Stowey Castle, the site of St Michael's Chapel and a medieval kiln site
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019421
Date first listed: 19-Dec-1929
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Nov-2000
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)
Parish: Nether Stowey
District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)
Parish: Over Stowey
National Grid Reference: ST 18662 39572
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were superseded by other types of castle.
Despite part of the surrounding bank and ditch being damaged by quarrying Stowey Castle is a good example of a motte with two baileys and it retains some of its original building fabric in its stone keep. There are documentary references to the castle which establish its Norman foundation before 1154. The site of St Michael's Chapel is clearly associated with Stowey Castle, to which it is linked by a hollow way. Although there are no visible above ground remains of the medieval kiln site adjoining Stowey Castle, the site lies relatively undisturbed in pasture and is known from partial excavation to be an example of a stone built kiln type and will contain further archaeological remains relating to the kiln complex. The monument as a whole incorporates a number of structures and works of various dates and differing functions, all of which will retain archaeological and environmental evidence which will be informative about the lives of the inhabitants of Stowey Castle and some of the practices, such as the making of pottery, which were taking place in its shadow during the medieval period and later.
The monument includes Stowey Castle, a motte with the remains of a stone keep
and two baileys, an adjacent medieval kiln site, the site of St Michael's
Chapel, and the remains of a post-medieval mill and a mill pond, all of which
are situated to the west of Nether Stowey.
The castle site, located on a steep eastern outlier of the Quantock Hills, is
oval in plan and includes a sub-circular motte or mound of natural rock with
steeply scarped sides approximately 8m high above a surrounding flat-bottomed
ditch which is an average of 5m wide across its base. Fronting the ditch is a
counterscarp bank which has an average height of 5m. The remains of a keep,
a Listed Building Grade I, constructed of coursed rubble stone about 20m by
15m with inner dividing walls, stands on the flat summit of the mound. A small
structure of the same material is attached to the south east side of the keep
and is probably the remnants of an entrance building.
On the east side of the mound is a broadly triangular shaped bailey which is
defined on its south and south east sides by a bank and ditch which together
are approximately 18m wide. A second, smaller bailey, irregular in plan and
with its north and east sides steeply scarped, is located on slightly higher
ground immediately north of the larger bailey. The two baileys are divided by
a ditch 4m to 5m wide which extends eastwards from the castle mound. An
entrance on the south side of the site, adjacent to the west side of the
larger bailey is considered to be modern although the precise location of the
original entrance is uncertain. The earliest known documentary reference to
Stowey Castle comes from a charter dated before 1154. However, it may have
been founded on an earlier, fortified site of pre-Conquest date which was
possibly developed by William fitz Odo during the 11th century.
The site of St Michael's Chapel is also included in the monument. It is
located on lower ground to the east of the mound on the outside of the
southernmost bailey. The chapel was linked to the castle by a hollow way which
survives as shallow ditch leading from the chapel to the castle and joining
with the dividing ditch of the baileys. There are no visible above ground
remains of the chapel but evidence for it comes from documentary sources which
refer to a 1362 rental, which records that it was one of two chapels dependent
on the Mother Church of St Mary. The site of the chapel is marked on early
maps in the fork of Butcher's Lane and Castle Hill east of Stowey Castle.
Fragments of Norman masonry have been found in the vicinity of the site and
they include a 12th century cushion capital.
Also included in the monument is a medieval kiln site located on the lower
ground to the west and south west of Stowey Castle in an area historically
known as Portery Field. The site occupies a broadly rectangular area of land
aligned from north to south through which a tributary of the Stogursey Brook
flows following the same north to south alignment. The kiln site was revealed
in 1969 during the digging of a pipe trench. Medieval pottery dated to the
14th century, apparently of a type well known from the Bridgewater area,
together with associated kiln debris was found. A subsequent limited
excavation revealed a stone built kiln, oval in structure with a single flue.
A documentary reference from 1275 which mentions fees paid by potters for the
right to operate in Nether Stowey may refer to this kiln complex.
The remains of a post-medieval mill and mill pond which are located within the
area of the kiln site adjacent to the stream are also included in the
scheduling. The surviving features of the mill site include part of the back
wall of the wheel pit and an oak lined culvert. A stone lined pond located to
the north and used as a feeder pond for the mill may be of medieval date and
is possibly associated with Stowey Castle.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the sewage
pipe laid in 1969, all fence and gate posts, all stiles, signposts, troughs
and telegraph poles, the wooden bridge over the Stogursey Brook, all the
garden sheds on the chapel site, all sheds, barns and outbuildings of Stakes
Cottage, and all areas of hardstanding. 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: 33716
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Somerset, (1911), 515
Aston, M, Leech, R, Historic Towns in Somerset, (1977), 110
Aston, M, Leech, R, Historic Towns in Somerset, (1977), 111
Collinson, J, History of Somerset, (1791), 550
Siraut, M C, The Victoria History of the County of Somerset: Nether Stowey, (1985), 194
Siraut, M C, The Victoria History of the County of Somerset: Nether Stowey, (1985), 199
Siraut, M C, The Victoria History of the County of Somerset: Nether Stowey, (1985), 195
Ponsford, M W, White, B, 'Archaeology Review' in Nether Stowey / Over Stowey, , Vol. 6, (1972), 42
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