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The Historic Environment Record is the primary index about the physical remains of past human activity in the unitary authority of West Berkshire. Not all records are published on the Heritage Gateway. Please read the important guidance on the use of the West Berkshire HER data.

This site is designated as being of national importance and is afforded additional protection. Consult the West Berkshire archaeology service if more information or advice is needed.

HER Number MWB1545
Record Type Monument
Name Donnington Castle
Grid Reference SU 461 691
Map Sheet SU46NE
Parish Shaw-cum-Donnington, West Berkshire
Map:Show location on Streetmap


Scheduled Monument and Grade I listed building, a 14th century quadrangular castle and 17th century fieldwork, also within a Registered Park

Associated Legal Designations or Protected Status

  • Listed Building (I) 1291031: DONNINGTON CASTLE

Other Statuses and Cross-References

  • Berkshire SMR No. (pre 2000): 01041.00.000
  • Guardianship Monument: No reference details known
  • National Monuments Record No.: SU 46 NE 45
    SU 4610 6914
  • Old Listed Building Ref (pre 1984) (II): Map No. 26 4/125 Donnington Castle
    Ancient Monument. Built in 1386. The Gatehouse, a square tower with two circular turrets, remains. ANCIENT MONUMENT
  • Old Scheduled Ancient Monument (Berkshire): BK 4

Monument Types

  • CASTLE (14th century to 17th century - 1386 AD to 1700 AD)

Full Description

The site named Donnington Castle is comprised of various elements: the ruins of a 14th century castle courtyard of flint and stone; the upstanding remains of an attached gatehouse with repairs in brick; and the surrounding earthworks from a Civil War fieldwork or star fort. All of this is a Scheduled Monument; the standing remains of the castle are Grade I listed. The site lies within the Grade II Registered Park of Donnington Grove <60>. Limited excavations were carried out in the courtyard in 1932 when the castle was in private ownership; it was placed in the care of the State in 1946 (a Guardianship monument). In the 21st century the site is open to the public without charge, but there is currently no public access inside the gatehouse or up its staircase to the roof.

The (out-of-print) official guidebook <1> is a comprehensive description of the castle, and gives background history of the site and a description of the buildings. There are many drawings of the monument from the 18th century onwards, and numerous photographs, and much has been written on the Civil War Battles of Newbury and the siege of Donnington Castle.

Richard de Abberbury received a licence from the king in 1386 to rebuild and crenellate a castle on his land at Donnington, and after this date the castle is mentioned in references to the manor. Its commanding position overlooks the crossing of two of the main north-south and east-west roads of England, but the only surviving upstanding building is the three-storey gatehouse which was added to a slightly earlier quadrangular building. The present ruined courtyard west of the gatehouse was probably a mid 14th century bailey with buildings on all sides. The curtain wall with four round corner towers and two square wall towers can be traced, but the walls now only exist to a height of a metre or less (extensively rebuilt). Most of this damage was caused during the Civil War siege of Donnington Castle, from July 1644 to April 1646, when the Parliamentarians bombarded the castle using cannons. The Royalist Colonel John Boys also altered the monument by constructing the star fort earthworks around it in 1643, when it was garrisoned.

Camden <2> described Donnington as 'a small but very neat castle, seated on the banks of a woody hill, having a fair prospect and windows in all sides very lightsome'. In 1415 the manor of Donnington was sold to Thomas Chaucer, who was probably the son of Geoffrey Chaucer, although the poet had died by this time <1>. The castle's glory days were during the Civil War when it was garrisoned for King Charles I; after the destruction of the siege, the estate's owner John Packer abandoned the building in favour of the Elizabethan lodge which became Donnington Castle House. The gatehouse however appears to have been inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century; a small cottage was constructed inside the courtyard against the ruined northeast wall <52>, but this was later removed.

Listing Description:
Castle 1386. Flint with stone dressings and some repairs in brick. Ruined courtyard with the remains of 6 towers. Gatehouse to east, possibly by Henry Yevele. 3 storeys. 2 circular towers at eastern corners of 4 stages with plinth and battlemented parapet. 2 square headed windows to east with moulded 4-centered arch below. Interior: Gatehall has 2 bay lierne vault with moulded ribs, cusped panels and carved bosses.

The GIS polygon represents the extent of the scheduled area, which includes the listed gatehouse.

West Berkshire Museum has photographs showing Donnington Castle in 1907/8, and in the late 20th century <64>.

