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HER Number (PRN):01140
Name:Red Castle, Hawkstone Park
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Listed Building (II) 1237180: RED CASTLE
Scheduled Monument 1020850: Red Castle

Monument Type(s):

  • CASTLE (13th century to 15th century - 1227 AD to 1400 AD?)
  • TOWER KEEP? (13th century to 15th century - 1227 AD to 1400 AD?)
  • FOLLY (18th century - 1700 AD to 1799 AD)


Scheduled Monument: A good example of a 13th century walled stronghold, Red Castle occupies an unusual location on a sandstone ridge, and retains many structural features relating to both its original medieval function and its 18th-19th century life as a feature of Hawkstone Park pleasure grounds.

Parish:Weston-under-Redcastle, North Shropshire, Shropshire
Map Sheet:SJ52NE
Grid Reference:SJ 5716 2942

Related records

01647Related to: "Red Castle" Hoard c 220m NW of Harcourt Mill (Find Spot)
01648Related to: Finds in the 19th century of Roman coins and other items at Red Castle (Find Spot)
01141Related to: Weston Motte (Monument)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA1484 - 1991 analysis of stonework at Red Castle by CHAU
  • ESA1485 - 1985 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1486 - 1962 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA1487 - 1983 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA6045 - 1987 Restoration and Management Plan for Hawkstone Park by The Hawkstone Trust
  • ESA7766 - 2015 Conservation management plan for Red Castle, Hawkstone Park by Tim Ratcliffe Associates
  • ESA8727 - 2018 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England
  • ESA8625 - 2014 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England
  • ESA8621 - 2015 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England
  • ESA8361 - 2016 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England
  • ESA8362 - 2017 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England
  • ESA9067 - 2019 Heritage at Risk Survey by Historic England


Castle, remains of. Begun 1227 for Henry de Audley, Sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire with romantic additions of C18. Regularly coursed and dressed red sandstone; now roofless. Situated on 2 narrow ridges of rock with a deep ravine between, separated into upper and lower wards by a deep rock-cut ditch running at right- angles across ravine. Apart from the Great Tower and a smaller turret at north-east corner, only fragments of towers and curtain wall survive. Great Tower: still stands to considerable height: circular plan with chamfered plinth to bottom and rectangular slits to tower. Deep well beneath, hollowed out of sandstone as is bottom part of tower, approached by adit created c.1780. The height of the tower was increased by either Sir Rowland or Sir Richard Hill in late C18 to make it a more conspicuous object in the view from Grotto Hill (q.v. under Grotto), but it has again been reduced and what now survives (March 1986) appears to be largely medieval work. North-east tower: only a fragment of small circular tower survives. 2 similar towers formerly guarded south-east and south-west angles of lower ward but the former has now almost completely disappeared above ground and the latter is very fragmentary. Traces of curtain wall on ridges to east and west with more substantial fragment spanning ditch between upper and lower wards on west. The Lion's Den (q.v.) is in the corresponding position to east. The site is very overgrown and apparently has never been systematically investigated, making it difficult to distinguish between medieval work and C18 'romantic' additions. The natural defences are very impressive, probably never needing much strengthening except on south, and can be compared with those at Heighley Castle (Staffs) (q.v. under Madeley C.P., Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme), also begun by Henry de Audley. Scheduled Ancient Monument, County No. 15; <4>

Leach gives a brief description and a sketch of the castle.<6>

The analysis of the stonework by the City of Hereford Archaeology Unit in November 1991 demonstrated that the medieval castle survives more completely than had previously been thought. It showed that the C18 works to the site were largely cosmetic recreations of the medieval work, additional follies, and attempts to provide safe access to visitors. The analysis also showed that the layout of the castle has several unique features, because rather than being situated on a naturally defended site, it spans two parallel ridges, each almost self contained and well defended. <12>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1, Low score as one of 15 Tower keep castles <14>

Scheduling revised in 2003. Scheduling description: ->

-> The monument includes the standing structural, earthwork and buried remains of Red Castle, an enclosure castle, situated within Hawkstone Park. The castle is a Listed Building Grade II, and Hawkstone Park is a Registered Park and Garden Grade I. ->

-> In 1227 Henry de Audley, Sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, obtained land and was granted a licence to construct a castle at Radeclif (Redcliff) . Red Castle, as it became known, was held by the Audley family until the early 16th century and was initially used as their main Shropshire stronghold. A documentary source indicates that repairs to the castle were undertaken in 1283. The castle is known to have been in use in 1322, but documentary evidence suggests that by around 1400 the castle was no longer occupied. When Leland visited the castle in about 1540 he described it as ruinous. ->

