Westenhanger Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Folkestone and Hythe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 12316 37227

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.

Westenhanger Castle survives well in the form of both standing and buried remains. In addition to the substantial earthwork and structural remains of the moated inner court, the survival of a complete 16th century barn and stable of the outer court is particularly rare. Buried remains of other features in the area of the outer court, including the church, cemetery, medieval hall and walled garden, have been overlain rather than cut into by later structures, and archaeological deposits will therefore survive largely intact. As a result of extensive archaeological work and historical research, these remains are quite well understood. The association of the fortified house with contemporary features, including a deer park and water-control system, provide evidence for the way in which these features functioned as high status components of the medieval and later landscape.


The monument includes Westenhanger Castle, a medieval and later fortified manor house situated on the southern edge of the floodplain of the River East Stour. The inner court of the castle, and its outer court adjacent to the west, are built on the site of two earlier manors, Westenhanger and Ostenhanger, into which the parish of Le Hangre had been divided at the end of the 12th century. A medieval church and cemetery also occupied the site, going out of use in the 16th century when the parish was merged with that of Stanford. Also in the 16th century the two manors were reunited, subsequently passing to the crown and being greatly enhanced for royal use. At this time the outer court was established, formal gardens were laid out and a deer park was created. From the late 16th century the castle was again in private hands, and in 1701 the property was sold and most of the buildings were subsequently taken down. The present house on the site, Westenhanger Manor, was constructed in the 18th century from the remains of a 16th century cross-wing of the main hall; it is a Grade I Listed building in residential use.

During the 14th and 15th centuries the manors of Westenhanger and Ostenhanger were held by the de Criol and Poynings families. In 1343 John de Criol was granted licence to crenellate, and to this period is attributed the construction around an earlier moated site of curtain walls, which also served as internal retaining walls for the moat. Until this date the principal buildings of the moated enclosure are believed to have been a hall and gatehouse. With the construction of the curtain walls the gatehouse on the west side of the enclosure was rebuilt, and seven further mural towers were added: four corner towers (ovoid in plan on the north west and south west, round on the north east and rectangular on the south east), and an interval tower in each of the other three walls (all rectangular). The principal building was the hall, which stood on a north-south alignment against the eastern interval tower. Standing and buried remains of all of these features survive, standing to the greatest height on the north side of the enclosure where the wall and towers have been restored. The buried remains of the hall are located adjacent to the south of the present house.

The walled enclosure is trapezoidal in plan, occupying an area of approximately 60m square and surrounded by a moat which varies in width between 10m and 14m. The moat is still partly water-filled on the south and south west sides, but has been infilled on the north west; the northern and eastern arms are now generally dry. On the northern, downhill, side the moat is retained externally by a substantial earthen bank, at the eastern end of which are the remains of an inlet leat which entered the moat from the north east. At the western end of the bank is the site of a watermill, referred to in documentary sources of the 16th century but possibly earlier in origin. No remains of the watermill are now evident above ground.

Significant alterations to the fortified manor were begun in the early 16th century by Edward Poynings, who unified the two manors; at the south end of the medieval hall he added a cross-wing which contained a first floor chapel. This building was taken down in the early 19th century, but buried remains will survive. Further works were carried out after Poynings' death in 1552-53, when the property passed to the Crown. To this period is attributed the construction of the present dovecote in the high upper storey of the north east corner tower, which contains over 400 nesting boxes of brick; beneath it was a bakehouse. The conical tiled roof of the tower, at the centre of which is a louvred flight-hole, is a modern reconstruction overlying an earlier timber roof; the whole of the tower which, with the Manor is a Listed Building Grade I, is included in the scheduling. Other alterations of the 16th century included the rebuilding of the kitchens, which formerly stood adjacent to the west of the tower, and the construction of a west range, which partly survives in the form of standing ruins. To the north end of the medieval hall was added another cross-wing, out of which the present house was later constructed.

