Farleigh Hungerford Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Farleigh Hungerford Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
Norton St. Philip
National Grid Reference:
ST 80101 57639

Reasons for Designation

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. 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 educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

The enclosure castle known as Farleigh Hungerford Castle is a striking and well preserved example of its class and is much visited by the public. The castle's builder, Sir Thomas Hungerford, was a prominent figure in the late 14th century and subsequent members of the Hungerford family played leading parts in the history of the country. The castle is well documented throughout its history. Farleigh Hungerford Castle is known from excavation to contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it was constructed.


The monument includes an enclosure castle situated on high ground on the south bank of a bend in the River Frome. The castle which is Listed Grade I includes an inner court and outer court with natural and man-made defences surrounding it. The inner court lies at the north west end of the castle and comprises a hall with curtain wall and towers. The hall is of quadrangular plan comprising a rectangular enclosure surrounded by a curtain wall with a circular tower at each angle. The entrance to the hall is in the middle of the south side. The inside of much of the keep was divided into living quarters, which included a hall and kitchen, seen now as wall footings and substructures, while the northern corner was devoted to a garden. The north east and north west towers are ruined down to basement level, but the south west and south east towers remain upstanding in part. The curtain wall stands to full height in some places and is ruinous elsewhere. An inner gate, barbican and ditch separate the hall from the outer court. The ditch to the east of the gate is partly infilled; in the 17th century it contained a garden. The outer court, lying to the south east of the hall, is formed by a curtain wall which abuts the hall and encloses an irregular area of c.3000 sq metres. In the outer court is a chapel, the Priest's House, and the site of the stables. The curtain wall around the outer court has a tower and two entrances in its circuit, a west gate and an east gate formerly with a tower. In the outer court the chapel of Saint Leonard (Listed Grade I) and the Priest's House (Listed Grade II*) are still intact. The chapel was the parish church which was originally outside the defences, but was included within the outer court as the castle chapel when the curtain was built. The Priest's House is east of the chapel and separated from it by a narrow courtyard, and was extended northward to form a long low building in the 17th century. There is one tower, the south tower, surviving in the curtain wall. This has an arch restored in modern times which is included in the scheduling. The main entrance to the outer court is by the east gate. The gatehouse has modern battlements, as does the curtain wall in this area. The modern battlements are included in the scheduling to preserve the uniformity of the building as it exists today. Originally there was a drawbridge, but the ditch here was backfilled and domestic buildings erected in 1610-20. Their foundations are visible to the west of the causeway. Beyond the curtain wall and the keep is the natural defence of a steep scarp on the north and east sides of the castle. On the west and south sides the castle is defended by a moat. From the reign of William II to that of Edward III, Farleigh was held by the Montfort family and was known as Farleigh Montfort. Their original manor house was on the site of the later castle. In 1369-70 the manor was bought by Sir Thomas de Hungerford, who had been Speaker in the House of Commons in 1377. It was Sir Thomas who fortified the manor house and built the hall in 1380-90. His son, Sir Walter Hungerford, also a Speaker in the House of Commons, became Lord Hungerford in 1426, and from this time Farleigh was known as Farleigh Hungerford. Lord Hungerford added the outer court in 1420-30 including the moat with two dams, only one of which survives, to control the flow of water. The castle remained in the Hungerford family almost continually until 1686. In 1701 it was described as being very ruinous. All the buildings of the inner court, except the south east and south west towers and parts of the curtain wall, were destroyed in the 18th century. Eventually in 1915 it was placed in state care. In 1973-76 excavations were carried out north of the chapel and on the ditch and curtain wall of the west side of the outer court. A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these are the chapel, which is still in occasional use, wooden fence posts, telegraph poles, signs, tarmac and gravel surfaces, the garage abutting the south east part of the curtain wall, the former ticket office and toilets and modern fixtures and fittings within the Priest's House, the ground beneath all these features, however, 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
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983), 8-9
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983), 11
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983)
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983), 3
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983), 4
English Heritage, , Farleigh Hungerford Castle, (1983), 10-11


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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