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Historic England Research Records

Wigmore Castle

Hob Uid: 108440
Location :
County of Herefordshire
Wigmore
Grid Ref : SO4084269272
Summary : Wigmore Castle lies on the Welsh border and is one of the largest of its type. The original motte and bailey castle was built by William FitzOsbern, one of William the Conqueror's captains at the Battle of Hastings, in the mid 11th century. It soon came into the ownership of the powerful Mortimer family, and became their chief fortress from which they controlled large parts of central Wales. There is some 13th and 14th century masonry but the castle was rebuilt in the early 14th century by Roger Mortimer, who virtually ruled England after Edwards II's deposition and murder in 1327. Roger was subsequently executed by Edward III in 1330. The castle passed from the Mortimer family to the Duke of York in 1424, and ultimately to Edward IV, although it was rarely used and became partly ruinous. It was repaired in the late 16th century and used as a prison after Elizabeth I sold it to the Harleys of Brampton Bryan. The castle was partially dismantled in 1643 to prevent Royalist forces using it, and has been ruinous ever since. The castle was taken into guardianship in 1995 and repairs were completed in 1999, although much of the castle still remains buried up to first-floor level.Only earthworks of the outer bailey remain, and the gatehouse is half buried in its own fallen masonry. The early 14th century curtain wall extends from either side of the gatehouse, and includes three surviving residential towers. There are earthwork and stone remains of a huge rectangular hall, and a chamber block once lay at the far end. A half-octagonal tower completed this range. The inner bailey is situated on top of the motte; at the far west end is a keep, with only its stair turret visible above ground. The great ditch incorporates part of a natural feature and separates the castle from the ridge beyond. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SO 408692) Wigmore Castle (NR). (1)

Wigmore Castle. Oval ringwork with trapezoidal bailey on the end of a long spur. Two banks, with outer ditches, running NE from the site may have been intended for a village enclosure. (2) The castle is said to have belonged to Edric the Wild (3), but in the Domesday survey of 1086 its construction is attributed to William fitz Osbern (c. 1087-70). (4)

The existing ruins consist of the remains of a shell-keep, with tower on a mound to the NW of the site, and the remains of a curtain wall enclosing the bailey extending to the SE, originally incorporating four towers and a gatehouse, and carried up the keep mound at the E. end and S. side. Within the bailey are traces of a rectangular inner enclosure, with masonry exposed at certain points. Part of the base of the N wall of the shell-keep is of early, and perhaps 12th cent, character; the rounded E tower of the castle is probably 13th century, but the rest of the structure seems to have been largely or entirely rebuilt early in the 14th century. (5)

On the hills west of the castle were two parks now ploughed up and cultivated. Rees and Taylor show the name "Park" west of the castle. (6-8)

Wigmore Castle: the main earthwork complex with substantial masonry remains survives but the majority of the outer trapezoidal bailey, and the so-called village enclosure, have been destroyed. Published 1:2500 revised. (9)

SO 408693. Powerful motte and bailey on ridge site c.1067-70 (William fitz Osbern) [c.f. Clifford (SO 24 NW 1), Ewyas Harold (SO 32 NE 1)], with numerous outworks. Masonry of 13th and 14th centuries. Castle taken in 1155, 1191 and 1322, and unserviceable by the time of the Civil War. (10)

Castle ruins. Probable mid-11th century origins. Some of the masonry is 12th and 13th century, but the structure was otherwise rebuilt during the early 14th c. Probably dismantled during the early 17th century. Sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. Appears to have been a structure of the first importance. Listed Grade I. (11)

Serious structural deterioration and the unrestricted spread of undergrowth and trees over the site reported by R Shoesmith in 1987. It was noted that the condition of the mural towers was becoming critical, with serious cracking evident in the masonry of the S and E towers. The curtain wall W of the S tower had suffered an extensive collapse in 1986 leaving much core work exposed and the remainder leaning precariously outwards, and the walls adjoining the E. tower were becoming undermined and beginning to slip. The gatehouse was now heavily obscured by a massive growth of ivy and piles of rubble. (12)

Interpretation of site by R Stirling-Brown (Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section) suggests the former existence of a lightly built octagonal tower keep at least 45 feet in diameter, with unequal sides, consisting of three storeys and a basement, and with a possible garderobe tower in the south side.
Wigmore Castle has been privately purchased and the new owners are intending to carry out a programme of preservation. English Heritage have agreed to meet half of the anticipated cost. (13)

Additional references. (14-16)

The earthwork remains of the motte, ramparts and some of the masonry of the castle described by the previous authorities were seen centred at SO 4080 6929 and mapped from aerial photographs. Also noted were the earthwork remains of a bank and hollow way leading south-eastwards from the eastern end of the castle bailey towards the village and a long bank which extenxds north-east from the castle ramparts for 320m. (17-19)

Report on restoration works. (20)

Listed and described by Shoesmith. Wigmore Castle was a major seat of the Mortimer family, Earls of March , but after Edward Mortimer became Edward IV in 1471 the castle became crown property and was abandoned in favour of Ludlow as the preferred residence. (21)

An earthwork survey of Wigmore Castle was undertaken by the Swindon Office of English Heritage during 2001 and 2002 at scales of 1:500 of the motte and bailey, and 1:1000 of the earthworks in the surrounding area. The main findings of the survey are:

1. The motte was probably a natural feature which has been 'shaped' . It measures 94 metres x 79 metres at the base and tapers to 50 metres x 18 metres at the top and stands 16 metres above a platform in the inner bailey, but 18 metres above a quarried area in the northern ditch. The inner bailey lies to the southeast of the motte.

