Tower keep castle at Lower Lea


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


Ordnance survey map of Tower keep castle at Lower Lea
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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:
SO 35102 89186

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 ruinous condition, having been used as a source of stone for the construction of later buildings, the tower keep castle at Lower Lea is a good example of this class of monument. The extant and buried remains of the tower keep will provide significant information about the construction and development of tower keep castles in the Welsh Marches. The buried deposits within and immediately surrounding the tower keep will contain artefactual remains, which will provide important evidence about the social standing and lifestyles of the castle's inhabitants. The importance of the castle is further enhanced by the documentary references regarding its ownership in the 14th and 17th centuries.


The monument includes the standing structural and buried remains of a tower keep castle at Lower Lea, which forms part of the hamlet of Lea. The tower keep is believed to have been built in the late 13th or early 14th century for the Corbet family. The earliest known occupant, Robert Corbet, is mentioned in a document of about 1328-29. The Corbets were still in possession of the castle in 1645 when Parliament ordered a Royalist garrison to be removed and the castle destroyed. A farmhouse, of probable 17th or 18th century date, was built immediately next to the tower keep to the south. The farmhouse was enlarged in the mid-19th century and contains a wooden panel inscribed with a date of 1560, which has been reset into the modern extension. A 19th century cartshed and granary abut the remains of the tower keep to the north. The tower keep, farmhouse, cartshed and granary are all Listed Buildings Grade II.

The tower keep occupies a slightly elevated position in an area of undulating land and is overlooked by higher ground to the south east. The tower keep is rectangular in plan, with three of its walls extant and standing to a maximum height of 9m. The extant remains measure approximately 10m east-west by 13m north-south, with walls about 2.5m thick. The tithe map of 1844 shows the outline of the tower keep prior to the demolition of the northern part of the building and the construction of the granary and cartshed. It would appear from this map that the tower keep was originally about 16m long (north-south). The foundations of the northern part of the building, together with the contemporary remains of internal floor and external yard surfaces, will survive as buried features. The tower keep is a three-storeyed structure with a basement, a first floor hall, and private chambers above. It is constructed of coursed limestone rubble with dressed sandstone around the door and window openings. In the southern wall of the basement is a splayed opening, blocked with stone and incorporating a modern wooden lintel. Along the western wall the division between the basement and the first floor is marked by a scarecement (a ledge created by the additional thickness of the lower part of the wall to support floor joists). At first floor level in the south western corner of the building are the remains of two blocked doorways. Access to the first floor from outside was through the doorway in the southern wall, visible as a pointed (four-centred) arch with a portcullis groove and drawbar holes. Next to this doorway in the southern wall is a splayed window opening, adjacent to an external stone balcony with a dressed sandstone plinth and supported by four dressed sandstone corbels. Access from the first and second floors would have been by means of an internal circular stairway, remains of which were noted in 1858 prior to the demolition of the northern part of the building. In 1844 excavations, undertaken in the course of building work close to the tower keep, found the remains of an arch about five feet (1.5m) wide and five feet high.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the farmhouse, cartshed, granary and all agricultural buildings, a shed, an oil storage tank and the concrete and brick base on which it stands, yard surfaces, modern walls, fence and gate posts; however, the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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
Jackson, M, Castles of Shropshire, (1988), 32
Edwards, E, Notes on Castellated Structures of Shropshire, 1858,
Title: Lea and Oakley Townships 1844: Tithe map Source Date: 1844 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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