Tower keep castle on Little Camp Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017372

Date first listed: 14-Dec-1950

Date of most recent amendment: 17-May-2000


Ordnance survey map of Tower keep castle on Little Camp Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Gloucestershire

District: Forest of Dean (District Authority)

Parish: Lydney

National Grid Reference: SO 61760 02479


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid- 15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 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 to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Previously interpreted as a motte and bailey castle, the tower keep castle on Little Camp Hill at Lydney survives well in an impressive setting on a hilltop. The castle benefits from a depth of soil cover, which provides additional protection for the archaeological remains. Despite partial excavation in 1929-30, the monument survives well and retains much potential for the study of the history and development of the castle, and for the study of environmental evidence relating to the castle and the wider landscape. In addition there is the opportunity for investigation into the use of the site prior to the construction of the castle. It is sometimes the case that tower keep castles have been constructed within Romano-British sites as at Porchester and Pevensey, and with a Romano-British temple complex only 250m away to the north west, there is the possibility of a relationship between the two sites.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a tower keep castle situated on a hilltop above the floodplain of the River Severn. Natural steep slopes 15m to 20m high have been utilised as defensive barriers on the north, south and west sides. On the east side the ground slopes more gently, and fortifications are at their strongest here. The castle has a keep and inner bailey with an outer bailey to its east. The keep is now a raised area in the north east quadrant of the inner bailey and stands up to 1.5m high. The stones of the keep protrude from the area which is now covered with soil. Just to the south of the keep is a gap in the defences about 2m wide which marks the entrance to the inner bailey. The level ground of the inner bailey forms an irregular 30m square with turf banks 2m high surrounding it. On its east side, separating it from the outer bailey, is a ditch 2m wide and 0.5m deep. The outer bailey forms a rough triangle, with its base to the north and apex to the south, measuring 30m east-west and 40m north-south. The outer bailey is protected by a bank and ditch on its north side where the bank is about 1m high and the ditch 2m wide and 0.5m deep. Elsewhere the outer bailey is protected by the natural slope of the hill. Excavation by D A Casey in 1929 showed that the earth bank around the inner bailey consists of fallen rubble which covers the remains of walls and towers. Despite some stone robbing the castle was found to be complete in plan including the rectangular keep which measured 30ft by 23ft 6in (9.2m by 7.2m) inside, and 57ft by 50ft (17.4m by 15.3m) at the base outside. A gate tower was found at the entrance and another tower at the south west angle of the castle walls. In the inner bailey, where the curtain wall joins the keep, a small annex had been added later, and an oven alongside the annex. To the south of the oven a circular depression was found which proved to be an iron extraction pit contemporary with the castle, or possibly earlier. The pit was not completely excavated by Casey, but excavation was stopped at 7ft (2.2m) where pottery of the same type as other pottery from the site was found. There is no documentary evidence for the date of the castle's construction, but Casey, considering the type and construction, dated it to between 1100 and 1189 AD. Although there is no direct record of the ownership of the castle, in the Domesday Survey it is recorded that William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, made a manor at Lydney. Casey considers that this manor almost certainly included Little Camp Hill. After 1075 Lydney reverted to the Crown. In 1201 there was a dispute between the bishop of Winchester and Walern of Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, over land held by the Earl at Lydney. Casey interprets this to have been Lydney manor including the site of the castle. The Romano-British temple complex 250m to the north west is the subject of a separate scheduling. The feeder troughs in the inner bailey are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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: 28869

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Casey, D A, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Lydney Castle, , Vol. 11, (1931), 242-246
Casey, D A, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Lydney Castle, , Vol. 11, (1931), 246-251
Casey, D A, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Lydney Castle, , Vol. 11, (1931), 244

End of official listing