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HER Number (PRN):01135
Name:Wem Castle
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Conservation Area: Wem
Scheduled Monument 1020287: Wem Castle

Monument Types

  • MOTTE (12th century to 15th century - 1100 AD to 1459 AD)
  • MOTTE AND BAILEY? (12th century to 15th century - 1100 AD to 1459 AD)


Scheduled Monument: The Norman motte (mound) on and around which Wem's medieval castle stood, a key site in the development of the town plan.

Parish:Wem Urban, North Shropshire, Shropshire
Map Sheet:SJ52NW
Grid Reference:SJ 5117 2878

Related records: None recorded

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA1464 - 1962 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA1465 - 1970 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1466 - 1983 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1467 - 1994 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA4754 - 1998 investigations in advance of remedial works at Wem Castle Motte by Marches Archaeology


Remains 10ft high with fragment of ditch 3ft deep to South. OS FI 1962 <1>
Built c1135-1154, ruined by 1290 [<13>], destroyed c1460. By 1538 all that remained was a mound and ditch. By 1750, the ditch had been filled up and the height of the mound reduced. No trace of bailey <1a>

Source [<1a>] claimed mid C12 to late C12 construction, decay by 1290 destruction in 1459 and disappearance by 1538, with further demolition of the motte in C18. In 1987 T Brown carried our a review of all the available sources. <3>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1, High score as one of 43 Motte Castles. <12>

"Mr Wilson who lately held it sunk the hill six feet and took up several large steps on the side opposite to the church. Mr Henshaw the present occupier of it has carried off several loads of stone and by frequent ploughing still lessens the height of it". <14>

CMHTS Comment: The castle may have been much larger than the castle mound and it is possible that the church originated as a chapel within the bailey. The motte, later used as a windmill [see PRN 05497] now only stands c3-4 metres higher than the surface of the filled in ditch. The ditch is outside the garden in which the motte stands and is used for allotments. <15>

CMHTS Report. <16>

Scheduling revised in 2001. Scheduling description: ->

-> The monument includes the known surviving extent of the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle situated next to the medieval church of St Peter and St Paul in the middle of Wem. ->

-> The castle was at the centre of the Pantulf baronry and was used by the Pantulfs as their principal residence, or caput. A documentary source suggests that the castle was constructed by William Pantulf between 1135 and 1154. Around the beginning of the 13th century Hugh Pantulf, with the help of Richard de Slepe, rebuilt the castle by replacing wooden structures with stone buildings. In 1235 the castle passed by marriage to the le Botiler family. In 1290 it was in ruins and was rebuilt in 1313, at which time it was held for the le Botilers by Hugh fitz Aer. In 1459 title to the castle passed to the de Audleys and it was dismantled shortly afterwards. In 1538 all that remained visible of the castle was the motte and an encircling ditch. In Garbet's History of Wem (1818) it is noted that the height of the motte had recently been reduced by quarrying and ploughing. In the mid-19th century the southern portion of the motte was further reduced in height and a brick-built retaining wall, aligned east-west, was built across the mound. ->

-> The oval-shaped motte occupies a slightly elevated position with the surrounding ground lower to the south and west. The motte measures approximately 50m by 56m at its base, 28m by 35m across the top, and stands nearly 3m high. Where it has been reduced in height to the south it is about 1.7m high. According to Garbet's description of the castle, the encircling ditch was eight yards (about 7.5m) wide. To the north the ditch has been infilled and survives as a buried feature. To the south and west little is expected to survive of this feature because of extensive landscaping carried out here in the 18th and 19th centuries. To the east much of the area of the former ditch is occupied by the graveyard of the neighbouring church and is not included in the scheduling. ->

-> A limited archaeological excavation was carried out in 1998 in relation to proposed repairs to the 19th century retaining wall, which defines the western and southern sides of the motte. Deposits of earth forming the original structure of the motte where found, sealed by layers of soil attributed to the landscaping of the site in the 18th and 19th centuries. The wall which cuts across the motte, the cobbled and paved areas, the gravel paths and the stone kerbs, all other modern ornamental garden features, including the fishpond, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included. ->

-> Despite the reduction in its height, the motte castle in the centre of Wem is a good example of this class of monument. Throughout its history Wem Castle has influenced the form and shape of the surrounding settlement. Its later modification should be seen in relation to the changes occurring to the town attributed to a renewal in economic prosperity. <17>

