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HER Number (PRN):01056
Name:Pontesbury Castle
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1019826: Ringwork and tower keep

Monument Types

  • RINGWORK (11th century to 14th century - 1066 AD to 1300 AD)
  • TOWER KEEP (11th century to 14th century - 1066 AD to 1300 AD)

Summary

Scheduled Monument: A well-preserved ringwork and tower keep (a nationally rare type of medieval stronghold defended by a bank and ditch) which appears to have controlled the Rea Valley at this point until about 1300, Pontesbury Castle has been shown by excavation to contain significant archaeological remains.

Parish:Pontesbury, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Shropshire
Map Sheet:SJ40NW
Grid Reference:SJ 4012 0600

Related records: None recorded

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA1159 - 1961 excavation by English Heritage
  • ESA1160 - 1961-1964 Excavation at Pontesbury Castle by Philip Barker
  • ESA1161 - 1971 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA1162 - 1984 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1163 - 1982 WB by Shropshire County Council
  • ESA6206 - 2005-08 WB at the Cedarway, Chapel Street, Pontesbury by Castlering Archaeology
  • ESA6482 - 2010 WB at the Oaklands, Chapel Street, Pontesbury by Castlering Archaeology
  • ESA6813 - 1998 DBA of Pontesbury Castle, by SCCAS
  • ESA8182 - 2017 WB on excavations for a new dwelling on land rear of Manchester House, Main Road, Pontesbury by Castlering Archaeology (Ref: 15/00999/FUL)

Description

A ringwork of three periods with a ditch some 6ft deep with a rampart corresponding on the inside. First occupation on natural ground level; no structures found in small area excavated. Period two marked by a secondary rampart of stones and clay piled against the back of the first. Associated with this second rampart were the remains of a wall of unmortared stones. The remains of period three consisted of a clay floor with four small postholes along its edge. No dateable finds from period One. Periods Two and Three dated by pottery to 1150 -1225 <1a>

In 1960, 1961 and 1964 limited archaeological excavations were carried out on the site. The ringwork was defined by a V-shaped ditch, cut through the natural boulder clay, which was then used to build an internal rampart. First defences on site were thought to have preceded by only a short time the second rampart, dated by pottery to late C12 or first half C13. Massive footings of a square tower or keep were identified. The tower, which was probably constructed at the same time although no positive chronological relationship was found, contained a layer of burnt wattle and daub with pottery of 1150-1300. Presumably, as no later pottery could be found, the tower went out of use by the latter date, and was possibly destroyed by fire. The footings identified were largely sandstone rubble, and the core of the wall was of Stiperstones quartzite, with pink mortar. No faced stones were recovered, and it was postulated that the walls were likely rubble faced and perhaps subsequently plastered (One regular cut stone was found in an excavation in 2008 [<9>]). The tower keep was postulated to be around 40 to 50ft high based on the massive foundations, with standing walls at least 6 to7ft thick. The ditch section showed it had been deliberately filled with clay suggesting the ramparts had been thrown into it. This back filling took place after the 14th century and possibly as late as the 19th century. The ruins were mentioned by Leland [<1bi>], and the tower was still being robbed of stone in the early C19. <1b>

Mound originally some 60m diameter has been destroyed on all but W side where it remains to a height of 1.5m. OS FI 1971 <1>

The present alignment of Chapel St, Castle Meadow, and Main Road, enclosing the ring-work, suggests that there was a large outer bailey <2>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1: High score as one of 15 Tower Keep Castles; High score as one of 20 Ringworks <7>

Scheduling affirmed in 2001. Scheduling description: ->

-> The monument includes the known surviving extent of the earthwork and buried remains of a ringwork and the buried structural remains of a tower keep, situated to the south east of St George's Church in the village of Pontesbury. Archaeological and place name evidence suggest that Pontesbury was a settlement of some importance in the Anglo-Saxon period. The existence of this settlement is believed to have influenced the siting of the ringwork, which occupies undulating ground above the base of the Rea Brook valley. From this position the ringwork would have controlled the movement of people along this and the adjoining valleys. ->

