained within the curtain wall measures approximately 80m west-east and 60m north-south. At the north-eastern corner of the enclosure wall is a nine-sided tower. The walls are approximately 2m thick and faced inside and out with high quality ashlar, the lower part of which is battered. The tower was originally three-storeyed and contains small, pointed trefoiled window openings. There are the remains of a fireplace on the first floor. The tower is now roofless. Excavation within the tower during 1973-74 located a latrine shaft which yielded 18th-century material. The north-east tower is a Grade II* listed building. It is probable that there was a similar tower at each angle of the enclosure wall. The remains of the south-east tower have been partly excavated and exposed by the owner, Mr Carter, and include traces of a spiral staircase. The present house on the site dates largely to c.1695 when the castle was rebuilt by Bishop Lloyd and it is a Grade II* listed building. The house was partly rebuilt in the 19th century when in situ medieval masonry was located within the western wall of the house. The fragment consists of a regularly-coursed, moulded ashlar plinth with a pronounced batter (slope) and is probably part of a large buttress. This in situ portion of medieval masonry is included within the scheduling. The fragment of plinth provides important evidence for the date and character of the castle keep. The clearance of outbuildings on the west side of the house has revealed further patchy evidence of in situ early masonry. These fragments of masonry, however, are excluded from the scheduling since the remains are difficult to define and are incorporated into the fabric of the house. The lower parts of the buildings at the north-western corner of the moated island, which are built on top of the curtain wall, have ashlar masonry. These fragments, however, appear to represent re-used material and are not included in the scheduling. Eccleshall Manor was the property of the Bishops of Coventry and Lichfield from as early as 1086. By 1200 Bishop Muschamp was licensed by King John to embattle the manor house. Bishop Langton, who occupied the see of Lichfield between 1297 and 1321, enlarged and repaired the castle and much of the visible medieval remains of the site accord in style and character with this period. During the Civil War the castle was besieged by the Parliamentarian forces who had demolished it by 1646. The house was rebuilt c.1695 and remained an episcopal residence until 1867. Excluded from the scheduling are the present house at Eccleshall Castle (with the exception of the in situ fragment of batter exposed in the west wall of the house, which is included), the outbuildings and stables associated with the house, the swimming pool which has been constructed on slightly elevated ground, and the surfaces of paths and driveways within the castle enclosure, but the ground beneath all these features, including the ground beneath the swimming pool, is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 21525

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Salter, M, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire and West Midlands, (1989), 19-20
Cantor, L M, 'North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies' in The Medieval Castles of Staffordshire, , Vol. 6, (1966), 43-44
Cherry, J, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in Post-Medieval Britain in 1974, , Vol. 9, (1975), 240-41
Wardle, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Eccleshall and Copmere, , Vol. 31, (1896), 188

End of official listing