-> Between 1737 and 1756 Sir Rowland Hill purchased lands, including Red Castle, in order to extend the pleasure grounds around Hawkstone Hall. During the late 18th century, Sir Richard Hill, son of Sir Rowland, enlarged the park further and added considerably to the number of attractions within the grounds. Red Castle became a principal destination for those who visited the park, and walks within and immediately around the castle were probably laid out at this time. A tall medieval well tower, known as the 'Giant's well', together with a rock-cut recess known as the 'Lion's Den', at the eastern end of the main internal defensive ditch, were both recorded in 1784. The Lion's Den is a Listed Building Grade II, and is included in the scheduling. The lion's statue, which formerly stood in the Den has been removed. ->

-> Red Castle occupies two parallel, steep-sided, narrow sandstone ridges and the lower ground between them, which rises gradually from south to north. From the northern ends of the sandstone ridges there are commanding views of the north Shropshire plain and the hills of the Welsh borderland beyond. Red Castle is situated 820m to the north east of a motte castle, known as The Mount, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. ->

-> The overall extent of Red Castle is approximately 1.9ha. Its rectangular plan largely reflects the area defined by the sandstone ridges to the east and west. These prominent land forms, with their cliffs and precipitous slopes, would have acted as formidable defensive barriers, and led to creation of four defended areas, or wards. The largest ward is to the south and is separated from the three wards to the north by a deep east-west rock-cut ditch, up to 12m wide. The small north western and north eastern wards occupy the high ground of the two ridges. Access into the castle was from the lower ground to south. The approach is defined by the discontinuous southerly extent of the two ridges. This area is not included in the scheduling, with the exception of part of the western ridge where the bedrock has been cut to form a building platform, which probably formed an outer element of the castle's defence. ->

-> Entrance into the castle was via a causeway, 4m wide, defined on either side by a rock-cut ditch, partly revetted with sandstone block walling. The western part of the ditch may have been enlarged by later quarrying, while the eastern portion now survives as a partially buried feature. Above and overlooking the eastern part of the ditch are a series of building platforms, for probable guard chambers, defined by vertical rock-cut faces. The eastern side of the southern ward is defined by a curtain wall consisting of sandstone blocks built on top of bedrock, which has been vertically cut. The exposed sections of walling, including the rock-cut face, stand up to 2.2m high. Little is now visible of the curtain wall which defined the western and south western sides of the southern ward, although it will survive as a buried feature. A rubble-built wall around parts of the perimeter would appear to have been constructed when the castle became a feature within Hawkstone Park. Projecting from the south eastern corner of the southern ward is a roughly square rock-cut platform, about 9m across, which is believed to have served as a base for a lookout platform or tower. ->

-> Around the perimeter of the southern ward there are three circular mural towers. The one at the south western corner of the ward stands to a height of 1.5m. It is built of sandstone blocks and is partly cut into bedrock. It is of similar construction to the tower built close behind the curtain wall at the south eastern corner of the ward. This tower stands to a height of 2m. The rock-cut base of the third tower on the eastern side of the ward occupies a similar position close to the curtain wall, and lies adjacent to the remains of a rectangular rock-cut building. Further to the north, close to the rock-cut ditch which separates the wards, are the remains of other structures, including a probable gatehouse, which would have provided access, with a drawbridge, to the north eastern ward. An adjacent flight of steps leads down to a narrow causeway at the end of the rock-cut ditch which separates the wards. A tunnel cut through the causeway, which may have been enlarged in the 18th century in order create the Lion's Den, probably served as a postern (a minor entrance/exit passage) in the medieval period. From the narrow causeway a further flight of steps leads up to the north eastern ward. Adjacent to these steps is a small rectangular rock-cut chamber. At the northern end of the ward are the remains of two circular mural towers, both constructed of sandstone. One stands to a height of 1m. The other is about 6m high and contains a narrow window opening, or arrow loop, and lies near another rock-cut building. On the western side of the north western ward a flight of steps leads down to the middle of the three northern wards. ->

-> The main access into this central area from the south would have been by means of a bridge or causeway across the ditch that separates the wards. The middle section of the ditch is less deep, and there is a low bank, about 6m wide, to the north. Flights of stone steps, of 18th or 19th century date, continue to provide access between these areas. The northern extent of the northern central ward is defined by a ditch, up to 12m wide, with a deep rock-cut end to the east. The ditch is flanked by a low broad outer bank, between 12m and 15m wide. A stone wall and steps, constructed on the southern side of the ditch, appear to be of 18th or 19th century date. ->

-> The most prominent feature of the castle is the Giant's Well tower. Built of sandstone, it is located next to the cliff which separates the north central and north western wards. It is circular in plan and is partly inset into the cliff, standing some 20m high in three storeys, with east facing arrow loops in the first and second floor rooms. Illustrations of the castle produced in the 18th and 19th centuries indicate that a fourth storey formally existed. Direct access to this upper storey would have been from the north western ward. Below the first storey there is a rock-cut well shaft, now dry, about 25m deep. Access to the first storey was originally through a low, narrow doorway next to the cliff face. In the late 18th century an adit (a horizontal entrance passage) was cut through the rock to enable visitors to the castle to inspect the remains of the well and the tower more easily. ->