-> The ringwork is now discernible as an oval shaped mound, which was formerly circular, approximately 50m in diameter at its base. In relation to the undulating ground which it occupies, and as a result of modern landscaping, the height of the mound varies from 0.7m at the north to about 3m along its western side. In 1960, 1961 and 1964 limited archaeological excavations were carried out on the site, and it was found that the ringwork was defined by a V-shaped ditch about 8m wide and 1.7m deep, which had cut through the natural boulder clay. Material excavated from the ditch had been used to build an internal rampart about 5m wide. These defences post-dated deposits containing charcoal, bone, and a riveted fragment of iron, although this earlier occupation was undatable. The rampart of the ringwork appears to have been slighted and a new one built shortly afterwards utilising the remains of the existing defences. Pottery found in association with the later rampart has been dated to the late 12th or early 13th century. In the interior of the ringwork the buried remains of a succession of contemporary timber and stone-built structures were revealed. The largest and best preserved of these buildings was a tower keep, built of stone with footings about 18m square, located in the eastern half of the ringwork. Pottery found in association with the tower keep suggests that it was constructed in the 12th century. Close to the tower keep a thick layer of charcoal and burnt wattle and daub was found, suggesting that the timber buildings, belonging to the final phase of the castle, had been destroyed by fire. The excavated evidence would seem to suggest that the castle went out of use by 1300. The rampart was subsequently levelled and was used to infill the ditch. [<1b>] ->

-> According to the Domesday survey, in 1086 the manor of Pontesbury was held by Roger Fitz Corbett for Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury. Documentary sources indicate that the manor continued to be held by Roger Fitz Corbett's successors as lords of Caus Manor until the 14th century. There is, however, no mention from the documentary sources of a castle at Pontesbury during this period. The only mention of a castle here is much later, when John Leland, in his tour of the region, recorded that the castle buildings were in ruins. A documentary source indicates that the tower keep was being used as a quarry for stone in the 19th century, which led to it being levelled at this time. ->

-> A number of features are excluded from the scheduling these are; Cedar Way house, the outbuilding and coal bunker at the back of Arfry house, all modern boundary and garden walls and fences, all modern paths, driveway and yard surfaces, all ornamental garden features, sheds and a greenhouse, the remains of a former pig sty, an oil storage tank and the brick footings on which it stands, and a utility pole; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included. <8>

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken during ground disturbing works in association with the conversion of an extant barn on land fronting chapel street, Pontesbury, and the construction of a conservatory between the barn and Cedarway house. In February 2008 during the construction of the conservatory, two trenches were excavated. In Trench 2 at the west end of the trench the foundations of Cedarway were revealed comprising concrete foundations on 1.2m deep layer of greyish Stipperstones quartzite rubblestone possibly laid with pink mortar. This extended 0.4m into the trench. Only one regular cut stone was found on the northwest corner at the top of the trench. The location of the stone and the mortared rubble suggest it may have been part of the core of the internal northeast corner of the tower as outlined by Barker in 1964, although it appears this was never exposed during these excavations. It seems likely that the stonework was only exposed and used as a foundation during the construction of Cedarway. The lack of medieval evidence recovered during the watching brief was attributed to the limits of the excavation; the early 1960s excavations; the construction of Cedarway; and the ground disturbance and changes in use of the site undertaken in the 19th century. <9>

In September 2010 an archaeological watching brief undertaken on land to the rear of The Oaklands, Pontesbury, adjacent to the site revealed no archaeological features. <10>

Interim report on 1964 excavations, including brief details of the 1961 excavations. <11>

A desk-based assessment was carried out in connection with proposals for development on the southeastern side of the castle mound at Pontesbury, in 1998. This assessment outlines past investigation history of the site, providing a summary of Barker's rescue excavations carried out in 1960, 1961 and 1964 (see <1b>). The 1964 excavations were backfilled and a house was subsequently erected on the site of the tower. There was no archaeological monitoring on the construction of the house and the extent of damage to the underlying archaeological features and deposits is not known. The assessment recommends an initial programme of work to monitor the extent of damage caused during the construction of the original building and its associated services. <12>

Archaeological monitoring and recording was undertaken during the foundation strip for the erection of a new dwelling on land to the rear of Manchester House, Pontesbury, as a condition of planning approval. The site is located c.20m northwest of the designated area of the Scheduled Monument of the Ringwork and Tower Keep that formed the medieval castle at Pontesbury. The site would have once been part of the bailey area of the castle, and although built over in the 19th / 20th century, was deemed to have some sub-surface archaeological potential. The remains of a late 19th century building were recorded. <13>


<00> Shropshire County Council SMR, Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards, SMR Card for PRN SA 01056 (Card index). SSA20722.


<01a> Anon, 1961, Keel Archaeol Gp Newsletter (Newsletter). SSA3899.


