Sauvey Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Sauvey Castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Harborough (District Authority)
Harborough (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 78715 05280

Reasons for Designation

A shell keep castle is a masonry enclosure, extending around the top of an earlier motte or castle ringwork, and replacing the existing timber palisades; there are a few cases where the wall is built lower down the slope or even at the bottom. The enclosure is usually rounded or sub-rounded but other shapes are also known. A shell keep is relatively small, normally between 15 and 25m diameter, with few buildings, and perhaps one tower only, within its interior. Shell keeps were built over a period of about 150 years, from not long after the Norman Conquest until the mid-13th century; most were built in the 12th century. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Shell keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a marked concentration in the Welsh Marches. The distribution also extends into Wales and to a lesser extent into Scotland. They are rare nationally with only 71 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. Along 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 education 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.

Sauvey Castle has an unusual plan with few parallels nationally. It survives in good condition and the interior will retain archaeological evidence of the original castle layout and its subsequent use.


Sauvey Castle is situated 4km east of the village of Tilton. It occupies a low, natural promontory flanked on either side by rivers with a ditch at the western end making it a very effective defensive stronghold. The castle, standing an average of 7m above the bottom of the valley, consists of two enclosures: a rectangular bailey measuring 100m x 70m on the western side and a smaller oval enclosure measuring 60 x 40m to the east. The two are divided by a hollow sloping northwards to form the main entrance. The surface of the bailey is flat with a slight inner bank on the west and south sides. A low mound with depressions on the north east side of the bailey represents a mound on which a guardhouse would have been situated. To the east, the smaller enclosure is slightly higher than the larger enclosure and contained the principal buildings on its south side and a rectangular chapel situated near the centre. The original structure of the castle was of stone which can be seen exposed in several places especially near the entrance. The surrounding ditch varies from between 20m wide on the west side, opening out to a 60m valley on the east. Situated to the south east is an earth bank, 6m high, which dammed the valley, and has a central gap perhaps housing a sluice gate. Sauvey Castle was built during the anarchistic reign of Stephen (1135-54). In 1216, Henry III ordered the surrender of Sauvey to the Earl of Aumale who retained it until a royal order to surrender Sauvey and Rockingham was given in 1217. Aumale acted against the king's wishes and attempted to fortify Sauvey and it was not until June 1220 that Sauvey and Rockingham were surrendered. The castle's later history is connected with the adjacent royal forest. In 1226, it was delivered by royal command to Hugh de Neville, the king's forester. From 1246 the castle lost its prominence as a royal site and by the 15th century it had been demoted to a subsidiary property of the manor of Withcote. A modern barn on the north side of the site is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it 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.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Cantor, L, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Arch and Historical Society' in The Medieval Castles of Leicestershire (Volume 53), , Vol. 53, (1978)
Foss, P J, 'Sycamore Leaves' in Sauvey Castle, , Vol. 20, (1983)


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