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Name:Essendine Castle
HER Ref:MLE5238
Parish:Essendine, Rutland
Grid Reference:TF 049 128
Map:Coming soon

Monument Types

  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)


Earthwork remains of a fortified moated site with a dependent enclosure containing the Norman chapel, now the parish church. Fishponds lay to the north and south of the castle.

Additional Information

Scheduled Monument description:
Essendine Castle is a large fortified manor site with a fishpond and an ajoining enclosure containing a church. A further set of fishponds originally lay to the south of this, but were destroyed in the last fifty years. The moat is very large, the outer dimensions being about 100m square. The ditch is 30m wide on the western side, up to 40m on the north, and 3-4m deep. The moat island occupies an area of 55m x 50m. The adjoining fishpond, of roughly triangular shape, measures about 60 x 30m in maximum dimension, and has a break in the bank connecting it to the moat ditch where some stonework is showing. A substantial stream called the West Glen River flows from north to south on the eastern side of the site which is bounded by an earth bank. The outer enclosure to the south side is rectangular, measuring 120 x 50m in overall dimension and has access via a bridge. The church is of Norman origin. Historical records indicate that the medieval complex was probably built by the Busseys or Robert de Vipont at the end of the 12th or early 13th centuries. It is described in an account of 1417. The strong defensive nature of the site, and its similarities to Woodhead Castle 5km to the east, suggest a variation on a ringwork. St.Mary's Church is a listed building grade II* and is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath the church is included. The modern burial area to the south of the church is totally excluded.

Site scheduled 11/09/91.

Two pieces of floor or roof tile with glaze, one later medieval pot sherd and one roof slate with a circular nail hole, all found by a rabbit hole on the west edge of the island at TF 0490 1285. (RK 30/07/01)

<1> Hartley R F, 1983, The Medieval Earthworks of Rutland, p15, p18 (Bibliographic reference). SLE601.

"The complex of earthworks is heavily overgrown and the plan here is based on the Ordnance Survey. There is a large moated platform (2) with a fishpond (1) to the north, and an enclosure on the south side containing a chapel (now the parish church). A complex of small fishponds (4) is now ploughed away. The castle is described in an extent of 1417 (Blore 1811, 201, Page 1935, 250)."

<2> Elkin, Kathleen (ed), 2015, Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire, p132, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox (Bibliographic reference). SLE5149.

"A fortified moated site with an adjoining sub-rectangular banked enclosure which acts as a bailey. The latter contains a mid 12th century chapel, now the parish church of St Mary. The moat and enclosure were once flanked to the north and south by fishponds, but only the northern pond survives. (Hartley 1983, 15). A high status residence is suggested in documents from the late 13th through to the late 16th centuries, and in 1417 a description is given of an extensive manorial site (Blore 1811, 201), however there are no references to a castle here (Page 1935, 250-1). There is controversy over the founding of the castle; the Bussey family and later the de Viponts owned the land from the late 1150s onwards, but it is likely to have been Walter Espec who owned the land at Domesday, and Creighton suggests that the similarity in form of Essendine to Espec's main holding, Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire, is probably more than coincidence (Creighton 1999, 25)."

<3> Brown, AE, 1975, Archaeological sites and finds in Rutland, p10 (Bibliographic reference). SLE5999.

In 1417 the moat, chapel, domestic and ancillary buildings are described as extant.

<4> Nichols J, The History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, Vol 1 pt 2 (1811), p201 (Bibliographic reference). SLE7.

See <3>

<5> Page W (ed), 1935, The Victoria History of the County of Rutland Volume 2, p250 (Bibliographic reference). SLE913.

See <3>

<6> Pevsner N, 1984, The Buildings of England Leicestershire and Rutland, p466-7 (Bibliographic reference). SLE4.

The church is said to have been the castle chapel in whose bailey it is sited. The south doorway is probably of the second third of the C12th.

<7> McK Clough, TH (ed), 2000, Rutland Record, No. 20, No. 20 (2000), p415-424 (Journal). SLE6852.

The fortified medieval site represents an early ringwork and bailey, subsequently remodelled to form the basis of an extensive manorial complex. Tradition states that the castle was raised by the Bussey family, lords of Essendine from c.1159, or their successors, the de Viponts. In 1086 the manor was in the hands of Walter Espec. The parish church lies within a rectangular enclosure appended to the site, offset immediately to the west of an earthen causeway linking former ringwork and bailey. The church may have begun as a castle chapel.


<1>Bibliographic reference: Hartley R F. 1983. The Medieval Earthworks of Rutland. p15, p18.
<2>Bibliographic reference: Elkin, Kathleen (ed). 2015. Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire. p132, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Brown, AE. 1975. Archaeological sites and finds in Rutland. p10.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Nichols J. The History and Antiquities of Leicestershire. Vol 1 pt 2 (1811), p201.
<5>Bibliographic reference: Page W (ed). 1935. The Victoria History of the County of Rutland Volume 2. Volume 2. p250.
<6>Bibliographic reference: Pevsner N. 1984. The Buildings of England Leicestershire and Rutland. p466-7.
<7>Journal: McK Clough, TH (ed). 2000. Rutland Record, No. 20. No. 20 (2000), p415-424.

Associated Finds

    None recorded


  • Scheduled Monument 1010693: Essendine castle moated site

Associated Images

Castle moat, Essendine (1981)
© Leicestershire County Council
Essendine Castle (1981)
© Leicestershire County Council
Essendine Castle (1981)
Essendine Castle, cropmarks north-east of Essendine (1994)
Essendine Castle, possible medieval cropmarks (1994)
Essendine Castle (1975)
Essendine Castle (unknown date)
RFH EWK RUTLAND Essendine.jpg
RFH plan of castle and village at Essendine
© Leicestershire County Council