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Historic England Research Records

Taunton Castle

Hob Uid: 190841
Location :
Somerset
Somerset West and Taunton
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : ST2260924575
Summary : A motte and bailey castle probably built by Bishop William Gifford between 1107-1129, replaced in the early 13th century by a shell keep castle. From the later 13th century the castle was the primary adminstrative centre for the manor of Taunton Dene, it was also used to hold Assizes from 1280. The castle defences were improved in 1575 in preparation of an anticipated Spanish invasion, and in 1645 by the parliamentarians Sir Robert Pye and General Blake. An order to destroy the fortifications of Taunton in 1662 lead to the infilling of the moat and demolition of the Keep. A prison was in use at the castle until the late 17th century and the Great Hall was used for public meetings during the 18th and 19th century. In 1873 the Great Hall was bought by the Somerset Natural History and Archaeology Society and it houses the County Museum and local History Society.The castle comprised a keep, inner ward and outer bailey enclosed by an outer moat 12 metres wide and 3 metres deep.which has been identified from excavations. The main castle buildings, situated within the inner ward, included the keep and extant buildings such as the Great Hall, Camera and Constable's Tower. The outer bailey, which contained auxillary buildings accessed by an eastern garden, has been extensively built over.
More information : [Area: ST 22622460] TAUNTON CASTLE [G.T.]
[ST 22602464] GREAT HALL [G.T.]
Somerset County Museum [NAT] (1)

The castle, traditionally built by Bishop William Gifford, 1107-29, originally consisted of a motte and bailey. A rectangular keep of ashlar was built on the site of the motte at ST 22642464 circa 1160-70, together with a curtain wall. This was destroyed in the 17th century. The bailey was later divided into inner and outer wards by a ditch with a retaining wall, dated to 1170-1210 by excavations of 1927. Castle Bow incorporates remains of 13/14th century gate house but the second entrance on the west is destroyed. The buildings of the inner ward include the Great Hall and Camera and a 13th century building; the Constable's Tower partly 12th-13th century at the southwest end of the hall; a round tower probably 13th century, a re-constructed gatehouse of 15th century flanked by buildings of that date; in the southeast corner of a semi-circular shell tower on Medieval foundations; in the northernmost corner, remains of a tower with a late Norman arch. There is a probable 1644-5 siege work on the site of the eastern rampart. The castle site is scheduled.

See ST 22 SW 43 for a possible pre-conquest earthwork found beneath the great hall in excavations of 1952. Some Saxon bone gaming pieces were found during excavations on the site of keep in 1924-9. (2-6)

As described. See map diagram and illustrations for details. (7)

Excavations of Taunton Castle in 1964 established the following building sequence:

a. Construction of the camera sub-vault circa 1107-1129.

b. Excavation of the inner moat and construction of curtain wall
on either side of inner gatehouse 1208-9.

c. Reconstruction of the camera, 1247-8.

d. Construction of chapel range, 1248-9.

(Dating of the camera and chapel range confirmed by Winchester Pipe Rolls). (8-9)

No change to report of 6-OCT-1965. (10)

Observations on Castle House (ST 22632463), a 15th century building against the Castle's curtain wall. (11)

Castle Hotel: Originally formed the East Gate to the Castle precincts. 13th century chamfered arches, and corner buttresses with setoffs. Otherwise altered. Ashlar to ground floor rubble with ashlar dressings above. Crenellated parapet. Castle Green front is three storeys with Georgian and later Gothic sash windows. Much weathered carved stone tablet. Each front has similar windows, carving of bishop's mitre and sham portcullis. Building now part of Castle Hotel.

The inhabited parts of the Castle. A very important complex of buildings which was originally the medieval castle of the Bishops of Winchester. William Giffard between 1007 and 1129 converted the Bishop's Hall into a castle of which the west wall, with its narrow clasping buttresses, now looks out upon the modern Wyndham Hall to west. Henry of Blois, his successor as bishop, built the keep. Bishop William Ralegh during 1245 to 1249 carried out the rebuilding of the great hall and chamber (now the Somerset room) as well as the Chapel of St Nicholas. In the room just over the inner gate were the bishops' exchequer and treasury. The Castle was held by Robert Blake when beseiged by Royalists 1644-5. The north wall still bears marks of damage caused by gunfire from across the River Tone. In 1662 the keep was demolished. Assize courts (including the famous "Bloody Assizes" of 1685) were held in the Great Hall until 1858. Somerset Archaeological Society acquired the buildings in 1873. Buildings include:-

Round tower, Norman buttresses and window in west range.
Constable's Tower with 13th century windows at north-west angle.
Great Hall with 15th century windows.
Walls of the Norman keep in the garden to the north of the
Castle Hotel (excavated 1924-9).
Gateway of 1495.
17th century house at south-east angle with fine shell hood to doorway in courtyard.
Small Adamesque library dating from circa 1785, when Sir Benjamin Hammet was Keeper of the Castle and did much restoration.
Recent Wyndham galleries.

