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Acton Burnell Castle

Hob Uid: 70213
Location :
Shropshire
Acton Burnell
Grid Ref : SJ5339501900
Summary : The remains of Acton Burnell Castle, a 13th century fortified residential complex. In 1284 Robert Burnell (Chancellor of England, and Bishop of Bath and Wells), was granted a licence by the king to crenellate and fortify a property at Acton Burnell. Now a shell, the 'castle' resembles a Norman keep built of red-coursed sandstone, with two central storeys under a twin-span roof, and four battlemented projecting corner towers. It would have constituted a self-contained suite of rooms and was designed as the main dwelling for the Chancellor and his household. St Marys Church, this manor house, and the tithe barn, all lie on a roughly rectangular platform along which a moat can be traced. The moated complex survives well and is a good example of a large moated site of high status, one of the most substantial of its kind in the county. Work continued on the manor throughout Burnell's lifetime, and it seems likely that it was still in progress at his death in 1292. The large first floor windows suggest that it never held any serious defensive purpose, and was probably designed to showcase Robert's wealth and importance.The property stayed in the family but ceased to be used as a residence by 1420. It subsequently passed to the Lovells of Titchmarsh, and was consficated by Henry VII in 1485 and given to the Earl of Surrey in 1513. In the 16th century it became part of the estates of the Duke of Norfolk, and by the 17th century had passed to the Smythe family. By this time most of the original buildings had been demolished, which would have included accommodation for staff, guests, and attendants, stables, bakehouses, and breweries. In the 18th century a pyramid roof was added to the south-west tower to convert it into a dovecote, and Acton Burnell Hall was built to the north of the castle. The manor house ruins were also used as a barn, at which time large archways were created in the north and south walls. The site is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SJ 53390191) Castle (NR) (Remains of) (NAT).(1)

Acton Burnell Castle: see pamphlet.(2)

Ruins of Acton Burnell Castle: Grade I.(3)

Acton Burnell Castle, in the care of the DOE and open to the public, as described in the pamphlet (2) and maintained in excellent condition. Published 1:2500 survey (1972) correct.(4)

Acton Burnell Castle. Scheduled: Salop No.1.(5)

Brief description of the tower with reconstruction drawings and floor plans.(6)

Additional reference.(7)

Fortified manor house, remains of. 1284-5 for Robert Burnell (died 1292) with some late C18 alterations. Roughly squared and coursed red and grey sandstone with ashlar dressings; C18 stone slate hipped roofs over west block and south-west tower. 4-bay central block formerly with first-floor 3-bay hall and one-bay chamber over ground-floor buttery and service chambers; small projecting garderobe block to west; projecting square corner towers: formerly containing garde-robe to north-west, stairs to upper chambers to south-west; possible chapel and stairs to hall to north-east, and stairs to undercroft to south-east. 2 and 3 storeys with 4-storey towers. Battlemented parapets; towers with moulded plinth and chamfered offsets. Large 2-light windows with cusped geometrical tracery, ground floor lancets to north; rectangular openings to towers. Disturbed masonry to central block is evidence of former buttresses; there was formerly a 2-span roof, springing from corbels and a now-demolished central hall arcade. Robert Burnell was Chancellor of England and Bishop of Bath and Wells; he also built a large palace at Wells with which the design of Acton Burnell has some affinities. The ruins were used as a barn in the C18 when the large depressed archways were created in the north and south walls. To the east of the house stand the gable ends of a large C13 stone barn (County A.M. No.la) (not included on this list) and the Church of St Mary (q.v.) lies immediately to the north-west. Grade I. (8,9)

SJ 533 019. Acton Burnell Castle. Scheduled. (10)

Additional references. (11-13)