<01> Ordnance Survey, 1961, Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ40NW3 (Card index). SSA3901.


<01b> Barker Philip A, 1961/ 1964, Pontesbury Castle Mound emergency excavations 1961 and 1964 (Article in serial). SSA3898.


<01bi> Leland J (ed Smith L T), 1962, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-43, p26 (Monograph). SSA3900.


<02> Gaydon A T (ed), 1968, Victoria County History 8: Condover and Ford Hundreds, p252 (Volume). SSA1126.


<03> Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC), 1986, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 21041 (Field Monument Warden Report). SSA3904.


<04> Anon, 1964, Photos of the Excavation (Photograph). SSA3902.


<05> Ministry of Works, 1961, Map of Scheduled area, 1961 (Scheduled Monument notification). SSA3903.


<06> English Heritage & Shropshire County Council, 1986, Correspondence, 1986 (Correspondence). SSA3897.


<07> Horton Wendy B, 1990/ 1991, MPP Evaluation File (TEXT). SSA20084.


<08> English Heritage, 2001, Scheduling Papers (Affirmation, 09/05/2001) (Scheduled Monument notification). SSA21362.


<09> Frost Pat, 2008, Cedarway, Chapel Street, Pontesbury, Shropshire: archaeological watching brief, p6-7 (Watching brief report). SSA23078.


<10> Frost Pat, 2010, The Oaklands, Chapel Street, Pontesbury, Shropshire: watching brief (Watching brief report). SSA23655.


<11> Various, 1964, West Midlands Archaeology News Sheet vol 7, p.10 (Volume). SSA27289.


<12> Hannaford Hugh R, 1998, Pontesbury Castle, Shropshire: a desk top assessment of land at Cedar Way, Chapel Street, Pontesbury (DRAFT) (Deskbased survey report). SSA24226.


<13> Frost Pat, 2017, Excavations for a new dwelling on land to the rear of Manchester House, Main Road, Pontesbury, Shropshire: archaeological monitoring (Watching brief report). SSA29353.

Sources

[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 01056.
[01b]SSA3898 - Article in serial: Barker Philip A. 1961/ 1964. Pontesbury Castle Mound emergency excavations 1961 and 1964. Trans Shropshire Archaeol Hist Soc. Vol 57. p206-223.
[01a]SSA3899 - Newsletter: Anon. 1961. Keel Archaeol Gp Newsletter. Keel Archaeol Gp Newsl. No 1.
[01bi]SSA3900 - Monograph: Leland J (ed Smith L T). 1962. The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-43. p26.
[01]SSA3901 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1961. Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ40NW3. Ordnance Survey record cards. SJ40NW3.
[02]SSA1126 - Volume: Gaydon A T (ed). 1968. Victoria County History 8: Condover and Ford Hundreds. Victoria County History of Shropshire. Vol 8. p252.
[03]SSA3904 - Field Monument Warden Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC). 1986. Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 21041.
[04]SSA3902 - Photograph: Anon. 1964. Photos of the Excavation.
[05]SSA3903 - Scheduled Monument notification: Ministry of Works. 1961. Map of Scheduled area, 1961.
[06]SSA3897 - Correspondence: English Heritage & Shropshire County Council. 1986. Correspondence, 1986.
[07]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File.
[08]SSA21362 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. 2001. Scheduling Papers (Affirmation, 09/05/2001). 33836.
[09]SSA23078 - Watching brief report: Frost Pat. 2008. Cedarway, Chapel Street, Pontesbury, Shropshire: archaeological watching brief. Castlering Archaeol Rep. 293. p6-7.
[10]SSA23655 - Watching brief report: Frost Pat. 2010. The Oaklands, Chapel Street, Pontesbury, Shropshire: watching brief. Castlering Archaeol Rep. 340.
[11]SSA27289 - Volume: Various. 1964. West Midlands Archaeology News Sheet vol 7. West Midlands Archaeology. Vol 7. p.10.
[12]SSA24226 - Deskbased survey report: Hannaford Hugh R. 1998. Pontesbury Castle, Shropshire: a desk top assessment of land at Cedar Way, Chapel Street, Pontesbury (DRAFT). SCCAS Rep.
[13]SSA29353 - Watching brief report: Frost Pat. 2017. Excavations for a new dwelling on land to the rear of Manchester House, Main Road, Pontesbury, Shropshire: archaeological monitoring. Castlering Archaeol Rep. 561.
Date Last Edited:Mar 19 2018 1:05PM