Sources and further reading

<01>Wood, M. 1964 (1978). Donnington Castle, Berkshire - Department of the Environment Official Handbook. [Monograph / SWB7048]
<02>Camden, W. 1586 & later. CAMDEN'S BRITANNIA. 1. [Monograph / SWB11822]
<03>Gray, E W (ed)?. pre 1839. The History and Antiquities of Newbury and its Environs. P67-72, 174. [Monograph / SWB11182]
https://archive.org/details/historyandantiq00unkngoog (Accessed 15/06/2016)
<04>Newbury District Field Club. 1895-1911. TRANS NEWBURY DISTRICT FIELD CLUB 1895-1911 VOL 5. V. P223-4. [Article in serial / SWB10590]
<05>Berkshire Archaeological Society et al. 1898-1901. BERKS, BUCKS AND OXON ARCH J 1898-1901 VOL 4. IV. In ADS Journals. 10.5284/1000017. P49-60, 70-75 Donning Castle and its Ancient Lords by F N Macnamara. [Article in serial / SWB7729]
http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/berks_bas_2007/journal.cfm?volume=4 (Accessed 29/06/2016)
<06>Berkshire Archaeological Society et al. 1907. BERKS, BUCKS AND OXON ARCH J 1907 VOL 13 NO 1. 13. In ADS Journals. 10.5284/1000017. P120-1 Notes and Queries. [Article in serial / SWB11131]
http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/berks_bas_2007/journal.cfm?volume=13 (Accessed 02/02/2016)
<07>Commissioned by the Duke of Chandos. 1729/30. Map of Speen Manor. Marked 'Denington Castle'. [Map / SWB12939]
<08>J H J (initials only stated). 1797. Gentleman's Magazine. p185. [Article in serial / SWB13256]
<09>1984. County Maps and Histories: Berkshire. Reprint of a plan of the Donnington Castle Estate, dated 1654. [Monograph / SWB13259]
<10>Cotman, (initals unclear). c1810. Dunnington Castle [sic]. [Graphic material / SWB13262]
<11>Hooper, S. 1783. Dunnington Castle [sic]. [Graphic material / SWB13263]
<12>Rowland, S. 1980. Donnington Castle . [Graphic material / SWB13264]
<13>Shepard, G & Woobuck, W. 1823. Donnington Castle . [Graphic material / SWB13265]
<14>Higgott, A R. 1986. Written Correspondence. [Unpublished document / SWB13266]
<15>Shadlock, Fred. 1990. Note of conversation. [Unpublished document / SWB13267]
<16>?. ?. Dunnington Castle [sic]. [Graphic material / SWB13261]
<17>Newbury Museum. Decorated Medieval Floor Tile. [Graphic material / SWB13255]
<18>Newbury Weekly News. 1957. Is there a tunnel from Donnington Castle to Shaw House?. [Article in serial / SWB13257]
<19>Young, P and Emberton, W. Sieges of the Great Civil War 1642-1646. [Monograph / SWB13258]
<20>24/07/1948. CUCKE5-7. [Photograph / SWB617]
<21>09/04/1949. CUCCB75-8. [Photograph / SWB618]
<22>25/06/1955. CUCQA5-8;10-12. [Photograph / SWB619]
<23>30/05/1962. CUCAES64-9. [Photograph / SWB620]
<24>01/11/1969. CUCAZU51-4. [Photograph / SWB621]
<25>01/11/1969. CUCAZU55. [Photograph / SWB622]
<26>03/04/1942. CUCBH593-4. [Photograph / SWB623]
<27>13/08/1975. CUCBVW40-2. [Photograph / SWB624]
<28>Allen, G W G. 25/03/1934. NMRSU4669/1 ALLEN442. [Photograph / SWB626]
<29>13/08/1975. CUCBVW43. [Photograph / SWB625]
<30>Ordnance Survey. 1960s-70s. Ordnance Survey Field Investigators Comments. F1 JP 15-OCT-63. [Personal observation / SWB14640]
<31>Oxford Archaeological Unit. Archaeological Assessment, Shaw-cum-Donnington Village Settlement, August 1989, SU 463 694. [Unpublished document / SWB13409]
<32>Newbury District Field Club. 1937. TRANS NEWBURY DISTRICT FIELD CLUB 1937 VOL 7 NO 4. p217-8 Notes on Alterations to the House (Shaw) since its Building by Thomas Dolman in 1581. [Article in serial / SWB10479]
<33>Morris, W A D. 1940. The Ancient Parish of Shaw-Cum-Donnington. [Monograph / SWB13260]
<34>Morris, W A D. 1969. A History of the Parish of Shaw-cum-Donnington. p41. [Monograph / SWB12974]
<35>Gidley Robinson, G. 1920. Shaw-cum-Donnington: Local Antiquities. pp4-7. [Unpublished document / SWB13315]
<36>Ditchfield and Page (eds). 1907. Victoria County History (VCH) Berks II 1907. Vol 2. p150, 153-7. [Monograph / SWB11244]
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol2 (Accessed 24/09/2015)
<37>West Berkshire Heritage Service. June 2002. Discover Newbury… Donnington Castle. [Unpublished document / SWB14210]
