Nunney Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Nunney 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.

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 73671 45731

Reasons for Designation

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the 14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, 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 of national importance.

The quadrangular castle known as Nunney Castle is considered by Pevsner to be `aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset'. It lies in the centre of Nunney, still surrounded by its water-filled moat, and is much visited. The castle benefits from being flanked by an 18th century manor house which is privately owned. The castle's builder, Sir John de la Mare, served in the French Wars, and the castle is unusual in that it is more in the French tradition of architecture than most in this country. It is an outstanding example of its class and will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it was constructed. The castle is well documented throughout its history, with specific records of its construction and its significance during the Civil War.


The monument includes a quadrangular castle in the centre of Nunney adjacent to the church. The castle stands on the west bank of Nunney Brook at a point where the Brook and the valley in which it lies change direction from north- south to north east-south west.

The castle is of a highly distinctive design, consisting of a high four-storey rectangular building containing principal rooms such as the great hall, with large closely-spaced circular towers providing more private chambers. It displays a high level of sophisticated planning. The towers still rise almost to their full height, and are crested by a parapet surmounted by a drum turret. The building is tightly enclosed by a wide moat.

Nunney Castle was built by Sir John de la Mare in 1373, when he obtained a licence to `crenelate' his house. He held many offices, being in favour with the king and he appears to have served in the French Wars. The family were Royalists and Roman Catholic in the Civil War, and the castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians in 1645, falling after two days when the north side of the castle was severely damaged by gunfire. It was `slighted' thereafter, although the walls were left intact, the north wall only finally collapsing in 1910.

Nunney Castle is in the care of the Secretary of State. The wooden bridge spanning the moat, the bridge supports and the decking on the interior of the moat are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath the bridge supports 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
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, (1958), 239


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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