Woodhouse Castle fortified manor house


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


Ordnance survey map of Woodhouse Castle fortified manor house
© 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.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 80049 42039

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Woodhouse Castle is a remarkably well preserved example of a medieval fortified manor house which, despite collapse, has survived stone robbing and retains many original features. The history of the castle and in particular its seige and destruction, are well documented.


The monument includes Woodhouse Castle, the ruin of a fortified house on the Longleat Estate, situated on a small rise of silty clay slightly to the north of Woodhouse Farm. The fortified area is rectangular, 85m wide and 120m long with the long axis orientated south west to north east. The remains of the castle building survive to the south west, consisting of an area of fallen masonry bounded to the south west and north west by a substantial wall banked with earth up to 3.5m high and 2m thick. Outside the wall to the south west is a large stone ramp which provided access to the front door at first floor level. Adjacent to the ramp, in the centre of the wall is the base of a large round guard tower accessed from the outside by a low doorway 1.5m high. A small opening to the north east leads to the base of a spiral staircase. Along the eastern edge of the castle, where there is no defensive wall standing, internal walls up to 3m high define a series of rooms at ground level, thought to be the cellars of the castle, which include a fireplace and a well. The walls are built of rubblestone faced in places with thin medieval brick. North east of the building a raised rectangular area surrounded by a boundary bank up to 2m high represents the site of the castle garden. A series of square, raised patches divided by paths represent the beds of formal gardens. Beyond this to the north east is a lower enclosed area surrounded by a bank up to 2.5m high which may represent a paddock. During the Civil War, Woodhouse Castle was occupied by Henry Wansey, a Warminster watchmaker and Parliamentarian. It was beseiged in 1644 by Sir Francis Doddington, the Royalist Commandant for Wiltshire who breached the walls with two cannons. Eighty Parliamentarians were captured and 12 local clothiers were hanged on the branch of an oak tree and were buried in an unlocated mound known as the `clothiers grave'. Woodhouse Castle was never rebuilt.

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.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
MacLachlan, T, The Civil War in Wiltshire, (1997)


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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