-> Access to the north western ward from the southern area appears to have been strictly controlled and involved crossing bridges, which spanned parallel rock-cut ditches. The main internal ditch and a shorter east-west rock-cut ditch to the south both contain ledges, which provided support for timber bridges. Both these ditches are flanked by the remains of buildings, which are considered to have been gatehouses. An adjacent, external and artificially enhanced terrace, up to 6m wide, provided some additional protection here. The establishment of walkways around this area of the castle in the 18th century included the construction of a narrow tunnel at the western end of the main internal ditch. ->

-> The most strongly defended part of the castle was the north western ward. Around the top of this area are the remains of a curtain wall, now largely destroyed but standing up to 1m high. The sandstone footings of a circular mural tower to the north also survive. To the east, a substantial part of the cliff face has been consolidated by a sandstone retaining wall, of probable medieval date. Within the ward low earthworks and vertical rock-cut faces indicate the positions of rectangular buildings. At the northern end of the ward a narrow postern gateway, associated with a flight of steps, gave direct access to the lower part of the sandstone ridge to the north. Downslope, additional protection was provided by a rock-cut ditch, 8m wide, together with a counterscarp bank, also about 8m wide. ->

-> The posts supporting handrails are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. ->

-> Red Castle is a good example of [an enclosure castle]. The adaptation of a somewhat unusual location for a medieval castle provides a valuable insight into the development of military architecture in this region in the 13th century … During the 18th and 19th centuries the castle assumed a new importance as a visitor attraction within the pleasure grounds of Hawkstone Park <15>

The earliest cartographic evidence for Hawkstone Park is on the County map by John Rocque published in 1752 which ties in with the earliest known written description of the park, by Phillip Yorke in 1748. The Red Castle ruins however, are much older. In approximately 1227 Henry de Audley purchased the cliff of Redcliffe, in Weston manor, from the Crown and in the same year was licensed to build a castle. The story of the two giants, Tarquin and Tarquinius who lived on Red Castle Hill is referred to in the 1784 guide book for Hawkstone Park and was a regular feature of later editions. ->

-> The main tower or ‘Giants Well’ is built against the cliff and over a deep well which was once much deeper. It is built in squared rubble masonry of red sandstone and rises to a maximum height of 60 feet. The walls vary in thickness from a minimum of approximately 3ft 6 inches, and there are slit windows at several levels and a door near the bottom. Over the years the top of the tower has eroded and the bottom of the well has filled – each by approximately 20 feet. The further degradation of the stonework is rapidly aided by the growth of bushes and ivy. In the 19th century the remains of the Red castle were considerably more extensive comprising parts of 4 to 5 towers and other walls as well as the main tower, or ‘Giants Well’ which rose some 20 feet higher than it does now. What now remains comprises the main tower and the bases of two smaller towers, one only 6 courses of stone above the ground and the other barely detectable. ->

-> In 1987 when a survey was undertaken by the Hawkstone Trust, the bridge over the pass at Red Castle had fallen into the pass. Many of the stone walls built to protect visitors to the park around the Red Castle had also collapsed. Restoration would involve at the minimum, the prevention of further decay at the top of the tower. Rebuilding of the 19th century level would greatly increase visitor safety as the area is at present dangerous. The reconstruction of the small tower and the rexcavation of the well should be considered for restoration also. <16>

Inaccesible at the time of writing. Of Hugh de Audley's cliff-top enclosure walls, and the intermediate drum towers which he built on and against the cliffs, almost everything has collapsed. <17>

Red Castle sits in Hawkestone Park, a large landscaped site that was a popular visitor attraction in the 18th and 19th centuries. The footprint of a large castle is defined by disjointed sections of walling on natural rocky outcrops and cliffs, with impressive views across the Shropshire Plain. ->

-> The accepted assumption, until the writing of this Management Plan, was that the whole Red Castle was a large medieval castle, with some 18th/19thC rebuilding of existing features [e.g. see <12><15>]. An archaeological review carried out in the preparation of the Plan has concluded the majority of the assumed castle is the product of quarrying and 18th C building, and the earlier Red Castle is likely to have just been located on the north-west outcrop. This area was referred to, in previous interpretations, as the ‘inner bailey’, and is the only part that makes sense as a defendable medieval site. ->

-> This management plan includes an archaeological assessment (undertaken by Malcolm Reid), an assessment of the condition of the site, reports on trees, ecological and structural issues, a gazetteer of all identified features on the site, and proposals for the future management of the site. <18>

