Dudley Castle


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1014042.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 07-Mar-2021 at 03:01:26.


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

Dudley (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 94695 90757

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey 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-bailey 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 and bailey 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 or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Dudley Castle survives well and is a good example of a motte and bailey castle which was remodelled in stone in the mid-12th and early 14th centuries. The quality of the surviving remains has been enhanced by excavation which indicated that the castle retains important structural and artefactual evidence relating to both its early history, and to the 16th century structural improvements which converted it from a defensive castle into a high status domestic residence. The 16th century Sharrington Range is of particular interest as one of the earliest known examples of the influence of the Italian Renaissance on the secular architecture of the West Midlands. The wealth and importance of the castle and its inhabitants is reflected in extensive surviving documentary records. As a monument which is open to the public, Dudley Castle serves as a valuable educational and recreational resource.


The monument is situated in a commanding position on a high limestone ridge overlooking the town of Dudley and includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of Dudley Castle. In c.1071 William the Conqueror granted extensive estates centred on Dudley to William FitzAnsculph. By the early 12th century a large part of his estate, including the castle, passed to Fulke Paganel who is thought to have replaced the original timber defences with stone. Due to the family's support of the king's sons in their rebellion of 1174, the castle was partly demolished by Henry II the following year. In 1194 Dudley Castle came into the possession of the de Somery family and, at the end of the 13th century, was refortified by Roger de Somery. On his death it passed through marriage to John de Sutton and remained in the family's possession until the mid-17th century. During the Civil War, it was surrendered to the Parliamentarians who demolished part of the castle's defences to render it untenable. However, Dudley Castle remained in use as a residence until the mid-18th century, when a fire within the habitable parts of the castle effectively ended domestic occupation. The motte and bailey castle was constructed by William FitzAnsculph towards the end of the 11th century and is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086. The motte and the oval bailey to its north are surrounded and strengthened by a dry ditch to the west, north and east. A large proportion of this ditch is now occupied by the animal enclosures of Dudley Zoo and it is best preserved along the south eastern side of the bailey. The ditch is in turn surrounded on all sides by an outer court which takes the form of a level platform beyond which the ground falls away steeply, particularly to the west and east. The northern, north eastern and western boundaries of the outer court are now difficult to identify on the ground since modern buildings associated with the zoo have cut into the platform. It is thought to have originally been bounded by earthen banks which were replaced, at least along the south eastern side of the court, by a masonry wall and a gateway. These structures are believed to have been erected by the de Somery family in the late 16th century and they are included in the scheduling. During the medieval period the outer court is thought to have been occupied by the castle's ancillary and industrial structures and although there is no surface evidence for these remains they will survive as buried features. The motte is located at the southern end of the bailey and has been artificially raised. It stands to a height of approximately 9m and an excavation of part of the motte itself revealed dry stone revetments and platforms thought to be associated with its initial construction. The motte was originally separated from the bailey by a ditch which, although now infilled, will survive as a buried feature. In 1264 John de Somery was granted a licence to crenallate Dudley Castle and was responsible for constructing the stone keep on the motte and the curtain walls around the bailey at the beginning of the 14th century. The standing remains of these structures are Listed Grade I and are included in the scheduling. The distinctively planned keep measures approximately 22m east to west and 15m north to south externally and has semicircular towers 9.8m across, projecting slightly from each corner. Following the Civil War the southern half of the keep was slighted in order to render it untenable, but it was partly restored and battlements were added by Viscount Dudley and Ward in the late 18th century. An excavation on the southern side of the motte during the 1980s exposed the foundations of the keep, and its main batter (inwardly sloping wall) was found to sit over an offset stone plinth which, in turn, lies upon a wider bed of masonry askew to the alignment of the keep. The offset is considered to predate the construction of the keep and represents the remains of part of an earlier keep which was reused as the foundations of its 14th century replacement. A wall which encloses a narrow area roughly concentric to the later keep was also located and this is believed to have been constructed during the late 14th century as a defensive feature to protect the foot of the keep walls. The excavation also recovered evidence for a semicircular brick structure on the motte and this is included in the scheduling. It is thought to represent the remains of a World War II searchlight and lookout post, which illustrates the continued topographic importance of the castle's location into the mid-20th century. The bailey has a relatively level surface and measures 100m north to south and 80m east to west, an area of approximately 0.8ha. Excavations within its eastern half have recovered evidence for the early occupation of the castle, including traces of timber structures and a number of pits, but further archaeological remains relating to the castle's original buildings will survive as buried features. A 2m thick curtain wall surrounded the bailey from at least the early 14th century. Much of its eastern length has been incorporated within the later domestic buildings of the castle, whilst parts of the north and west curtain wall have been replaced by thinner walling of 16th century date. The south eastern curtain wall was demolished after the Civil War and replaced in the 17th century by a wall