A series of tweleve small trenches were excavated in 1998 at Wem Castle, in association with remedial works. These were excavated to establish details of the construction of the retaining wall on the west side of the motte and the nature of the soils for engineering purposes. Five were dug against the outer face of the wall, four against the inner face, two on the interior mound and one in the area of the supposed moat. Five of these trenches were dug in alignment to give a sample of the profile of the mound. The soil profile indicated that repatching of the retaining wall has caused extensive disturbance, to a depth of 2m. Away from the wall the disturbance was significantly reduced. The soil sequence on the mound itself seems to support the sequence of events described in <14>, that the mound had been subjected to a campaign of lowering followed by agricultural/horticultural use. If this is the case then it is possible that some levels of archaeological significance may lie buried in the sides of the mound. <18>

Photographed in aerial photographic survey in 2008. <19><20>

The castle was probably of timber construction originally, subsequently upgraded in parts in masonry; there is a reference to Hugh Pantulf giving the village of Sleap to Richard de Slepe ‘for his help in building Wem Castle’ early in the 13th century. It passed through marriage to the Botilers soon afterwards but seems to have been neglected and derelict by the end of the century. Despite being repaired, it was again allowed to decay and was probably never again a stronghold – and there were certainly no attempts to fortify it during the Civil War. Wem appears to have continued to be a reasonably prosperous small market town throughout the medieval period. During the Civil War the town became an important outpost of the Parliament, after September 1643, in an otherwise mainly Royalist county and ramparts were thrown up to defend it. <21>


[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 01135.
[01b]SSA178 - Volume: Victoria County History. 1908. Victoria County History 1. Victoria County History of Shropshire. Vol 1. p387-389.
[01a]SSA4475 - Article in serial: Anon. 1920/ 1926. Field Meeting, Wem Castle, Wem Fortifications, Wem Grammar School. Trans Caradoc Severn Valley Fld Club. Vol 7. p63-67. p63.
[01]SSA4476 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ52NW2. Ordnance Survey record cards. SJ52NW2.
[02]SSA4478 - Field Monument Warden Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC). 1985. Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 17057.
[03]SSA4474 - TEXT: Brown T. 1985. Site History.
[04]SSA4477 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. Map of Scheduled area.
[05]SSA17104 - Oblique aerial photograph: Aerofilms Ltd. Oblique View, A219602.
[06]SSA17105 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/MB/0317 to 0319 (3 photos). Black and White. Medium.
[07]SSA17106 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/MB/0366 to 0368 (3 photos). Black and White. Medium.
[08]SSA17107 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/MC04/0007 to 0009 (3 photos). Colour. Medium.
[09]SSA17108 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/C/0656. Colour. 35mm.
[10]SSA4479 - Non-archaeological specialist report: Shapcott C. 1994. Structural Engineer's Report on the Wall Revetting the Mound at Castle Mound House. Structural engineering.
[11]SSA17109 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/C/0597 to 0599 (3 photos). Colour. 35mm.
[12]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File. Motte Castles.
[13]SSA6028 - Monograph: Eyton R W. 1854/ 1860. Antiquities of Shropshire (Volume 9). Vol 9.
[14]SSA5960 - Monograph: Garbet S. 1918. History of Wem. p250.
[15]SSA19974 - Record form: Buteux Victoria. 1993/ 1996. CMHTS SMR Records Shropshire: Wem. Central Marches Historic Towns Survey record form. Vol 11. Wem 1135.
[16]SSA12087 - Historic landscape survey report: Dalwood Hal et al. 1996. Archaeological Assessment of Wem, Shropshire (CMHTS). Hereford & Worcester CAS Rep. Rep 351.
[17]SSA20758 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. 2001. Scheduling Papers (Revised Scheduling, 11/12/2001). 34913.
[18]SSA21017 - Excavation report: Appleton-Fox Nic & Stone Richard. 1998. Wem Castle, Wem, Shropshire: a report on remedial works. Marches Archaeology Series. 017.
[19]SSA26993 - Oblique aerial photograph: Shropshire Council. 2008-Jul-1. SA0805_038 (1 photo) Flight: 08_SA_05. Colour. Digital.
[20]SSA25683 - Oblique aerial photograph: Shropshire Council. 2008-Jul-1. SA0805_037 (1 photo) Flight: 08_SA_05. Colour. Digital.
[21]SSA28891 - Deskbased survey report: Morriss Richard K. 2016. Roseville, New Street, Wem, Shropshire: a heritage impact assessment of proposed development. Mercian Heritage Series. 938.
Date Last Edited:May 31 2016 11:38AM