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HER Number:MDV18248
Name:Totnes Castle Bailey


Totnes Castle bailey enclosed an area to the north of the castle motte in the 11th century which would have held the medieval hall, chamber and chapel. An outer bailey is also visible to the north.


Grid Reference:SX 799 605
Map Sheet:SX76SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTotnes
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishTOTNES

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX86SW/20/2
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 99088
  • Old SAM County Ref: 4
  • Old SAM Ref: 22356
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX76SE19

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BAILEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Full description

Whitely, H. M., 1916, Untitled Source, 189-96 (Article in Serial). SDV169688.

Totnes Castle bailey. The existing gateway is modern, although it could be on the site of the original gateway. The wall of the bailey was originally a prolongation of the town wall and is 1.6-1.9 metres thick and 4.5 metres high. Considerable portions of this remain, enclosing circa 1 acre. The wall runs up the motte on the west and joins the wall of the shell keep.

Office of Works, 1922, Totnes Castle (Schedule Document). SDV342889.

Totnes Castle includes a Show Place with a tennis court overgrown with trees and brushwood.

Rigold, S. E., 1954, Totnes Castle, 228-54 (Article in Serial). SDV342887.

Trial pits excavated in the bailey circa 1953, produced evidence for a richly wrought hall of the 13th century, with Purbeck shafts, slate roof and glazed ridge tiles.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1957, SX76SE19 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV342891.

A series of cards with detailed descriptions of the castle taken from Whitley's and Rigold's articles in the TDA in 1916 and 1954 respectively. The keep and bailey walls are ragstone built with limestone blocks and slabs of local shaley stone. The curtain and bailey walls have been robbed of about half their width, and much of the bailey wall seems to have been rebuilt after the castle had lost its military value. The bank enclosing the outer bailey may in fact be part of the defences of the Saxon town.
The castle was undergoing restoration by the Ministry of Works at the time of a site visit in 1951. Description and cross sections of the keep and bailey walls given. Some wall footings have been found in the bailey, the only evidence for buildings there.
A Roman flue tile found in the motte is presumed to have come with clay from the river.
Excavations have shown that that motte was probably built in the time of William the Conqueror. Evidence for a building dated to 1200 or just after was found. More building took place in the bailey in 1219 which fell into neglect in the mid 13th century.
Pottery found falls into two main groups. The most numerous are late 12th-early 13th century, the other group are late mid 13th century. A few other sherds are mostly 17th century. No coins earlier than the 17th century were found.
In conclusion, the castle appears to have originated before 1200 (it is referred to in the Feet of Fines for 1205: Watkin 1914), existing under various ownerships and conditions (it was chiefly owned by the Dukes of Somerset and descendants from 1599: Watkin 1914) under the Ministry of Works assumed guardianship in 1947.

Rigold, S. E., 1975, Totnes Castle (Pamphlet). SDV342899.

Part of the surviving bailey wall (at SX77966056), 2-3 metres thick, has a passage running within the thickness of the wall, which probably originally gave access from the keep to some postern gate set in the circuit of the bailey wall. The remainder of the bailey wall is probably a later and narrower rebuild. The remains of the moat are strong and well preserved. During recent re-turfing of the bailey wall footings were discovered just below the surface at: SX79956054, SX79986052 and SX80016053. Large bailey of horse shoe plan enclosed by moat intended to hold water. Traces of an earthen bank round inner lip of moat where palisade originally stood. This was later replaced by a stone curtain wall. Curtain was known to be crumbling in 1273 and the surviving portion of thick wall may be a 14th century rebuild. The foundations of buildings in the bailey can be seen in the northwest and southeast quarters in dry weather. The hall was probably near the west wall with the chapel possibly at the north end. Plan.

Gerrard, S., 1995, 140334 (Report - Survey). SDV342914.

Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants, 1996, Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes (Report - Assessment). SDV340328.

Department of Environment, 1996, Totnes Castle (Schedule Document). SDV342890.

