Farnham Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Farnham Castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. 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.

Waverley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 83755 47302

Reasons for Designation

Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The example at Farnham is a particularly informative one because it illustrates a late stage in the development of the motte and bailey castle, with its stone tower built from ground level and then partially buried. It is also unusual in that the slightly later stone tower or shell keep is built from ground level rather than at the top of an existing motte, adding to the known diversity of this type of feature. Although part of the keep area has been damaged by archaeological excavation, the resulting level of documentation, both archaeological and historical, is high. With such a large proportion of the castle unexcavated and undisturbed by later buildings, the monument is also of high potential, especially in the light of evidence that a number of archaeological features lie buried within the bailey area.


The monument includes the keep, bailey, curtain wall and outer ditch of a castle dating from the 12th century. Excavations within the keep in 1958-9 revealed much of the castle's development. It was constructed in 1138 on the orders of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester. A stone tower, perhaps as much as 35m high and with a central well shaft, was built first. Its base was then buried with chalk to form a 10m high mound around the tower. To the south of this original keep was a triangular arrangement of buildings including kitchens, a chapel and a hall, all enclosed within a ditch. These buildings, though since modified are listed Grade I and are excluded from the scheduling. After 1155, when Henry II had the original keep pulled down, the castle was rebuilt in the form of a shell keep some 50m in diameter with rooms in the 4 towers. The bailey was enlarged to its present limits, the huge 40m wide ditch was dug and the curtain wall with its square mural towers and gatehouse was erected. During the 13th-15th centuries, domestic buildings continued to be built within the new keep and some 15th century brickwork can be seen over the entrance. The keep was abandoned after the Civil War and was finally used as a garden in the Victorian period. Excluded from the scheduling are the metalling of the roads and car park, any service trenches, all existing steps erected for display purposes, and the square well cover within the motte, but the ground beneath is included. All buildings within the castle grounds except the keep and the medieval parts of the gatehouse, are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all of them is included. Part of the monument is in the Guardianship of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Thompson, M W, Excavations In Farnham Castle Keep, (1960)
Leach, P E, Monument Class Description - Motte And Bailey Castles, (1988)
Pagination 81-94, Surrey Arch Collections,


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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