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Historic England Research Records

Sherborne Old Castle

Hob Uid: 199485
Location :
Dorset
Castleton
Grid Ref : ST6482016770
Summary : Sherborne Old Castle was built as a fortified bishop's palace and castle during the early 12th century on top of a natural knoll in the Yeo Valley. Its centre block of buildings were constructed of local stone, using a rubble core with Ham Hill ashlar facing. This was surrounded by a curtain wall and outer ditch. The central building survives as a partly upstanding ruin within the centre of the bailey. It dates from around 1130 AD, although the surviving remains also include at least three additional phases of construction. To the north of the great tower are the ruined remains of a 12th century range of two storeys, which formed the northern side of a small courtyard. This range contained chapels on each floor. Part excavation between 1932 and 1954 and between 1968 and 1978 have identified structural foundations and buried deposits. The area south east of the central building contains the foundations of the kitchen block whilst the foundations of a garderobe tower have been identified within the north west corner of the central building. The remains of a tiled floor were identified within the north eastern area of the Great Hall in the south range. The curtain walls have been largely reduced to ground level along the northern and western flanks, although the eastern end of the northern flank and part of the north eastern flank stand to a height of 8.4 metres. To the west of the site is a semi-hexagonal earthwork which is 25 metres in diameter and circa 1.5 metres in height. This represents the remains of a Civil War siegework. Sherborne Old Castle was constructed by Roger de Caen, Bishop of Sarum 1107-1139 and was altered and refurbished between 1185-87 and in 1592. The castle became a powerful Royalist base during the Civil War and in 1645 fell after a fierce 11 day siege. Much of the castle was subsequently demolished and left in ruin. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : [Centred at ST 64821677] Sherborne Castle [GT] Remains of (1)

Built by Roger. Bishop of Salisbury, between 1107-1135. To this period belongs the whole of the main lay-out of the castle, including the eastern wall with its towers & gates, and the central block.

After the fall of Roger the castle passed into the hands of the Crown with whom it remained until 1337, being returned shortly after this date to the Bishops of Salisbury.

The foundations of various buildings have been recently [written in 1952] uncovered, and date from various periods, not always determinable.

The property passed into the hands of Sir. W. Raleigh in 1592, who commenced restoration, this work was soon abandoned & the castle fell into disrepair. It was, however, held for the King in 1642, and was again besieged in 1645, surrendering on Aug. 15th of that year to Fairfax. The castle was then demolished & rendered untenable. Extensive excavations have been undertaken in recent years and are [1952] being continued.

The ruins are of interest as one of the most important examples of semi-military and semi-domestic architecture of the 12.c. (2)

Interim reports on the excavation undertaken by C.E. Bean. (3-5)

Sherborne Castle. History and role as an important ecclesiastical and Royal church. (6-8)

Brief history of the castle. (9)

Find of other periods (ST 64821676) Ro. coin A.D. 337-350 found during work at the castle has no particular significance. (10)

Mentioned. (11)

Excavations at the Great Hall, South-West gateway and South wall. (12)

Sherborne was one of the castles of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, siezed by King Stephen in 1139. It was captured by the Earl of Gloucester, who was apparently allowed to retain it by Henry II. Only after the Earls death in 1183 did it become a royal castle. Although thereafter in royal hands, it was a minor possession and little was done to maintain it. In 1331 it was granted to William de Montague, the future Earl of Salisbury. (13-15)

Pre C12th features at Old Sherborne Castle. (16)

Additional references. (17-19)

Listed by Cathcart King. (20)

Additional reference. (21)

An archaeological project conducted in conjunction with repair and consolidation works at the early 12th century castle comprised standing fabric recording and a single trench excavtion between 1998-2000. Fabric recording encompassed the standing remains of the bridge and gatehouse at the main (South-West) entrance, the barbican to the North, the North-East gate, and parts of the central tower and courtyard ranges.

The stone bridge originally comprised two abutments, two arches, and a central free-standing pier. The abutments and pier retain remnants of projecting masonry which show that both former arches originally contained three broad ribs which are likely to have supported a stone vaulting. The bridge is probably 12th century. In the later mediaeval period, a stone-lined pit was inserted into the abutment next to the gatehouse, almost certainly for a wooden turning bridge, or drawbridge, which replaced the innermost stone arch.

