HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Historic England research records Result
Historic England research recordsPrintable version | About Historic England research records

Historic England Research Records

Merdon Castle

Hob Uid: 231087
Location :
Hampshire
Winchester
Hursley
Grid Ref : SU4209026500
Summary : Earthwork remains of an Iron Age univallate hillfort and a Medieval motte and bailey which reused the former site. The Medieval motte and bailey is said to have been built in 1129-38 and destroyed in 1156. Field Survey between 1993 and 1994 by RCHME recovered further evidence of earthworks and buried foundations suggesting that the site had been used as a military camp during World War 1 and 2. Scheduled.
More information : [Centred at SU 4208 2646] Merdon Castle [G.T.] (Remains of); Well [G.T.]. (1)

Williams-Freeman considers that at Merdon Castle a Norman keep and bailey utilizes the banks of a hillfort. This is suggested by the plan, and the name, taken together with its early importance as the centre of a Saxon hundred.

Probable I.A. Hillfort. This would seem to have been of the plateau type, such as Winklebury or Tidbury. Starting from the park gate and going in a clockwise direction, there is a single rampart and outer ditch, which makes an almost right-angled turn and after 50 yds. is interrupted by the Norman castle. On the W. side of the bailey the rampart and ditch is reinforced by a counterscarp bank. This is prominent around much of the northern part of the earthwork and at the termination by the park gate. The double rampart is across the neck of the ridge. No orginal entrance can be traced.

The Castle. The foundation is ascribed to Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, who built and fortified it in 1138. The castle was doubtless of importance during the struggle between Stephen and Maud but thereafter seems to have been a bishop's palace rather than a military castle.

Though by the 14th century some parts had fallen into decay, Bishop Edendon seems to have resided there as late as 1365.

Both inner ward and bailey are of the normal rampart and outer ditch construction; from the rampart of the inner ward to the bottom of the ditch measures 49 ft., and similar measurement of the bailey is 37 ft.

The ruin on the northern side with flint walls 8 ft. thick is doubtless the gatehouse and has an archway facing the moat. Across the moat on this side, in the interspace before the I.A. rampart, a level space is flanked on each side by a low broad bank and ditch and may represent the position of the barbican.

The present entrances between the inner ward and bailey "are probably due to mutilation".

The well is of great depth and diameter. (2-3)

A 25" survey of the Merdon Castle complex of earthworks has been made, and cross-sections are appended to this survey.

The site comprises two main features, the hillfort earthwork and the mediaeval castle. Beyond these, on the N. and W., are a confusion of banks and ditches representing hollow ways and the remains of the park pale (for which see Hants 42 NW 5).

The I.A. Hillfort. Williams-Freeman's contention that this earthwork is the remains of an I.A. fortification is clearly upheld by its plan and condition in relation to the medieval work.

It appears to have been a polygonal enclosure formed by a strong rampart and outer ditch and possibly supplemented on the north by a counterscarp bank. The later, however, may also represent the remains of the mediaeval park pale. Most of the southern side and part of the western side of the earthwork has been destroyed or overlaid. On the western side, at SU 41922647 there is a gap with inturning of the bank which is just possibly the remnants of an original entrance: all other breaks in the rampart are certainly modern.

The situation affords no natural defence from its plateau-like position, and northwards from the area the ground rises slightly.

The Castle. The Norman fortification is eccentrically placed within the hillfort. The usual plan has been adhered to and the I.A. earthworks are merely an additional obstruction. The inner ward and the bailey to the south are encompassed by a massive rampart with a correspondingly large outer ditch. The breaks at the east and west sides of the castle are not original features.

The entrance to Merdon Castle was evidently on the south side of the bailey at SU 4207 2637 where there is a break in the rampart. The ditch is not causewayed, indicating that it was bridged.

Williams-Freeman suggests that the structure at the north of the inner ward is the gateway but this is very doubtful. An entrance here would nullify the whole concept of the fortification, and there is no evidence of an approach route to the interspace beyond the wide ditch. The bank and ditches in this area which he supposes to be the site of the barbican are merely three quarry pits, not original features.

The structure, at SU 4208 2654, is of flint and stone rubble, up to 8.0m. high, and overgrown with ivy. Most of the facing stone has been robbed. It comprises two two-storeyed chambers with walls from 1.0 m two 2.3 m thick.