2. The inner bailey has a broad platform below the motte with stonework of buildings visible.

3. On the northern side of the motte is a ditch, which has been quarried on the northern side. On the southern side there are two ditches seperated by a counterscarp bank. The outer ditch was probably formed during the First English Civil War when three gun platforms, or siegeworks, were placed on the bank to defend the gatehouse.

4. Beyond the counterscarp bank is an outer court. Its course can be traced by a prominant earthwork to the south, which continues beyond Green Farm. The northern and southern sides are unclear, but probably extended along the ridge top in the north and along a dry stream in the south.

5. Earthworks beyond the inner court, and on the ridge to the north, may be associated with the English Civil war defences of the castle. However, an alternative interpretation for the northern earthworks is that they may have formed part of a much larger enclosure, possibly prehistoric.

6. The linear banks on the northeastern side of the castle were thought to be possibly part of the medieval town of Wigmore. However, a more plausible explanation is that they define an enclosure within the deer park here. The deer park extends along the Adforton road and then probably follows the parish boundary onto Wigmore Rolls before descending along a stream towards the castle.

Further information on the survey can be seen in the report (Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire AI Report Series 14/2002) (22).

This important border castle belonged to Edward IV and Richard III as heirs of the Mortimer Earls of March, but owing to the loss of its archives and the ruin of its buildings, nothing is known of its architectural history between 1461-1485. (23)

When inspected in May 1984, the rectangular high rectangular platform of land to the SE of the castle was seen to be connected with the castle. It has been suggested that this area may have been a tourney ground. It is also possible that these banks were Saxon defences against the Danes, two such banks being documented at Wigmore in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 921. The Mortimers may have reutilised the banks later. (24)

Geophysical surveys were carried out by English Heritage in 1998 in the outer bailey enclosure and over the remains of a smaller series of outworks at Green Hill further to the east. Survey of the outer bailey revealed the probable lines of defensive ditches bounding the northern side of the enclosure and other possible evidence of occupation including two apparent rubble spreads, possibly related to the location of former building remains. In the area east of the outer bailey some evidence of former stone structures may have been detected on the two mounds that make up the site. (25)

A brief history and description of the site with details of conservation and repair by English Heritage. (26)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1963
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Norman Castles in Britain
Source details : (D F Renn)
Page(s) : 345-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Leominster, 11-MAY-1987
Page(s) : 34
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1421
Source Number : 12
Source : Rescue news : the newspaper of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust
Source details : (R Shoesmith). photos, plan.
Page(s) : 3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 42, SUMMER- 1987
Source Number : 13
Source : Herefordshire Archaeological Newsletter
Source details : Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section (R Stirling-Brown) Plan.
Page(s) : 30-33
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : The Victoria history of the county of Hertford, volume one
Source details : sketch plan
Page(s) : 247-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : Medieval military architecture in England. Volume 2
Source details : Medieval Miliary Architecture in England, 1884 (G T Clark)
Page(s) : 526-34
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 16
Source : Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club : transactions
Source details : (Rev J Davies). Illus
Page(s) : 22-Jul
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1881-1882
Source Number : 17
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF CPE/UK/2095/2117-19 28-MAY-1947
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 18
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : CPAT SO 4069/5-8 03-JAN-1987
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Source Number : 19
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SO 4096/13-17 04-JUL-1989
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : Heritage Today
Source details :
Page(s) : Dec-16
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 48, DEC-1999
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Monasticon Anglicanum (Sir Willaim Dugdale, 1655) ed. J Caley, H Ellis & B Bandinel 1817-30, 1846
Page(s) : 349
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : A guide to castles and moated sites in Herefordshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 229-41
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : vol.2
Source Number : 22
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : English Heritage Earthwork Survey - Wigmore Castle Feb 2002
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 23
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 854
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Source Number : 24
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : Hereford, May 1984.
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Source Number : 25
Source : Research Department Report Series
Source details : 'Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire: report on geophysical surveys, August 1998', by A Payne, 2007
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 42/2007
Source Number : 26
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in the Midlands
Source details :
Page(s) : 58-61
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Domesday Book I 183c, 9 (Philimore, 1983)
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 5
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire. Volume III: north-west
Source details : plans
Page(s) : 205-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3
Source Number : 6
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : History and Directory of Herefordshire 1858
Page(s) : 336
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Map of S Wales & the Border in the 14th cent 1932 (W Rees)
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Source Number : 8
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Map of Here 1754 scale 1" = 1 mile (I Taylor)
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Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 DJC 23-NOV-72
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 10
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details : fn. (D J Cathcart King)
Page(s) : 212, 217
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Monument Types:
Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HE 5
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 95054
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : MORPH2
External Cross Reference Number : MU.237.5-8
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 150220
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 4521/08
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 359
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Herefordshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 179
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SO 46 NW 7
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 108833
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CITY OF HEREFORD ARCHAEOLOGY UNIT
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date :
End Date :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SO 46 NW 7
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1972-11-23
End Date : 1972-11-23
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: MARCHES UPLANDS NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE (INNER BAILEY)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE, EAST TOWER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE: OUTER BAILEY
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WIGMORE CASTLE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT WIGMORE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31