Ringwork and tower keep castle 170m south east of St George's Church
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 05-Jun-2020 at 11:22:22.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 40122 05999
Reasons for Designation
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.
The ringwork south east of St George's Church is a well-preserved example of this class of monument. The limited archaeological excavations here have demonstrated the nature and extent of the structural remains and the associated buried deposits. These excavations have also provided important information about the initial construction and subsequent modification of the defences, and about the succession of buildings in the interior of the ringwork. The most prominent of these was the tower keep, which would have provided accommodation on several floors for the lord, his family and his retainers. 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. Although it has been largely demolished, this partially excavated example of a tower keep in association with a ringwork provides important evidence about the development of military architecture in the Welsh marches in the late 11th and 12th centuries. The structural remains existing here, together with the associated artefacts and organic remains surviving in the interior and within the external ditch, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and life styles of those who inhabited the ringwork. In addition, organic remains preserved in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts and within the ditch will provide information about the local environment and the use of the land prior to and following the construction of the ringwork. The importance of the castle site is further enhanced by its proximity to the late Anglo-Saxon settlement of Pontesbury.
The monument includes the known surviving extent of the earthwork and buried
remains of a ringwork and the buried structural remains of a tower keep,
situated to the south east of St George's Church in the village of Pontesbury.
Archaeological and place name evidence suggest that Pontesbury was a
settlement of some importance in the Anglo-Saxon period. The existence of this
settlement is believed to have influenced the siting of the ringwork, which
occupies undulating ground above the base of the Rea Brook valley. From this
position the ringwork would have controlled the movement of people along this
and the adjoining valleys.
The ringwork is now discernible as an oval shaped mound, which was formerly
circular, approximately 50m in diameter at its base. In relation to the
undulating ground which it occupies, and as a result of modern landscaping,
the height of the mound varies from 0.7m at the north to about 3m along its
western side. In 1960, 1961 and 1964 limited archaeological excavations were
carried out on the site, and it was found that the ringwork was defined by a
V-shaped ditch about 8m wide and 1.7m deep, which had cut through the natural
boulder clay. Material excavated from the ditch had been used to build an
internal rampart about 5m wide. These defences post-dated deposits containing
charcoal, bone, and a riveted fragment of iron, although this earlier
occupation was undatable. The rampart of the ringwork appears to have been
slighted and a new one built shortly afterwards utilising the remains of the
existing defences. Pottery found in association with the later rampart has
been dated to the late 12th or early 13th century. In the interior of the
ringwork the buried remains of a succession of contemporary timber and
stone-built structures were revealed. The largest and best preserved of these
buildings was a tower keep, built of stone with footings about 18m square,
located in the eastern half of the ringwork. Pottery found in association with
the tower keep suggests that it was constructed in the 12th century. Close to
the tower keep a thick layer of charcoal and burnt wattle and daub was found,
suggesting that the timber buildings, belonging to the final phase of the
castle, had been destroyed by fire. The excavated evidence would seem to
suggest that the castle went out of use by 1300. The rampart was subsequently
levelled and was used to infill the ditch.
According to the Domesday survey, in 1086 the manor of Pontesbury was held by
Roger Fitz Corbett for Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury. Documentary
sources indicate that the manor continued to be held by Roger Fitz Corbett's
successors as lords of Caus Manor until the 14th century. There is, however,
no mention from the documentary sources of a castle at Pontesbury during this
period. The only mention of a castle here is much later, when John Leland, in
his tour of the region, recorded that the castle buildings were in ruins. A
documentary source indicates that the tower keep was being used as a quarry
for stone in the 19th century, which led to it being levelled at this time.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling these are; Cedar Way
house, the outbuilding and coal bunker at the back of Arfry house, all modern
boundary and garden walls and fences, all modern paths, driveway and yard
surfaces, all ornamental garden features, sheds and a greenhouse, the remains
of a former pig sty, an oil storage tank and the brick footings on which it
stands, and a utility pole; the ground beneath all these features is, however,
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
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire : Volume VIII, (1968), 251
Barker, P A, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Pontesbury Castle Mound Emergency Excavations 1961 and 1964, , Vol. 57, (1966), 206-23
Walker, W S, Land Adjacent To Berwyn, Main Road, Pontesbury. Archaeol. Eval, 1994,
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