The inner bailey is attached to the northwest side of the shell keep from which it is separated by the moat. This bailey is of horseshoe plan shape, measures 63 metres long by 54 metres wide, is defined on 3 sides by a curtain wall and outer moat and on the fourth by part of the ditch surrounding the motte. Within the bailey are a series of earthworks which are confined to the edges. These may be the result of later landscaping or may indicate the position of buildings backing onto the curtain wall. The most obvious of these is a 14 metre diameter and 1.4 metre high mound situated immediately north of the visitor entrance. This may represent either a curtain wall tower or a dump of rubble. The inner bailey was originally constructed at the same time as the motte and was protected by an earthen bank surmounted by a timber palisade. In the 14th century, the palisade was replaced by a stone curtain wall of which only the northwest quadrant remains standing above ground level. The remainder probably survives as a buried feature and was used as a foundation for the later much thinner garden wall which follows the line of the earlier defences. Within the inner bailey a range of domestic buildings were constructed between the 11th and 14th century and cropmarks visible within this area during dry weather represent a number of buried structures. The great hall probably survives near the west wall with the chapel at the north end.
The outer bailey lies immediately north of the moat protecting the inner bailey. Part of its northern and eastern defences can no longer be traced on the ground so it is not possible to establish the original extent. The surviving part includes a triangular area 64 metres east to west and 40 metres north to south defined by a 10 metre wide and 3 metre high scarp. A second scarp lies 4 metres to the northwest and is 6 metres wide by 2 metres high. It may also have had a defensive function. It is not known what type of buildings lay within this bailey though stables, smithy, brewery and other industrial structures are the most likely.
Date first scheduled: 30th August 1922. Date of most recent amendment: 16th July 1996

Brown, S., 1998, Totnes Castle: An Archaeological Desk-based Assessment, 2-3, Figure 6 (Report - Assessment). SDV346119.

The site of the proposed visitor facilites straddles the presumed course of the castle ditch, extending on its west side into the berm flanking the inner rampart. The west side of the site lies close to the presumed line of the stone curtain wall which replaced an earlier timber wall surrounding the bailey in the early 14th century. There is also the potential to expose remains of a possible Norman or later medieval gateway through the castle wall, and associated bridge or causeway across the defensive ditch/moat.

Brown, S., 1999, Totnes Castle Terrace Walls: An Archaeological Assessment (Report - Assessment). SDV346121.

Brown, S., 2002, Totnes Castle: An Archaeological Evaluation, 2-5, Figures 1-2 (Report - Evaluation). SDV346116.

Two evaluation trenches were excavated within the castle bailey, close to the present entrance. Both trenches exposed a series of late 17th and 18th century earth dumps that extend to depths of between 0.8 metres and more than 1.2 metres below the present ground surface. In Trench 2, a wall footing of medieval or early post medieval date was located, cut through the surface of a clean clay deposit at a depth of 0.8 metres. The structure of the wall suggests it is likely to have supported a wall of a single storey building, or possibly an internal partition wall of a building for which there is at present no other evidence. A post hole was also located, at the north-west corner of the trench, and cut through the same deposit.

Green, T., 2008, North Gate Lodge, Castle Street, Totnes: Results of an Archaeological Desk-Based Study, 5-6 (Report - Assessment). SDV342884.

The bailey would originally have been surrounded by a substantial bank and held within it the residence of the medieval lords of the castle. The bailey is defended on the north side by a large steep-sided ditch and bank with traces of a further ditch enclosing an outer bailey which may have been a secure area for holding horses and livestock.

Brown, S., 2008, Totnes Castle Archaeological Watching Brief, 2, 5-6, Figures 1-6; Plates 1-5 (Report - Watching Brief). SDV346117.

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken during groundworks associated with the construction of a new site admissions building at Totnes Castle. The works located three wall footings probably associated with a medieval gatehouse, and a large stone foundation which may once have formed an abutment for a bridge leading into the medieval castle.

Brown, S., 2011, Totnes Castle: Summary of Recent Archaeological Work 1999-2008 (Un-published). SDV352030.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Orellana, J., 2016, Totnes Castle, Devon: Programme of Archaeological Work (Report - Excavation). SDV361620.

In November 2016, Cotswold Archaeology carried out a programme of archaeological work for English Heritage in advance of the rebuilding of a collapsed section of boundary wall at Totnes Castle, Devon.
Substantial cut 108 was not fully exposed in the trench and was undated artefactually, but is presumably part of the moat protecting the inner bailey, which is now dry but which survives as substantial ditched earthworks in the area of the trench. It is possible that layer 104 within cut 108 represents slumped/slighted material from a former outer bank.
Stone wall 102 was the foundation of the extant western boundary wall, which recently collapsed in the area of the trench. This wall foundation was undated artefactually, but is believed to be post-medieval in date. The wall was built in limestone rubble, randomly coursed and bonded with white sandy mortar. Its northern (external) face was well finished; its southern (internal) face was unfinished. A single fragment of clay tobacco pipe was recovered from a stony consolodation layer which butted the southern wall.

