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.
Despite the demolition of parts of its service buildings, the buried and
earthwork remains of the medieval fortified house at Compton Castle
survive well complementing the standing fabric of the house which is
Listed Grade I, and providing a context for it. The inner and outer courts
will contain buried remains which relate to the construction and use of
the house, while the earthworks of the associated formal garden and
fishpond are likely to contain stratified environmental remains relating
to the post-medieval usage of the site and its surrounding landscape.
This monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a medieval
fortified house, an associated fishpond and later garden features, at Compton
The house faces north across a shallow valley. Its double courtyard plan
contains the hall, chapel, private chambers and service ranges of a 14th
century manor house, heavily rebuilt in the later 15th to early 16th
century by the Gilbert family. The present house, which is Listed Grade I,
contains substantial parts of the latter period of construction, which was
contained within a high enclosing wall with a watch tower at its south
east corner. The front wall of the outer courtyard was heavily defended
with a central gatehouse with portcullis, capped with machicolated
battlements. To the rear of the house, parts of the service ranges
surrounding the inner courtyard have been removed, their foundations
underlying later lawns and paths. In the later 16th to early 17th century,
a third courtyard was laid out to the north, fronting the house, with a
large threshing barn on its west side. Between this courtyard and the
road, which lies to the north, slight earthworks remain of terraced formal
gardens, divided from the orchard to the east by a stone rubble faced
ha ha, while earthworks of a fishpond in the valley floor to the west measure
40m from north to south and at least 20m from east to west and up to 1.5m
deep, with a dam at the west end 10m wide and up to 1.2m high. A stream
runs along the north side of the pond beside the road. At the south west
corner of the fishpond, a tree hole 8m in diameter and 1m deep has a
circular mound 4m in diameter at its centre.
The standing buildings of the fortified house, its curtain walls and other
boundary walls, paths, courtyard surfaces and fence posts are excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.
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.