Adaptation of the fortified manor for royal use included the enhancement of the private apartments which stood to the south of the main hall, and the layout of associated gardens to the south and west. Adjacent to the buried remains of the south range is a linear terrace, extending alongside and within the line of the moat; opposite it is another linear terrace, raised above the south side of the moat and separated from it by a retaining wall. Adjacent to the south western arm of the moat a rectangular walled garden or orchard was established, also above a retaining wall; this enclosure was visible until the 20th century and is now believed to survive as buried remains beneath the modern stabling block. Along the south side of this garden, also surviving as a buried feature, a leat connected the moat to a pond adjacent to the west, which still survives. The gardens, orchards and ponds at the manor are documented in a survey of 1559.

The walled garden and pond lie within the area of the castle's outer court, which was also established in the 16th century. To the north of the garden stood the medieval parish church, referred to in documentary sources, which went out of use in 1542 as the outer court was being laid out. The church building may have remained standing as late as the 18th century. Buried remains of the church and its associated cemetery, within which human remains have been identified, were overlain in the 20th century by timber stabling.

The principal buildings of the outer court still survive as complete standing structures. At the north western end of the outer court are a stable range and barn dated to the early and late 16th century respectively. Both buildings are Listed Grade I and are also included in the scheduling. The barn is approximately 34.5m long and 9.5m wide, aligned north-south, extending at its north end over the River East Stour where it incorporates a barrel-vaulted culvert. It is divided into three three-bay crop storage areas by two pairs of projecting wagon porches. Walls of coursed ragstone support an intact hammer-beam roof of late 16th or early 17th century date. The stable building is a two-storeyed range approximately 42.5m long and up to 7.25m-7.75m wide, aligned east-west, constructed of roughly dressed and coursed ragstone with a single buttress in the west gable wall. The roof was substantially rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries, but fragments of the 16th century roof structure survive at the eastern end. In its original layout there were three internal rooms of equal size, divided by timber partitions; the present layout dates to the 18th century, when a small central room was created around the principal doorway. Most of the building's original openings are in the south wall, indicating its symbolic importance as a high status structure situated on the approach to the inner court.

Architectural details in the south wall of the stable building demonstrate that it was built against the north wall of a pre-existing structure, shown on a 17th century plan extending north-south and measuring approximately 20m x 5.5m. An inventory of 1635 suggests that this range contained domestic accommodation (the `little hall' or `maids hall') and as such it may represent the reuse for service accommodation of an earlier domestic building, possibly the hall of the second medieval manor at Westenhanger. The remains of this hall are now partly overlain by modern structures. The presence of other buildings in the outer court is indicated by the same 17th century inventory, which lists a brewhouse, faulkeners hall, lime house, workshops, coal house and milk house. The remains of these features are believed to lie beneath modern stable buildings which are largely constructed on raised platforms overlying earlier deposits.

To the west and north of the outer court are the remains of the castle's water-control system, possibly the `waters' referred to in the 1559 survey. Here the natural floodplain of the River East Stour was employed to create an expanse of shallow water around the site, forming an impressive symbolic defence around the castle's principal western approach which was in keeping with its role as a high status residence. Separately from the inlet leat to the moat, which runs south eastwards from the eastern end of the monument, the river is channelled through the floodplain to the site of the watermill and then passes through the culvert at the north end of the 16th century barn. In the western part of the monument a series of channels drain the floodplain to the west of the outer court; two transverse channels with adjacent banks and trackways may indicate the points at which the floodplain was crossed in dry periods.

On the higher ground in the northern part of the monument is a series of linear ditches and banks which partly delineate platforms and enclosures; these may include features such as paddocks and animal shelters associated with the castle. This area lay within the deer park, laid out in 1542, which also had a symbolic value as viewed from the castle. The deer park is described in 1559 as being about 400 acres (approximately 162ha) in extent. The best surviving remains of the park pale are situated to the north east of the moated site, where a substantial earthen bank is constructed along the north side of the moat's inlet leat.

Westenhanger Manor, all modern buildings, fences and surfaces 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.

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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.

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