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HER Number MWB3425
Record Type Monument
Name Newbury Castle

Grid Reference SU 472 672
Map Sheet SU46NE
Parish Newbury, West Berkshire
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Summary

Documentary references for a castle besieged in 1152 by Stephen, but its exact location is unknown and may not have been in the centre of Newbury

Associated Legal Designations or Protected Status

  • Conservation Area: Newbury Town Centre

Other Statuses and Cross-References

  • Berkshire SMR No. (pre 2000): 01389.01.000
  • National Monuments Record No.: SU 46 NE 59
    SU 4729 6721

Monument Type(s):

  • CASTLE (12th century - 1152 AD to 1152 AD (pre))

Full Description

The existence of the Castle of Newbury is known through a documentary reference in the chronicles of Henry of Huntingdon, a 12th century historian, referring to an incident during the reign of Stephen in 1152: 'in the same year the king besieged and attacked the castle of Newbury, which is not far from Winchester' <1>. This siege occurred during the later stages of the civil war between Stephen and his cousin Matilda, a period of unrest also referred to as The Anarchy. It is possible that the castle at Newbury was an 'adulterine' fortification, erected without royal permission <2><3 >. These were likely to have been earthen structures built relatively quickly.

The story of the siege forms part of an epic poem on the life of the late William the Marshall, published in France between 1226 and 1229 <4> <5> <20>. This historical source is difficult to rely on, but suggests that the siege lasted two months. William's father John seems to have held the castle against Stephen, and it is noted that during the siege a truce was granted, with the child William being handed over as a hostage. However John reneged on his word and replenished his supplies, thus putting his son's life in danger <6>. Various threats were made to kill William including catapulting him over the castle walls from a siege engine but the king spared him.

Walter Money researched Newbury Castle in the late 19th century <7><4>, and his conclusions seem to have been largely responsible for the site of the building being marked on early Ordnance Survey maps on the south bank of the Kennet in the centre of Newbury <8><9>. The Borough seal of Newbury did include representations of a castle from 1623 onwards, but there is no evidence for a castle still standing at this time. However a messuage or holding of land called 'The Castle or Hospital' in a 1723 lease was in the general area of Newbury Wharf <7>.

The Ordnance Survey Field Investigator in the 1960s noted that there were no signs of a castle on the Wharf <10> and late 20th century archaeological investigations on the Wharf at Newbury <11><12><13> have failed to find evidence of the castle, although other medieval material was present.

Cannon <14> re-examined the historical sources for the castle including those referred to by Money such as Gray <15> and Godwin <16>, and demonstrated that there had been many errors and assumptions made about the castle's existence and ownership. This misinterpretation had continued in later sources <18><19>.

Higgott <20> suggests that the castle referred to in the 12th century might in fact be a motte at Hamstead Marshall, three miles west of the larger and better known settlement of Newbury. There are three scheduled earthwork mounds in the parish, two of which lie close together within the medieval settlement of Hamstead Marshall.

Sources and further reading

<01>Greenway, D (ed). 1996. Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingon - Historia Anglorum. p759. [Monograph / SWB148505]
<02>Money, W. 1905 & 1972. A Popular History of Newbury (also Walter Money's History of Newbury). p15-17. [Monograph / SWB11278]
<03>Cathcart King, D J. 1983. Castellarium Anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Vol 1, p13. [Monograph / SWB147232]
<04>Money, W. 1887. The History of Newbury. FRONTISPIECE MAP, p79-100. [Monograph / SWB11828]
http://archive.org/stream/cu31924028185811page/n7/mode/2up (Accessed 02/09/2013)
<05>Crouch, David. 1990. William Marshall, Court, Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219. [Monograph / SWB13621]
<06>Liddiard, R. 2005. Castles in Context - Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066 to 1500. p86. [Monograph / SWB147753]
<07>Newbury District Field Club. 1872-75. TRANS NEWBURY DISTRICT FIELD CLUB 1872-75 VOL 2. 2. pp252-4 The Site of the Castle of Newbury by Walter Money (from NWN October 1877). [Article in serial / SWB10336]
<08>Landmark. 1872-85. Digital Ordnance Survey Mapping Epoch 1, 1:2500. Digital. 1:2500. Marked 'Site of Newbury Castle'. [Map / SWB14341]
<09>Ordnance Survey. 1932. ORDNANCE NOTE BOOK 1932. REVISION P21. [Unpublished document / SWB11142]
<10>Ordnance Survey. 1960s-70s. Ordnance Survey Field Investigators Comments. F1 NVQ 10-OCT-63. [Personal observation / SWB14640]
<11>Trust for Wessex Archaeology. 1988. THE WHARF, NEWBURY, BERKSHIRE; EVALUATION REPORT W271, PROJECT NO 32451. WBC Network. [Unpublished document / SWB8081]
<12>Thames Valley Archaeological Services. 1996. THE WHARF NEWBURY AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL WATCHING BRIEF REPORT. 2016 On Contractor's website. [Unpublished document / SWB12424]
<13>Crockett, A. 1999. The archaeology of Newbury Wharf, Newbury, Berkshire. Report No 44500b. WBC Network. [Unpublished document / SWB12654]
<14>Cannon, P. 1990. Newbury Castle - a Reassessment of the Historical Evidence. [Unpublished document / SWB12757]
<15>Gray, E W (ed)?. pre 1839. The History and Antiquities of Newbury and its Environs. p4. [Monograph / SWB11182]
https://archive.org/details/historyandantiq00unkngoog (Accessed 16/07/2019)
<16>GODWIN, H. 1859. The Worthies and Celebrities Connected with Newbury. [Monograph / SWB147507]
<17>Lysons, D & S. 1813. Magna Britannia I. p317. [Monograph / SWB10284]
https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Lysons%2C%20Samuel%2C%201763%2D1819 (Accessed on 08/01/2021)
<18>Page and Ditchfield (eds). 1924. Victoria County History (VCH) Berks IV 1924. Vol 4. P133. [Monograph / SWB10281]
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol4 (Accessed 24/09/2015)
<19>Astill, G G. 1978. Historic Towns in Berkshire: an archaeological appraisal. p51. [Monograph / SWB10869]
<20>Newbury District Field Club. 1998. TRANS NEWBURY DISTRICT FIELD CLUB 1998 VOL 14 NO 2/3. p28-9 Is Newbury's Medieval Castle at Hamstead Marshall? by Tony Higgott. [Article in serial / SWB12918]

Related Monuments

MWB3424NEWBURY (Monument)
MWB1542HAMSTEAD MARSHALL MOTTE - 1 OF 2 (Monument)
MWB1543HAMSTEAD MARSHALL MOTTE - 2 OF 2 (Monument)

Associated Excavations and Fieldwork

EWB139The Wharf, Newbury, Evaluation 1988 (Ref: W271)
EWB140Newbury Wharf Evaluation 1990 (Ref: W365)