Gains Castle: a 13th century ringwork and bailey


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Gains Castle: a 13th century ringwork and bailey
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Oct-2019 at 14:02:13.


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

Test Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 38459 30849

Reasons for Designation

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.

Gains Castle is well preserved, the substantial earthwork defences of the ringwork enclosing an area within which structural remains survive. The presence of the earthworks representing the bailey provides definition for the site as a whole and emphasises its relationship with the contemporary Church of St Mary.


The monument includes a ringwork and bailey, with evidence for earlier occupation, situated on a spur of high ground overlooking the village of Ashley and alongside the old road from Winchester to Salisbury. The bank and external ditch of the ringwork enclose a pentagonal area of approximately 0.55ha. The bank varies in size from approximately 6m wide and 1.5m high on the west side of the enclosure to over 13m wide and 3m high on the east. The ditch, which has been infilled on the west side by the construction of a road, also varies in size, from 5m wide and 1.5m deep on the north and south sides to over 8m wide and 2m deep on the east. In the north east corner of the bailey are the substantial flint footings of walls. These may represent the remains of a hall referred to in a documentary record of 1250, and recorded by Williams Freeman in 1913 as being 33m long with an internal round tower 13m in diameter on the north side. The outer bailey lies to the west of the ringwork and is defined by much slighter earthworks. Where traceable within pasture, these include a low bank, approximately 5m wide and no more than 0.5m high with an outer ditch of similar width and approximately 0.3m deep. Additional parts of the outer bailey circuit can be traced as a low bank to the east of the church and a shallow ditch in woodland to the south of the ringwork. The Church of St Mary the Virgin lies within the outer bailey to the north of the ringwork. The church dates to the 12th century and archaeological excavation carried out at the time of its restoration suggested that it was preceded by domestic occupation which must therefore predate the construction of the ringwork castle. In addition to references to the hall, historical documentation records that in 1200 William Briwere, the holder of the Manor of Ashley, was given a licence to fortify, or re-fortify his castle. Excluded from the scheduling are the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which is Listed Grade II*, the church hall, all fences, sheds, paths, roads and driveways, lined ponds and watercourses, the brick water supply tank and associated pipes, the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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.

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Books and journals
Williams-Freeman, JP, Introduction to field archaeology as illustrated by Hampshire, (1915), 227-9
Stubbs, K, (1989)


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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