Tower keep castle immediately west of St John the Baptist's Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Tower keep castle immediately west of St John the Baptist's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 39451 22156

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. 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. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Despite its use as a quarry for building materials, resulting in its fragmentary state, the tower keep castle at Ruyton-XI-Towns, in association with the adjacent church and the former town, provides tangible evidence of the stategic importance that Ruyton held during the medieval period until the beginning of the 15th century. The extant and buried remains of the tower keep will provide significant information about the construction and development of tower keep castles in this region. The buried deposits within and immediately surrounding the tower keep will contain artefactual and organic remains, which will provide important evidence about the lifestyles of the castle's inhabitants. In addition, there is the possiblity that the tower keep and the associated deposits seal the remains of earlier castle buildings. The importance of the monument is further enhanced by documentary references, which provide details on ownership and the different phases of construction and rebuilding.


The monument includes the upstanding structural, earthwork and buried remains of a tower keep castle, located 7m to the west of the church of St John the Baptist, within the graveyard. The castle is a Listed Building Grade II. The church, which is a Listed Building Grade I, dates from the mid-12th century and originally served as the castle chapel. It was enlarged in the 14th and 15th centuries, and restored in the 19th century. The church is not included in the scheduling. The churchyard cross to the south of the church is the subject of a separate scheduling.

The tower keep castle occupies a commanding position near the western end of a steep-sided promontory south of the River Perry. From this location there are extensive views over the valley below and the surrounding undulating land. This promontory was used as the bailey of the castle. It overlooked the town of Ruyton to the west, which was established in 1308 by the Earl of Arundel, on the probable site of an earlier medieval settlement. The town lost its market in 1407 and thereafter ceased to function as an urban centre.

The initial castle at Ruyton was possibly a timber structure, and was built sometime between 1086 and 1148, probably by John le Strange. It was destroyed by Welsh forces in the early 13th century and may have still been derelict in 1302 when it came into the possession of the Earl of Arundel. A documentary source indicates that by 1313 the site had been refortified and the present castle constructed. The rebuilding work at this time probably included the stone wall around the perimeter of the bailey. Parts of this wall now define the churchyard. The wall, which was extensively rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries, is a Listed Building Grade II, and is not included in the scheduling. The castle was in repair in 1357, but is last mentioned in 1364.

The tithe map of 1838 shows two cottages occupying the ground immediately to the west of the tower keep. These cottages and the outbuildings lying next to the tower keep had been demolished by 1881 when the land became part of the churchyard.

The tower keep is roughly square, about 18m across, with walls averaging 4m thick. The southern, western and northern walls stand up to 4.5m high. The line of the eastern wall is visible as a low earthwork, 0.5m high. The walls are largely built of sandstone rubble with sandstone ashlar on the external faces. The bases of all three extant walls have chamfered exteriors. Within the south wall there are two small inward sloping vents or windows, and there is a similar opening through the north wall. Stone from the tower keep has been used in the construction and repair of buildings nearby, and the extant remains of the walls have been consolidated in modern times.

A section of a modern rubble-built wall abuts the external face of the northern wall of the tower keep. This modern wall, together with the memorial stones, the associated structural features and the wooden memorial seat, 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. It includes a 3 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Buteaux, V, 'Central Marches Historic Towns report' in Archaeological Assessment of Ruyton-XI-Towns, (1996), 2-4
20th List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Hist Interest, (1987)
Shropshire: Sheet 27.2, County Series map 1:2500, (1875)
Title: Tithe Apportionment for Ruyton-XI-Towns Source Date: 1840 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Tithe Map for Ruyton-XI-Towns Source Date: 1838 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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

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