Woodhouse Castle fortified manor house
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017304
Date first listed: 19-Apr-1956
Date of most recent amendment: 11-Feb-2000
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: 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
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: 33524
Legacy System: RSM
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