Concise architectural history. (13)

The remains of the keep were surveyed by Dr.W.Rodwell. (14)

The moat was excavated in 1980 at Mill Lane, ST 2268 2467. The outer lip was revetted with late and post-medieval walling. The re-cut had two truncated Saxo-Norman features, a pit and a large leat feature running northeast. (15)

Full report of Mill Lane excavation (authority 15) (16)

Listed by Cathcart King. (17)

A motte and bailey castle replaced by a shell keep castle during the 13th century. The Winchester Pipe Rolls of 1207 state the castle was enlarged and strengthened as part of a wider programme of fortification of castles in Somerset and Dorset by Peter de Roches. The programme involved the construction of a moat and enclosure around the castle and town and construction of a palisade. From the later 13th century the castle was the primary adminstrative centre for the manor of Taunton Dene. It was also use to hold Assizes from 1280. The castle was besieged by Yorkists in 1451. In 1575 the defences were improved in preparation of an anticipated Spanish invasion. In 1644 the castle and town were captured by the parliamentarians under Sir Robert Pye and General Blake in 1644. Blake improved both the town and castle's defences in 1645. An order to destroy the fortifications of Taunton lead to the infilling of the moat and demolition of the Keep. A prison was in use at the castle until the late 17th century and the Great Hall was used for public meetings during the 18th and 19th century. In 1873 the Great Hall was bought by the Somerset Natural History and Archaeology Society and houses the county museum and local history society.

Much of the castle dates from the 13th century and comprised an inner ward and outer bailey enclosed by an outer moat, identified from excavations as being 12 metres wide and 3 metres deep. The inner ward measured 104 metres east-west and 68 metres north-south and contained the main castle buildings which include The Keep and the Bishop's Great Chamber. Excavations have shown that the Bishop's Great Chamber, which measured 16 metres by 13 metres, was constructed in the early 12th century. Modifications during the 13th century reduced the building to 9 metres in width and extended it to 21.5 metres in length. The Keep or the Great Tower, which dates from the 13th century was situated within the northeast area of the castle site. The foundations survive to a maximum height of 2.85 metres and include 17 visible stone courses. Documentary sources refer to the tower as having five towers, a hall and soldiers' chambers. It was refurbished in 1364-5 and included the use of one of the towers as a goal. Other structures documented within the inner ward include a pantry, kitchen, tower, bridge, garden and the Chapel of St Nicholas which was situated next to the inner gate.

The outer bailey which measured 140 metres east-west by 120 metres north-south contained auxillary buildings and was accessed by an eastern gate house. Most of the outer bailey has been extensively built over. (18)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1960
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (A W Vivien-Neal, H St.G Gray)
Page(s) : 45
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 86
Source Number : 11
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (R Taylor)
Page(s) : 25-27
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 118 - 1974
Source Number : 12
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Taunton Deane, 04-Jul-1975
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 744
Source Number : 13
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Clark G T. 1884. Military Architecture in England II, 488-92
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Source Number : 14
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 130
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 122 - 1978
Source Number : 15
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 99
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 125 - 1981
Source Number : 16
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Archaeology of Taunton, (Western Archaeological Trust Excavation Monograph 8) 1984 53-8 Illus. P Leach (I Burrow)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 17
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
Source details :
Page(s) : 444-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 18
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 07-Dec-95
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (C A R Radford, A D Hallman)
Page(s) : 55
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 98 - 1953
Source Number : 4
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (J H Spencer)
Page(s) : 38
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 56 - 1911
Source Number : 5
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : (W.A.Seaby)
Page(s) : 98
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 107 - 1950
Source Number : 6
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : Ancient Monuments East and West 1961, 83 (MOW)
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NVQ 06-OCT-1965
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (A D Hallam)
Page(s) : 98-103
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 109 - 1965
Source Number : 9
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : (T J Hunt)
Page(s) : 39-44
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 115 - 1971
Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 MJF 09-SEP-1975
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Constructed 1107-1129
Monument End Date : 1129
Monument Start Date : 1107
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Replaced early C13
Monument End Date : 1232
Monument Start Date : 1201
Monument Type : Shell Keep, Moat
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1245-9
Monument End Date : 1249
Monument Start Date : 1245
Monument Type : Great Hall, Domestic Chapel
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : from 1280
Monument End Date : 1858
Monument Start Date : 1666
Monument Type : Assize Court
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Defences improved
Monument End Date : 1575
Monument Start Date : 1575
Monument Type : Moat, Castle
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Keep demolished
Monument End Date : 1622
Monument Start Date : 1622
Monument Type : Keep
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Defences improved
Monument End Date : 1645
Monument Start Date : 1645
Monument Type : Moat, Castle
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Used untl late C17
Monument End Date : 1700
Monument Start Date : 1667
Monument Type : Prison
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : C18-C19 use
Monument End Date : 1900
Monument Start Date : 1701
Monument Type : Meeting Hall
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : From 1873
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date : 1873
Monument Type : Museum
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 269653
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 4/38/18
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : SO 105
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 269652
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22851
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 22 SW 47
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 619460
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1916-01-01
End Date : 1916-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1924-01-01
End Date : 1929-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1952-01-01
End Date : 1952-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1964-01-01
End Date : 1964-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 22 SW 47
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1965-10-06
End Date : 1965-10-06
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1972-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1972-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 22 SW 47
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1975-09-09
End Date : 1975-09-09
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE (JUBILEE GARDENS)
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1976-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1978-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MILL LANE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1980-01-01
End Date : 1980-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 2-5 MILL LANE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1990-01-01
End Date : 1990-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WYNDHAM GALLERY, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COUNTY MUSEUM TOILET BLOCK, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ALMSHOUSE, TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE WALK
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE WINCHESTER ARMS, CASTLE GREEN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MILLERS WINE BAR, MILL LANE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CORPORATION STREET (ROAD SIGNS)
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIRE HYDRANT TRANSFER, CORPORATION STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GREEN/CASTLE WAY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE, ROOF OF ROUND TOWER
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, TAUNTON CASTLE (MUSEUM OF SOMERSET)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT TAUNTON CASTLE
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE HOTEL, CASTLE BOW
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GREEN GAS MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GREEN ENHANCEMENT SCHEME
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GREEN/CASTLE BOW
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31