Betchworth Castle


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


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mole Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 19019 50045

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.

The fortified medieval house known as Betchworth Castle survives comparatively well, despite subsequent remodelling, and retains substantial amounts of standing medieval and later masonry. The monument also illustrates the adaptation of an important medieval residence to the changing needs and fashions of later centuries.


The monument includes a fortified medieval house with later alterations and additions, and part of its landscaped garden, situated on a sandstone spur which overlooks the western bank of the River Mole, around 1.5km to the north east of Dorking.

The NNE-SSW aligned, roughly rectangular house, known as Betchworth Castle, is Listed Grade II. Its north eastern end built of sandstone and brick survives in a ruinous state to approximately 9m in height, whilst the south western end survives only largely below ground. Projecting from either end of the eastern side of the ruined building is an attached, now dilapidated, NNE-SSW aligned, stone-revetted garden terrace wall dating to the 18th century.

Historical records indicate that Betchworth Castle dates to at least 1377, when Sir John Fitzalan, Marshal of England, was granted licence to crenellate his residence there. It is likely that the fortified house was constructed on the site of an earlier castle, traces of which may survive beneath the later buildings. The monument subsequently underwent several phases of alteration and redevelopment, including a major remodelling of the house and surrounding grounds during the mid-15th century. A 17th century pen-and-ink drawing by John Aubrey shows that the house then survived as a large, NNE-SSW aligned, rectangular, two and three storeyed sandstone building with embattled parapets and tall chimney stacks. At least two projecting corner towers were also depicted. The house and its park were bought in 1791 by William Fenwick, who arranged for the demolition of the south western end of the building, turning the remaining north eastern end into a smaller country residence. In 1798 the architect Sir John Soane was commissioned by the then owner, Henry Peters, to design alterations and new additions to the house and park, the original drawings for which survive. The house was bought by Henry Hope in 1834, who, because it formed only a peripheral part of his larger estate, allowed much of the reusable masonry to be removed from the house, the remainder of which gradually fell into picturesque ruin.

The modern railings which enclose part of the monument 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Dorking Museum, various, Betchworth Castle Collection,
Gladstone, ID, Betchworth Castle and West Betchworth Manor, 1972, unpublished dissertation


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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