HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV16840
Name:Axminster Castle


A castle may have been built at Axminster by William Brewer circa 1200.


Grid Reference:SY 297 986
Map Sheet:SY29NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishAxminster
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishAXMINSTER

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SY29NE8
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY29NE/40
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SY29NE8
  • Pastscape: 449542

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CASTLE (Early Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Unknown, 123 M/TB 159 (Record Office Collection). SDV348698.

There is a reference, undated by possibly early 13th century, to a messuage 'beneath the old castle'.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SY29NE8 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV348696.

Polwhele, R., 1793-1806, The History of Devonshire, Vol. 3, 271, 289 (Monograph). SDV21030.

The Yonges had a residence, 'The Castle' at Axminster, at the time of Henry VII, afterwards a public house and warehouse.

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica (Monograph). SDV323771.

Pole, circa 1600, reported seeing records proving there was a castle at Axminster, the seat of the Lords Brewer.

Davidson, J., 1843, Untitled Source, 60 (Monograph). SDV342762.

Sometime between 1297 and 1303 the Abbot of Newenham granted a house 'newly built upon the castle in the town of Axminster'.

Pulman, G. P. R., 1865, The Book of the Axe, 595 (Monograph). SDV124122.

Pulman mentions the discovery of walls, 10 inches thick, during trenching in the gardens of Castle Hill House and suggests that the Bell Hotel may stand on the site of the castle.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Market on site of Castle' marked on 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map, at the top of Castle Hill.

Unknown, 1907, Proceeding at the Forty-sixth Annual Meeting of the Association, 22-23 (Article in Serial). SDV348697.

The ruins of a dripping well from Axminster Castle can be seen on the premised of the Bell Hotel.

Higham, R. A., 1979, The Castles of Medieval Devon, 152-154, 298, fig. 49 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV336189.

Although there is no firm evidence, there was probably a castle here, possibly founded circa 1200 by William Brewer. The Market Place has persisted in tradition as the site of the castle and a ditch survived in the area into the 19th century. No physical evidence now remains. The place name Castle Hill first appears in the 15th century and there is a 13th century documentary reference to an 'old' castle in Axminster.

Illegible, 1984, Axminster Castle (Worksheet). SDV358626.

Higham, R. A., 1986, Was There A Castle at Axminster?, 182-3 (Article in Serial). SDV348700.

Higham concludes that strong local tradition, documentary and place name evidence together with the fact that King John granted William Brewer a licence to build three castles, one of which was in Devon all point to the existence of a medieval castle at Axminster.

Weddell, P. J., 1991, Archaeological Appraisal of Potential Development Areas in Axminster and its Environs, 3, 12 (Report - Assessment). SDV99927.

The site of the medieval castle at Axminster is unknown but the placenames Castle Hill and Castle Street suggest a location to the north of the churchyard.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 449542 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV348701.

Alleged site of a castle and/or hillfort. Conclusion based on sections of flint wall found in buildings and trenches near the alleged site in the 19th century and reported observations of a ditch. Road construction works undertaken (1975) in the immediate area of what was once Castle Hill House gardens did not reveal any features of archaeological interest. Other details: SY29NE8. Record last updated: N/A.

Historic England, 2015-2016, NRHE to HER prototype, 445428 (Website). SDV359652.

Summary description
Alleged site of a castle and/or hillfort. Conclusion based on sections of flint wall found in buildings and trenches near the alleged site in the C19th, and reported observations of a ditch.

Full description
"Axminster Castle, now entirely destroyed", is included in a list of prehistoric earthworks. (1)

(SY 29689860): 'The Castle' within the town is an open space occupied by the market place. It is topographically suitable for a prehistoric defensive work and there are distinct traces of a ditch. A castle was later erected on the site and though no vestige of this building remains associated relics may be the thick walls of the Bell Hotel cellars and the ancient arched well. In 1824 trench digging in the garden of Castle Hill House revealed flint walls 10 ft. thick which could be part of the castle. (2).

Sir William Pole (circa 1600) says he has seen records which prove there was a castle at Axminster probably a seat of the lords Brewer (3).

The Yonges had a residence at Axminster (besides The Great House, Colyton) called 'The Castle' and lived there in the time of Henry VII. This afterwards became a public house and a warehouse. (4)

The area alleged by Pullman (2) to be the site of Axminster Castle is now completely built-up, but the names Castle Hill and Catle Street (a) are still applied to this locality. Traces of a ditch, or other defensive structures, were not located during field investigations, and local enquiry proved negative. The building formerly known as the Bell Hotel is of probable 18th century date.

Road construction works recently undertaken in the immediate area (SY 29719868) of what was once Castle Hill House gardens, did not reveal any features of archaeological interest. (5)

1 Devonshire Association reports and transactions 648 4, 1871 Rev R Kirwan
2 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION Pulman (1875) Book of the Axe pp592-5 & Plan
3 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION D & S Lysons (1822) Magna Britannia 6 Devon 2 p23
4 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION R Polwhele: History of Devon vol 3 pp180 271 & 289
5 Field Investigators Comments F1 JWS 20-NOV-75
5a Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 25" 1972

Monument types, periods and evidence

Related events
is related to 449543 Field observation on SY 29 NE 8 Field Observation (Visual Assessment

Related archives/objects
None recorded

Compiler NORMAN VICTOR QUINNELL HE NRHE Monument Inventory 05-11-1975 05-11-1975
Compiler JOHN WILLIAM STONE HE NRHE Monument Inventory 20-11-1975 20-11-1975

When created: prior to 01-APR-1999
Created by Inventory

Sources / Further Reading

SDV124122Monograph: Pulman, G. P. R.. 1865. The Book of the Axe. The Book of the Axe. Unknown. 595.
SDV21030Monograph: Polwhele, R.. 1793-1806. The History of Devonshire. The History of Devonshire. Unknown. Vol. 3, 271, 289.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336189Post-Graduate Thesis: Higham, R. A.. 1979. The Castles of Medieval Devon. University of Exeter Thesis. Unknown. 152-154, 298, fig. 49.
SDV342762Monograph: Davidson, J.. 1843. The History of Newenham Abbey. Unknown. 60.
SDV348696Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SY29NE8. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV348697Article in Serial: Unknown. 1907. Proceeding at the Forty-sixth Annual Meeting of the Association. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 39. Unknown. 22-23.
SDV348698Record Office Collection: Unknown. 123 M/TB 159. Unknown.
SDV348700Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1986. Was There A Castle at Axminster?. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 44. Paperback Volume. 182-3.
SDV348701National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 449542. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV358626Worksheet: Illegible. 1984. Axminster Castle. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV359652Website: Historic England. 2015-2016. NRHE to HER prototype. https://nrhe-to-her.esdm.co.uk/home. Website. 445428.
SDV99927Report - Assessment: Weddell, P. J.. 1991. Archaeological Appraisal of Potential Development Areas in Axminster and its Environs. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 91.14. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3, 12.

Associated Monuments

MDV81024Related to: Hillfort at Axminster (Monument)
MDV63678Related to: The Bell Inn, Axminster (Monument)
MDV18625Related to: Town Mill, Axminster (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 24 2019 3:18PM