An amendment to the Scheduled Monument was considered in May 2018 on the basis of reevaluation in a CMP written in 2016 [<18>]; the evidence was not considered sufficient to merit revision. 03/05/2018. Case Number: 14403885. <19>

Red Castle has been so subjected to 'improvements', similar to those on Grotto Hill and The Terrace, that it is extremely difficult to separate the old from the comparatively new. The only convincing portion is the core of a wall in the N.W. which White (see annotations to resurvey) described as 'Fragment of stonework c. 6.0 m. high, etc.,' and possibly the lower courses of two towers in the N.E. The fragment of walling would logically be the remains of the Keep for it is situated on a peak which has precipitous sides and which towers above the surrounding area.
The Giant's Well appears to be a folly. The exterior is built of soft red sandstone which is unweathered. The doorway Rodenhurst refers to is easily approached from the 'inner court'. If it were a well the supply to the keep would be cut off when the 'inner court' fell - see Ground Photograph AO/62/1/2.
The Dungeon seems to be another folly - see Ground Photograph AO/62/1/3 and annotations to resurvey.
Adjoining the dungeon on the south is an E-W ditch. In the east it is cut through rock to a depth of 14.0m. and its western end is comparable. In the centre it is only 2.3 m. deep and thus appears to be unfinished. <20>

SJ 575295 Opposite Grotto Hill are the red sandstone remains of the Red Castle on its own island-like hill. All that remains of Henry de Audley's castle (licensed 1227) are traces of curtain wall and a great round tower. This authentic ruin was 'enhanced' by the Hills who added to its height so that the overall depth inside the tower is now 206 feet. <21>


[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 01140.
[01]SSA4511 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ52NE4. Ordnance Survey record cards. SJ52NE4.
[02]SSA17115 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1983-Mar-06. CPAT 83/S/0021.
[03]SSA4516 - Field Monument Warden Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC). 1985. Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 17053.
[04a]SSA110 - Monograph: Pevsner Nikolaus. 1958. Buildings of England (Shropshire). Buildings of England. p146.
[04b]SSA178 - Volume: Victoria County History. 1908. Victoria County History 1. Victoria County History of Shropshire. Vol 1. p410.
[04]SSA2160 - List of Buildings: Department of the Environment (DoE). 1987-Sep-16. 48th List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Vol 1581-0. List volume. p103.
[04c]SSA4509 - Article in serial: Anon. 1958. Article in Country Life. Country Life. 03/07/1958. p20-22.
[05]SSA2524 - Volume: Anon. 1898. Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society. Transactions Shropshire Archaeol Hist Soc. Ser 2, Vol X (=Vol 21). p121.
[06]SSA535 - Monograph: Leach F. 1891. The County Seats of Shropshire. p9-10.
[07]SSA4513 - Photograph: Anon. 1985. Photos.
[08]SSA4514 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. Map of Scheduled area.
[09]SSA4515 - Photograph: Burrow Ian. 1977. Red Castle. Colour.
[10]SSA4510 - Correspondence: English Heritage. 1991. Correspondence, 1991.
[11]SSA17116 - Oblique aerial photograph: Musson Chris R. 1992-May-03. CPAT 92/MB/0321 to 0322 (2 photos). Black and White. Medium.
[12]SSA4508 - Field survey report: Stone R and Shoesmith R. 1991. The Red Castle, Hawkestone Park, Weston-under-Redcastle, Shropshire: Archaeological Survey: Phase I - Analysis of the stonework. CHAU Rep. 124.
[13]SSA4512 - Photograph: Tyler Alan W. 1980-Aug. Red Castle, Weston under Redcastle. Black and white. 35mm.
[14]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File.
[15]SSA20928 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. 2003. Scheduling Papers (Revised Scheduling, 12/03/2003). 34928.
[16]SSA22498 - Monograph: Hawkstone Trust. 1987. Hawkstone: Rescue of a Masterpiece.
[17]SSA23518 - Monograph: Newman J & Pevsner N. 2006. Buildings of England: Shropshire. Buildings of England. p.294.
[18]SSA28535 - Management report: Tim Ratcliffe Associates. 2015. Red Castle, Hawkstone Park: management plan. Tim Ratcliffe Associates Rep.
[19]SSA29840 - Statutory designation documentation: Historic England. 2018 onwards. Digital designation documentation: downloaded from Historic England web portal. NHLE 1020850; 03/05/18; Case Number: 1440385.
[20]SSA31554 - Site visit report: Ordnance Survey Field Investigator. Various. NRHE: Ordnance Survey Field Investigators Comments. F1 JR 30-JAN-62.
[21]SSA23349 - Article in serial: Nigel Temple. 1981. The Architectural Journal. 138. p.43-44.
Date Last Edited:Jan 9 2024 3:25PM