The South-West gatehouse is an original feature of the 12th century castle, and integral in construction with the adjoining curtain wall. It was built as a three-storeyed battlemented tower with a central gate-passage and small single-chamber porter's lodge or guardroom on the ground floor, and a single unheated room on each of the two floors above. The passage appears to have had a stone vault supported by three arches or ribs, with a gate set into the middle arch.

The survey made in the areas of the barbican, North-East gate, central tower and courtyard ranges largely confrimed existing interpretation of archaeological features and their relationships. It is suggested however that the ground floors of the early 12th century West and East courtyard ranges were built with banded barrel vaults.

Excavation of a trench alongside the curtain wall to each side of the former North gate uncovered a 12th-early 13th century rubbish dump made up largely of kitchen waste. Finds from the dump include numerous fragments of cooking pot and tripod pitchers together with well-preserved environmental evidence comprising a substantial collection of animal, fish and plant remains. (22)

Built by Bishop Roger of Salisbury in the 12th century as a strongly defended palace, Sherborne Old Castle became a powerful Royalist base during the Civil War. Described as 'malicious and mischievous' by Cromwell, it fell in 1645 after a fierce eleven-day siege. Sherborne 'New' Castle is nearby. (23)

Scientific report published in 2001 presents results of the examination of charred plant material and charcoal from late 12th-early 13th century deposits at Sherborne Old Castle. This is believed to be kitchen waste. It is dominated by cereal grain and weed seeds. (24)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 107-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 74 (1953)
Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Dorset. Vol. I : west
Source details :
Page(s) : 64-6
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 825, 832-3
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Source Number : 12
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 260
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 23 (1979)
Source Number : 13
Source : Archaeological excavations
Source details :
Page(s) : 21
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Source Number : 15
Source : Sherborne Old Castle, Dorset; medieval pottery fabrics
Source details :
Page(s) : 91-102
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 101
Source Number : 16
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 195
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 18 (1974)
Source Number : 17
Source : Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England
Source details : Dorset
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) : Part 12
Source Number : 18
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 03-Jul-97
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Source Number : 19
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : West Dorset, 02-JUN-1986
Page(s) : 11
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1611
Source Number : 20
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 128
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 21
Source : Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 82
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 106-7
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 73 (1952)
Source Number : 22
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Brown S and Matthews A 2001. Sherborne Old Castle, Castleton, Dorset: archaeological fabric recording and excavation 1998-2000
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Source Number : 23
Source : English Heritage Members' and Visitors' handbook 2008/9
Source details :
Page(s) : 115
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Source Number : 24
Source : Medieval charred plant remains and charcoal from Sherborne Old Castle, Dorset; Centre for Archaeology report 70/2001
Source details :
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Source Number : 5
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 141-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 77 (1955)
Source Number : 6
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 422-7
Figs. : ILLUS
Plates :
Vol(s) : 87 (1930)
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Fowler J. 1951. Medieval Sherborne
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Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Wildman. 1902. History of Sherborne.
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Source Number : 9
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 78
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 92 (1935)
Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 FDC 26-AUG-55
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10a
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Oral: C E Bean 15-JUL-55 (Hon Com)
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1107-35
Monument End Date : 1135
Monument Start Date : 1107
Monument Type : Castle, Gatehouse, Barbican, Keep, Bishops Palace, Curtain Wall, Structure
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : consolidated mid-C18
Monument End Date : 1766
Monument Start Date : 1733
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Late C14
Monument End Date : 1399
Monument Start Date : 1367
Monument Type : Castle, Bishops Palace, Barbican, Gatehouse, Curtain Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building, Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered 1485-87
Monument End Date : 1487
Monument Start Date : 1485
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Ceased 1540
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Bishops Palace
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Restoration started 1592
Monument End Date : 1592
Monument Start Date : 1592
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Abandoned late 1590's
Monument End Date : 1599
Monument Start Date : 1595
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Refortified 1642; slighted 1645
Monument End Date : 1645
Monument Start Date : 1642
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Civil War siege
Monument End Date : 1649
Monument Start Date : 1642
Monument Type : Siegework
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Partly demolished 1645
Monument End Date : 1645
Monument Start Date : 1645
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : COIN
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 2
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 105566
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 4
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22986
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 313
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 61 NW 47
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 199470
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 199473
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 619209
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1932-01-01
End Date : 1932-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1940-01-01
End Date : 1959-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 61 NW 47
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1955-06-16
End Date : 1955-06-16
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON ST 61 NW 47
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1955-08-26
End Date : 1955-08-26
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1976-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE CASTLE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1981-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NEW ROAD WATER MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT SHERBORNE OLD CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31