The remains of Acton Burnell Castle, a 13th century fortified residential complex. King Edward I's military campaigns in Wales frequently brought him to Shropshire, and according to tradition he held parliament in the tithe barn (approximately 100 metres north-east of the manor house) at Acton in 1283. This was supposedly the first at which commoners were represented. In 1284 Robert Burnell (by then Chancellor of England, and Bishop of Bath and Wells), was granted a licence by the king to crenellate and fortify a property at Acton Burnell, replacing the earlier house in which Robert was born.
Now a shell, the 'castle' (fortified manor house) resembles a Norman keep built of red-coursed sandstone, with two central storeys under a twin-span roof, and four battlemented projecting corner towers. As Burnell's personal chamber block, it would have constituted a self-contained suite of rooms and was designed as the main dwelling for the Chancellor and his household. It was adjacent to an extensive deer park that Robert Burnell established in 1270 (and which was enlarged in the mid 18th century). St Marys Church, the manor house, and the tithe barn, all lie on a roughly rectangular platform along which a moat can be traced for most of its circuit on the east, north and west sides. The moated complex survives well and is a good example of a large moated site of high status, one of the most substantial of its kind in the county. The moat itself is unusually large and designed both to protect the domestic complex and underline the status of its owner.
Work continued on the manor throughout Burnell's lifetime, and it seems likely that it was still in progress at his death in 1292. The large first floor windows suggest that it never held any serious defensive purpose, and was probably designed to showcase Robert's wealth and importance, also evident in the rebuilding of the adjacent Church of St Marys.
The property stayed in the family but ceased to be used as a residence by 1420, thus remaining an impressive example of a medieval fortified manor house. It subsequently passed by marriage to the Lovells of Titchmarsh, and was consficated by Henry VII in 1485 and given to the Earl of Surrey in return for his services at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. In the 16th century it became part of the estates of the Duke of Norfolk, and by the 17th century had passed to the Smythe family. By this time most of the original buildings had been demolished, which would have included accommodation for staff, guests, and attendants, stables, bakehouses, and breweries.
In the 18th century a pyramid roof was added to the south-west tower to convert it into a dovecote, and Acton Burnell Hall was built to the north of the castle. The manor house ruins were also used as a barn, at which time large archways were created in the north and south walls, and the estate was remodelled to create the parkland seen today. (14-15)

Additional references. (16-19)

In 2004 an archaeological evaluation found evidence of a short-lived timber building of probable 13th-14th century date which lay about 80 metres to the north of the castle, and is believed to have formed part of the late 13th century manorial complex. Evidence of medieval smelting was also found. (20)

Evaluation and watching brief in 2006 to the south of Concord College found little 14-16th century pottery evidence, perhaps reflecting the decline of the lordship and cessation of use of the castle as a residence in the early 15th century. (21)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1954
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Radford R. 1957. Acton Burnell Castle
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Source Number : 11
Source : Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England
Source details : Shropshire
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Vol(s) : Part 35
Source Number : 12
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 11-Jul-97
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Source Number : 13
Source : Acton Burnell Castle, Shropshire
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Source Number : 14
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in the Midlands
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Source Number : 15
Source : The Central Marches historic towns survey. Archaeological assessment of Acton Burnell, Shropshire
Source details : Extensive Urban Survey report
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Source Number : 16
Source : Acton Burnell Castle
Source details :
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Source Number : 17
Source : Acton Burnell Castle: masterplan 1st draft
Source details :
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Source Number : 18
Source : Castles from the air, with photographs from the University of Cambridge collection
Source details :
Page(s) : 35-6
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Source Number : 19
Source : Acton Burnell and its church
Source details : Guidebook.
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Source Number : 20
Source : Marches Archaeology [assessment & evaluation reports]
Source details : 'Concord College, Acton Burnell, Shropshire: a report on an archaeological evaluation.' by Jo Wainwright. 2004
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Vol(s) : 332
Source Number : 3
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Atcham Rural District Provisional List 1949
Page(s) : 1
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Source Number : 21
Source : Marches Archaeology [assessment & evaluation reports]
Source details : 'Concord College, Acton Burnell: a report on a programme of archaeological works.' by Jo Wainwright. 2006
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Vol(s) : 418
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 17-JAN-80
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Source Number : 5
Source : County list of Scheduled Ancient Monuments : December 1987
Source details : Shropshire
Page(s) : 11
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Source Number : 6
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 31-2
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Vol(s) : 138 (1981)
Source Number : 7
Source : Medieval Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 112
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Source Number : 8
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Shrewsbury and Atcham, 14-MAY-1986
Page(s) : 3
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Vol(s) : 1189
Source Number : 9
Source : Shropshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 47-9
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Source Number : 10
Source : County list of Scheduled Monuments : March 1994
Source details : Shropshire
Page(s) : 11
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Before 1284
Monument End Date : 1284
Monument Start Date : 1201
Monument Type : Manor House, Moat
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Licence to crenellate 1284-5
Monument End Date : 1285
Monument Start Date : 1284
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House
Evidence : Ruined Building, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Converted in C18
Monument End Date : 1800
Monument Start Date : 1701
Monument Type : Barn, Dovecote
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : SA 1
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 27531
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 259654
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 333
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 110302
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Register of Parks and Gardens Legacy No.
External Cross Reference Number : GD2114
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Shropshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 287
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Shropshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 5050
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SJ 50 SW 6
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 866974
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 70250
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 70216
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SJ 50 SW 5
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1980-01-17
End Date : 1980-01-17