Oswestry Castle: motte and adjoining section of the town wall immediately north east of Christ Church


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019300.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 05-Mar-2021 at 17:13:22.


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

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 29051 29810

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The remains of the motte, forming part of the motte and bailey castle in Oswestry, survive well. The motte, together with the area of the bailey indicated by street names, provides evidence of the changing nature of the military and economic conditions during the medieval and post-medieval periods which shaped the town. Episodes in the history of the castle and the town are well documented. In addition to the remnants of the stone keep, buried remains of earlier structures that stood on the motte will survive. The surviving structural, artefactual and organic remains, together with the historical sources, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the castle. Archaeological investigation undertaken in 1988 has helped to demonstrate the nature and extent of the buried remains of the castle and the adjoining part of the town wall. The monument is a significant public amenity and has considerable educational value. It remains a prominent feature within the landscape.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte, which was originally part of a motte and bailey castle, the ruins of a stone keep built upon its summit and an adjoining portion of the town wall. The castle is referred to as `castelle Lurve' in the Domesday Survey and was constructed by Reginald, Sheriff of Shropshire. Throughout the medieval period the estate of Maesbury (Oswestry) was held by the FitzAlan family, who developed their landholding into the marcher lordship of Oswestry by the late 12th century. The castle was never used as a principle residence of the FitzAlans, but served as a depot for major campaigns against the Welsh, as well as forming the base for a defensive force of light cavalry. The castle was strengthened at the end of the 13th century, but its military significance declined shortly afterwards, although it was used to muster Welsh troops for the war in France in the 14th and 15th centuries. The castle was the scene of a parliament held by Richard II in 1398. It was garrisoned by Royalist troops during the Civil War, but was slighted by Cromwellian forces in 1644, and had been largely demolished by about 1650. A natural isolated oval mound, probably of glacial origin, has been adopted and utilised to form the motte. It is about 12m high and measures approximately 52m by 72m at its base. Upon the summit and around the top are the in situ and collapsed remnants of the stone keep possibly dating to the 13th century, replacing earlier structures probably built of timber. The remains of the keep are a Listed Building Grade II. The internal layout of the keep is not known, but an inventory compiled in 1398 notes a great chamber, a middle chamber and a high chamber, the Constables Hall, a wardrobe, a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, a kitchen, larder and buttery. From the evidence of the standing fabric it is considered that the keep was a square or rectangular structure. To the south east of the keep are the remains of a probable bastion, largely rebuilt in the late 19th century. It is a Listed Building Grade II and is included in the scheduling. The base of the mound is defined by substantial revetment walls of probable late 19th century date, incorporating two gate piers removed from one of the former town gates known as the Beatrice Gate. These walls and the gate piers are also Listed Grade II and included in the scheduling. The castle bailey, which lies to the south of the motte, probably served as the initial focus for the development of the town. The town had certainly grown beyond the original limits of the castle bailey before the second half of the 13th century when the town walls were constructed. The location of the bailey is recorded in the street names Bailey Street and Bailey Head, although its exact extent is not certain and is therefore not included in the scheduling. An archaeological excavation on top of the motte undertaken in 1988 revealed a metre thick layer of demolition rubble dating to the 17th century, whilst in a trench dug at the base of the mound a small section of a substantial wall, thought to be part of the 13th century town defences, was found. This wall is approximately 2m wide, aligned south west-north east, and is built of mortared rubble with its eastern side faced with dressed sandstone blocks. An opening though the wall was uncovered and is believed to mark the position of an original postern gate. The wall would appear to overlie the remains of the motte ditch and it thus post-dates the construction of the motte. This section of the town wall has been consolidated and remains have been exposed. In the late 19th century the castle mound was extensively landscaped in order to create a public pleasure ground. The earliest large scale Ordnance Survey map published in 1874 shows a series of terraces defining a spiralling path around the mound. This scheme formed the basis of the subsequent landscaping which included the construction of a stone wall around the top of mound. All these structural features are included in the scheduling. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; the surfaces of all modern paths, all modern fences and railings, the floodlights and the Victorian fountain to the south of the mound; the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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:


Books and journals
Howard, A, Management Plan for the Future Management of Oswestry Castle, (1997)
Worthington, M, Oswestry Castle and Town Wall: Report on the Excavations in 1988, (1989)
Worthington, M, Oswestry Castle and Town Wall: Report on the Excavations in 1988, (1989)
Dalwood, H, 'Hereford and Worcester Archaeol Rep 333' in Archaeological Assessment of Oswestry, Shropshire, (1996)


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].