Historic England, 2023, National Heritage List for England, 1168856 (National Heritage List for England). SDV365228.

The Castle. A motte and bailey castle, presumably with timber fortifications, was constructed by Judhael of Totnes shortly after the Conquest. It occupied the north-east corner of the Anglo-saxon burgh. The earliest shell-keep, built by Reginald de Braose circa 1219, was extensively rebuilt together with the rest of the castle by Baron Zouche in 1326. The castle was later owned by the Edgecombes of Cothele and the Seymour family, by whom it was placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works in 1947. The main function of Totnes castle was to act as a centre for the manorial courts under the constable, and as a base for the administration of the family estates. The earliest remains, apart from the motte and bailey earthworks, are masonry footings on the top of the motte of an Cll or C12 square, timber tower. The surviving upstanding masonry is mostly of C14 date and comprises a circular masonry shell-keep and sections of the bailey curtain wall. Keep of Devonion limestone rubble with red sandstone dressings and battered external face. Crenellated battlements with merlons pierced for loom; approached by 2 stairways in the thickness of the wall. Garderobe chamber also within the thickness of the curtain and projecting beyond the line of the wall; lit by pair of crossed loops. Bailey curtain-wall of pitched limestone rubble. The hall and other domestic buildings which formerly stood in the bailey no longer survive. Flanking the entrance to the site are 2 granite pillars possibly taken from the Exchange built in 1616 and pulled down in 1878. Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Date first listed: 14th November 1969

Sources / Further Reading

SDV169688Article in Serial: Whitely, H. M.. 1916. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 48. A5 Hardback. 189-96.
SDV340328Report - Assessment: Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants. 1996. Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K477. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV342884Report - Assessment: Green, T.. 2008. North Gate Lodge, Castle Street, Totnes: Results of an Archaeological Desk-Based Study. Southwest Archaeology Report. 060915. A4 Stapled + Digital. 5-6.
SDV342887Article in Serial: Rigold, S. E.. 1954. Totnes Castle. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 86. A5 Hardback. 228-54.
SDV342889Schedule Document: Office of Works. 1922. Totnes Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV342890Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1996. Totnes Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV342891Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1957. SX76SE19. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV342899Pamphlet: Rigold, S. E.. 1975. Totnes Castle. Department of Environment Guide. Paperback Volume.
SDV342914Report - Survey: Gerrard, S.. 1995. 140334. Monument Protection Programme. Unknown.
SDV346116Report - Evaluation: Brown, S.. 2002. Totnes Castle: An Archaeological Evaluation. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 stapled + Digital. 2-5, Figures 1-2.
SDV346117Report - Watching Brief: Brown, S.. 2008. Totnes Castle Archaeological Watching Brief. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2, 5-6, Figures 1-6; Plates 1-5.
SDV346119Report - Assessment: Brown, S.. 1998. Totnes Castle: An Archaeological Desk-based Assessment. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2-3, Figure 6.
SDV346121Report - Assessment: Brown, S.. 1999. Totnes Castle Terrace Walls: An Archaeological Assessment. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #82187 ]
SDV352030Un-published: Brown, S.. 2011. Totnes Castle: Summary of Recent Archaeological Work 1999-2008. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV361620Report - Excavation: Orellana, J.. 2016. Totnes Castle, Devon: Programme of Archaeological Work. Cotswold Archaeology. 16680. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV365228National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2023. National Heritage List for England. Digital. 1168856.

Associated Monuments

MDV9063Part of: Totnes Castle (Building)
MDV62838Related to: Garden Terraces, Castle Motte, Totnes (Monument)
MDV9095Related to: North Gate, High Street, Totnes (Building)
MDV79071Related to: Possible Bridge, Totnes Castle (Monument)
MDV79070Related to: Possible Gatehouse, Totnes Castle (Monument)
MDV18247Related to: Totnes Castle Motte and Keep (Monument)
MDV62840Related to: Trench, Totnes Castle, Totnes (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV1749 - TILE (Late Medieval - 1401 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FDV1750 - SHERD (XV to XVII - 1500 AD to 1700 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV4545 - Assessment of Northgate Lodge, Castle Street, Totnes
  • EDV4961 - Archaeological Evaluation at Totnes Castle
  • EDV4962 - Archaeological Watching Brief at Totnes Castle
  • EDV7609 - Programme of Archaeological Work: Totnes Castle, Totnes, Devon (Ref: 16680)

Date Last Edited:Nov 2 2023 5:35PM