<38>Department of the Environment. 1974-2000?. DOE List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. [Unpublished document / SWB10006]
<39>Pevsner, N. 1966. The Buildings of England (Berkshire). p128. [Monograph / SWB10024]
<40>Harrington, P. 2003. English Civil War Fortifications 1642-51. p26, 36, 45-6, 61, Illust p27. [Monograph / SWB14322]
<41>Porter, S. 1994. Destruction in the English Civil Wars. p62, 71, 108, 128, 136. [Monograph / SWB146782]
<42>Harrington, P. 1992. Archaeology of the English Civil War. Shire Archaeology 68. p11-12, 15-16, 23, 37, 55 and cover. [Monograph / SWB146735]
<43>Grimwood, T D. 1993. The Impact of the Civil War on Newbury and the Surrounding Area. [Unpublished document / SWB146740]
<44>Lawson, E. 1860-1870. The History of the Two Battles of Newbury and of Donnington Castle. [Monograph / SWB13463]
<45>Rogers, Col H C B. 1968. Battles and Generals of the Civil Wars 1642-1651. [Monograph / SWB146743]
<46>Disbury, D. 1978. Berkshire in the Civil War. p98-108. [Unpublished document / SWB146749]
<47>Blundell, B. 1859. The Two Battles of Newbury 1643-1644. [Unpublished document / SWB146742]
<48>Emberton, W. 1997. The English Civil War Day by Day. p129-132, p168. [Monograph / SWB146781]
<49>English Heritage. 2005. Donnington Castle, Berkshire (Education Service notes). [Unpublished document / SWB14481]
<50>Channer, N. 2004. Newbury Living Memories. p42. [Monograph / SWB147337]
<51>Scott, C L. 2008. The Battles of Newbury - Crossroads of the English Civil War. [Monograph / SWB147462]
<52>Page and Ditchfield (eds). 1924. Victoria County History (VCH) Berks IV 1924. Vol 4. p93-4, Plates facing p96-7. [Monograph / SWB10281]
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol4 (Accessed 24/09/2015)
<53>West Berkshire Museum. 2006. Heritage Guide No 1 - The Civil War in Newbury. [Unpublished document / SWB148018]
<54>West Berkshire Museum. 2006. Heritage Guide No 2 - Donnington Castle. [Unpublished document / SWB148019]
<55>Society of Antiquaries. 1873. ARCHAEOLOGIA 1873 44. XLIV. p459-79 by H Godwin. [Article in serial / SWB148110]
<56>Tyack, G, Bradley, S and Pevsner, N. 2010. The Buildings of England (Berkshire). p273-4. [Monograph / SWB147855]
<57>Cathcart King, D J. 1983. Castellarium Anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Vol 1, p10. [Monograph / SWB147232]
<58>1860. JBAA 1860 16. XVI. p76-100, Visit 13 Sept 1859. [Article in serial / SWB10466]
https://archive.org/details/journalofbritish16brit (Accessed 12/04/2016)
<59>Robertson, A S. 1792. Topographical Survey of the Great West Road from London to Bath Vol I. I p150-2. [Unpublished document / SWB13306]
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UwkQAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0v=onepage&q&f=false (Accessed 25/09/2015)
<60>Historic England (previously English Heritage). 1987. Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England. Donnington Grove. [Unpublished document / SWB12616]
<61>1950-83. Buildings included in the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, pre Review. WBC Network. Map No. 26 4/125. [Unpublished document / SWB10875]
<62>Greenaway, D and Dunlop, L. 2011. Around the 3 Valleys. p39-41. [Monograph / SWB148275]
<63>Rocque, J. 1761. Rocque's Map of Berkshire. 1:35,000 (approx). Marked 'Donington (sic) Castle'. [Map / SWB7242]
https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search/3/collection/700042/rocques-map-of-berkshire (Accessed 12/06/2017)
<64>Newbury Museum Accession Records (West Berkshire Museum since 1998). NEBYM:2000.20.122-125; Frith.NBRY.8. [Unpublished document / SWB14452]

Related Monuments

MWB1546Civil War Earthworks, Donnington Castle (Monument)
MWB1547Donnington Castle Gatehouse (Monument)
MWB6284Donnington Grove (Park) (Landscape)
MWB15775Newbury II Battlefield (Landscape)
MWB15905Donnington Castle House (Building)
MWB16056Possible Civil War siege trenches, Snelsmore Heath (Monument)

Associated Excavations and Fieldwork

EWB309Shaw-cum-Donnington Village Settlement
EWB802Donnington Castle Excavations, 1920s-30s
EWB1415Berkshire County Council/Babtie general monitoring