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Name:Whitwick Castle
HER Ref:MLE4541
Parish:Whitwick, North West Leicestershire, Leicestershire
Grid Reference:SK 435 161
Map:Coming soon

Monument Types

  • MOTTE AND BAILEY (Early Medieval - 1067 AD to 1349 AD)

Summary

Norman motte and bailey castle that fell out of use in the C14th; it was described as 'old and ruinous' by 1427. Nichols noted foundations were visible in the late C18th. It was damaged by the railway. The motte is a circular mound in the centre of the hill, 2-3m high.

Additional Information

Scheduled Monument description:
The motte and bailey castle is situated on an oval-shaped natural hill at the junction of two streams within the small north-west Leicestershire town of Whitwick. The bailey of the castle is formed by the natural rise of the hill and occupies an area measuring approximately 100m x 35m, rising 7-8m from the surrounding land. The scarp is steepest on the eastern side where the hill falls away to the Grace Dieu Brook. The motte is a small circular mound situated in the centre of the hill rising to about 2m in height. The castle was held by the Earl of Leicester in the middle of the 12th century and had come into royal hands by 1204 when King John installed William de Senevill as keeper. By the 14th century it was in the hands of the Earls of Lancaster when Henry Beaumont had licence to crenellate in 1321 and in 1331 he complained that the castle had been broken into. It thereafter fell into disrepair and by 1427 was described as 'old and ruinous in which there are no buildings and worth nothing yearly'. At the end of the 18th century it was said that the foundations of the castle could still be seen and a wall was still visible on the north side in 1893. A row of cottages situated on the north side of the site and an approach drive to them are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

Cantor has a summary of the documentary evidence. He says Whitwick Castle was held by the Earl of Leicester in the mid C12th.

A 'spherical ballista' (cannon ball?) was given to Leics Museums in 1955. It was stone, 22" diameter. It was found built into the wall at the foot of Castle Hill.

The almshouses have been converted to a dwelling.


<1> Page, William (ed), 1907, The Victoria County History of the County of Leicester, Volume 1, Vol 1: 261-2 (Bibliographic reference). SLE1156.

VCH describes the site. Castle Hill is a flat-topped hill. On top of this is a flat topped mound some 8' high. The site had been damaged by the railway.


<2> 1891-3, Leicestershire & Rutland Notes and Queries (Bibliographic reference). SLE3776.

Rev A F Tollemache in c.1893 noted 'a low sunk wall in front of some alms houses, now secularised' (presumably the cottages on the hill top) as the only remains of the castle. He also noted burials south-east of the hill on the south-east side of Skinners Lane and a dam north-west of the hill which may have provided water defences to the hill.


<3> Nichols J, The History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, Vol 3 (1800) pt 1: 112 (Bibliographic reference). SLE7.

Nichols noted that 'the foundation walls of the castle are still to be seen in a close called 'Castle Hill'.'


<4> Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 1855-present, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol 15 (1928): 231-240 (Journal). SLE6.

Farnham notes that it was held by William de Senevill on 4th December 1204 for King John. In 1321 Henry Beaumont had licence to crenellate. In 1331 he complained that several people 'broke his castle at Whitwick and the houses, walls, ditches and hedges of the same'. In 1349 a capital messuage at Whitwick was said to be worth nothing (the Beaumonts were granted Beaumanor in the 1320s and probably abandoned Whitwick in its favour). In 1427 'in the site of the said manor and castle, old and ruinous, in which are no buildings and worth nothing greatly'.


<5> Hartley R F, 1984, The Medieval Earthworks of North West Leicestershire, p48 (Bibliographic reference). SLE326.

The early Norman motte and bailey castle is constructed on a natural hillock at the junction of two streams, and the site of the keep is marked by a mound 2 or 3 metres high.


<6> Finn, Neil, 2013, 2013 Supplement to Archaeological Desk-based Assessment, Nos. 5-11, Market Place, Whitwick (Unpublished document). SLE4077.

Research in 2013 found no conclusive evidence to suggest the castle had had an outer bailey.


<7> Elkin, Kathleen (ed), 2015, Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire, p137-8, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox (Bibliographic reference). SLE5149.

"Nichols (1800, 112) states that the foundations of the castle walls could still be seen in a close called Castle Hill. Fieldwork by the local vicar in 1893 (Tollemache 1893, 13-15) recorded a low sunken wall as the only remains of the castle and notes burials (presumably from a castle chapel, as it is on the wrong side for the church) to the south-east of the hill. A dam to the north west may have created a moat-like lake around the hill. In 1907 a flat topped motte c.8 feet high was recorded on a flat topped hill east of the church. A late 19th century railway line cuts through the hill, damaging the site considerably (Page 1907, 261-2) although the mound was still 2-3m high when surveyed in the 1980s (Hartley 1984, 48). There is no evidence of a formal bailey enclosure, but the flat hilltop is likely to have acted as such. The castle was held by the Earl of Leicester in the mid 12th century (Cantor 1978, 38) and by William de Senevill for King John on 4th December 1204. John Comyn, Earl of Buchan lived at the castle in the late 13th century. In 1321 Henry Beaumont was given licence to crenellate the site, but the Beaumonts appear to have abandoned the site in favour of Beaumanor in the 1320s. The castle was damaged in 1331 (presumably by stone robbers), was deemed worthless in 1349, and was completely ruinous by 1427 (Farnham 1928, 231-240)."

Sources

<1>Bibliographic reference: Page, William (ed). 1907. The Victoria County History of the County of Leicester, Volume 1. Vol 1: 261-2.
<2>Bibliographic reference: 1891-3. Leicestershire & Rutland Notes and Queries.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Nichols J. The History and Antiquities of Leicestershire. Vol 3 (1800) pt 1: 112.
<4>Journal: Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society. 1855-present. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society. Vol 15 (1928): 231-240.
<5>Bibliographic reference: Hartley R F. 1984. The Medieval Earthworks of North West Leicestershire. p48.
<6>Unpublished document: Finn, Neil. 2013. 2013 Supplement to Archaeological Desk-based Assessment, Nos. 5-11, Market Place, Whitwick.
<7>Bibliographic reference: Elkin, Kathleen (ed). 2015. Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire. p137-8, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox.

Associated Finds

  • CANNON BALL (Medieval - 1067 AD? to 1539 AD?)

Designations

  • EUS Historic Urban Character Area HUCA48: Whitwick historic core
  • Scheduled Monument 1012555: WHITWICK CASTLE