to the north on a different alignment. Those parts of the curtain wall which are no longer visible above ground will survive as buried features. Access into the bailey is via a gatehouse which was built into the original south eastern curtain wall. It was erected by John de Somery in c.1300, but its side walls are earlier in date and are thought to represent part of a pre-existing gateway. The gatehouse is a rectangular two storeyed structure with a stone vaulted gate passage which was defended at both ends by a portcullis. In the late 14th century a barbican was added to the gatehouse projecting south eastwards into the castle's outer enclosure. There is also a small gateway within the northern curtain wall. It is thought to date from the 16th century and was constructed to provide access into the northern part of the outer court. During the mid-14th century a building range with a chapel and domestic apartments was erected to the north east of the main gatehouse. The chapel is situated above a tunnel vaulted undercroft and occupies the southern half of the range. It has a traceried, three light window within its west wall and, in the south west wall, an ogee-headed upper doorway. To the north of the chapel are the remains of a suite of rooms which include what is thought to have been the Grand Chamber. Most of the window openings were altered in the 16th century to allow more light to enter the rooms on the first floor and the internal walls retain elaborate 16th century fireplaces. In 1533 Dudley Castle came into the possession of Sir John Dudley, who later became Duke of Northumberland. He sponsored the redesigning of the accommodation at the castle under the direction of Sir William Sharrington. A new two storeyed range of buildings, built of coursed limestone with sandstone quoins, was erected against the eastern curtain wall. Those immediately to the north of the chapel can be divided into two principal blocks, of which the southern contained the hall, and the northern block the kitchen. A further building was erected between the kitchen and the northern gateway. It has an octagonal turret with an external entrance at its north western corner which originally contained a staircase to provide access to the upper floors. The first floor hall at the opposite end of the new range is approximately 24m long and 9.5m wide and is believed to occupy the site of an earlier hall which will survive as a buried feature. Its eastern wall has been demolished, whilst the western wall retains mullioned and transomed windows. A loggia (a recessed colonnade) was constructed against the external face of the hall's western wall in the mid-16th century and it extends along much of the length of the room. A central flight of steps originally provided access from the bailey onto the loggia and, via a porch at its northern end, into the hall itself. The ground floor of the adjoining northern block was occupied by the kitchen and a large room to the south. The dividing wall retains 12th century masonry, including the remains of a semicircular arched opening. Much of the eastern wall of this block dates from the 16th century and has been built on the line of the medieval curtain wall. The standing remains of these buildings, known as the Sharrington Range, are Listed Grade I and are included in the scheduling. Excavations at Dudley Castle in the 1980s recovered further evidence of structures associated with the 16th century remodelling of the castle. The buried remains of a substantial building, which formed part of the Sharrington Range, were located between the chapel and the gatehouse. It cut through a surface which had been created by the levelling of an earlier stone building thought to be associated with the late 12th century occupation of the castle. An excavation immediately to the north of the keep recovered evidence for a building which formerly stood along the south western side of the bailey. Its position corresponds with a round headed doorway leading through the curtain wall and it has been identified as a 16th century kitchen annexe which was connected to the keep by a flight of steps. Further evidence for the buildings which originally stood along the west side of the bailey include a line of corbels and a large fireplace within the fabric of the central section of the western curtain wall. During the Civil War Dudley Castle was held for the king but in 1646 it was surrendered without a siege to Sir William Brereton. The southern half of the keep, parts of the curtain wall and the barbican were subsequently demolished to render the castle untenable. However, it continued in use as a residence and in the mid-17th century a two storey building, thought to have been a stable block and further lodgings, was erected between the motte and the gatehouse. It overlies the line of the medieval curtain wall which was demolished after the Civil War and was built flush against the south western wall of the gatehouse. Although the castle was inhabited until the fire in 1750, it is thought to have been used only infrequently for formal occasions and was maintained by a skeleton staff. In the 1930s a zoo was established in Dudley which incorporated the castle remains within its grounds. A number of the animal enclosures were erected within the castle's outer court and include several structures built to the designs of Messrs Tecton which are pioneering examples of the use of reinforced concrete and are Listed Grade II. The zoo buildings and enclosures are not included within the scheduling. All concrete and tarmac surfaces, the animal zoo enclosures (of which the penguin pool, sealion pool, prairie marmot enclosure and elephant house are Listed Grade II), the modern house and its associated outbuildings which occupy the southern end of the outer court, and the restaurant (Listed Grade II) at its northern end are excluded from the scheduling. The street furniture, including litter bins and benches, the floodlights, service inspection chambers, flag pole, cannon, sundial and all railings are also excluded, although the ground beneath all of these features 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
CBA Archaeology in Britain, (1984), 98-100
Boland, P, Dudley Castle Archaeological Project - Summary of Excavations, (1985), 20-24
Cocroft, WD, Dudley Castle Archaeological Project- A Summary of Excavation, (1985), 20
Linnane, SJ, Dudley Castle Archaeological Project - A Summary of Excavation, (1985), 31-32
Simpson, W D, 'Archaological Journal' in The Castles of Dudley and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, , Vol. 95, (1940), 142-158
Simpson, W D, 'Archaological Journal' in Dudley Castle : The Renaissance Buildings, , Vol. 101, (1944), 101
Youngs, S M, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Dudley Castle, , Vol. 32, (1988), 286


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].