On the west side of the inner ward is one long and one short length of revetment walling; in both cases 2.0m. high.

The well of Merdon Castle at SU 4209 2650 is now only 3.3 m deep, due to infilling. The diameter is 2.5 m.

AO/61/123/8 for ground photograph (from the east). (4)

No change. (5)

SU 421 265. Merdon castle, built 1129-38, destroyed 1156 (6)

Merdon Castle resurveyed June 1987 and Jan 1988 (7)

Additional bibliography (8-9)

SU 421 265. Merdon Castle. Listed in gazetteer as a univallate hillfort covering 4.4ha. (10)

The site was surveyed by staff of RCHME between December 1993 and January 1994. The recognition of a ploughed-down remains of a substantial rampart in the field to the S of the earthworks has led to a reinterpretation of the shape of the outer prehistoric enclosure. A rise in the medieval ditch in the SW corner coincides with the prehistoric rampart's projected alignment and may represent where it has been cut through by the medieval ditch. On the E, the alignment of the substantial bank which turns nearly at right angles from the prehistoric rampart, closely matches the E apex of Merdon Park pale as depicted on a C16 estate map (11a). The survey has added a number of important points of detail concerning the morphology of ringwork construction. Results from a geophysical survey by AML suggest the curtain wall continued at least as far as the `gatehouse' (11b). A full field survey report is available in NMR Archives. (11)

The geophysical survey carried out in 1994 indicated the existence of buried foundations within the castle, particularly within the motte, where the evidence suggests a polygonal arrangement of buildings around an inner courtyard. Tthere is tentative documentary evidence to suggest that it may originally have been the site of a Saxon defended manorial residence dating from the eighth century. It was partly demolished in 1155 on the accession of Henry II but was used as a bishop's palace until at least the 14th century. It is possible that some of these buildings may relate to the castle's later use as a bishop's palace. A series of earthworks and buried foundations lying between the castle and the hillfort ramparts represent more recent use of the castle as a military camp during World War I and World War II. (12).

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : OS 6" 1930-38
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Field Archaeology as illustrated in Hampshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 255-258 384
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : JD Donachie/June 1994/RCHME Field Survey Report: Merdon Castle, Hursley
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11a
Source : Hampshire castles and the landscape: 1066-1216
Source details :
Page(s) : 27-60
Figs. :
Plates : 1
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11b
Source : Merdon castle, Hursley, Hampshire, report on geophysical survey, 1994
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : EH Scheduled Monument Revision, 06-NOV-2000
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle/geophysical report
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : SU 42 NW 4 (Merdon Castle) and 5 (Hursley Park) (SU 4226) (1961)
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle/ink survey
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle/heights plot
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The Victoria history of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, volume three
Source details :
Page(s) : 417-418
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Merdon Castle/pencil survey
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : SU 42 NW 4 (Merdon Castle) (1961)
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : SU 42 NW 4 (Merdon Castle) and 5 (Hursley Park) (SU 4126) (1961)
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NVQ 08-AUG-61
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 CFW 08-NOV-68
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 191 198
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Typescript,CJ Webster,Dept of Arch,Southampton Uni,Aug 1988 1-7 (7)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Timber and iron reinforcement in early buildings
Source details :
Page(s) : 15, 34, 30
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : new series, 2
Source Number : 9
Source : Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society
Source details : E Roberts
Page(s) : 137
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 42
Source Number : 10
Source : British Hillforts: an index
Source details : AHA Hogg
Page(s) : 211
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 62

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Univallate Hillfort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : C8
Monument End Date : 800
Monument Start Date : 701
Monument Type : Defended House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey, Ringwork, Bishops Palace
Evidence : Earthwork, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : World War I
Monument End Date : 1918
Monument Start Date : 1914
Monument Type : Military Camp
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : World War II
Monument End Date : 1945
Monument Start Date : 1939
Monument Type : Military Camp
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HA 29a
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HA 29b
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 34131
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1019123
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 42 NW 4
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1060797
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1060802
Relationship type : Is referred to by

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 42 NW 4
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1961-08-08
End Date : 1961-08-08
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 42 NW 4
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1968-11-08
End Date : 1968-11-08
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 42 NW 4
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: MERDON CASTLE SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1993-12-01
End Date : 1994-01-01
Associated Activities : Primary, MERDON CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MERDON CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31