Horsley Castle tower keep castle


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.

Amber Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 37580 43204

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 or 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. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Horsley Castle is a reasonably well-documented example of a tower keep castle built overlooking the strategically important Derwent valley. In addition to the partially upstanding tower keep, the undisturbed remains of related features survive, including part of the defensive earthworks.


The monument includes part of the remains of the 12th century tower keep castle known variously from documents as Horsley Castle and Horeston Castle. These remains include the keep, the defensive ditch which extends round the north and east sides of the outcrop on which the keep is situated, and the counterscarp bank which flanks the outer edge of the ditch. A bailey or outer enclosure containing various service buildings relating to the castle would formerly have occupied part of the area surrounding the keep but this has not been included in the scheduling as its original extent and location are unclear and it is likely to have been at least partially destroyed by 19th century quarrying. Also excluded is the park and warren associated with the castle which may also date from the medieval period. Although features relating to these will survive, their extent and state of preservation are not sufficiently understood for them to be included in the scheduling. In addition to its buried foundations, the remains of the keep comprise upstanding sections of the north and west walls which display evidence of square corner towers and the remains of two water spouts. The north wall survives to a maximum of c.5m and retains a substantial portion of its ashlar plinth. Elsewhere, the wall core of mortared rubble can be seen. The defensive ditch to the north and east is c.15m wide and up to 5m deep and is flanked by a counterscarp bank which measures c.10m wide and 5m high. The basement storey of the keep was partially excavated by Charles Kerry in the mid-19th century when parts of the walls were unearthed and fragments of wooden beams exposed. Kerry was also responsible for uncovering a variety of records documenting the castle from the late 12th century onwards. From these it is known that the site was part of the barony of de Buron from 1086 until 1514, when the castle and manor of Horsley were granted by Henry VIII to the Duke of Norfolk as part of his reward for services rendered at the Battle of Flodden Field. In 1568 Thomas Stanhope held the castle. From him it descended to the Earls of Chesterfield, one of whom sold the manor and estate, including the castle, to the Sitwell family in c.1817.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Cox, JC, The Victoria History of the County of Derbyshire, (1905), 383-4
Kerry, C, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Annals Of Horeston And Horsley, , Vol. 10, (1888), 16-28


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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