Desborough Castle, High Wycombe

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork), and also as a Certain Siege Work

There are earthwork remains

NameDesborough Castle, High Wycombe
Alternative NamesDisborough; West Wycombe; The Roundabout; Wicumbe
Historic CountryBuckinghamshire
Modern AuthorityBuckinghamshire
1974 AuthorityBuckinghamshire
Civil ParishHigh Wycombe

Norman ringwork, partly overlying a mound, possibly a barrow reused as a Saxon moot. Both lie within an enclosure, possibly a slight univallate hillfort of the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The defences of the ringwork enclose an area of roughly 0.5 hectares and consist of a single rampart and ditch with a break in the middle of the south east side. Finds indicate the existence of a substantial building within the enclosure during the medieval period. West of the ringwork lie the remains of a probably once circular mound, cut through by the ringwork ditch and thought to represent the remains of a bowl barrow. (PastScape)

The rampart, of the IA fort, on the south is 16ft high and 63ft wide and the ditch is 12ft deep and 57ft wide. Desborough Castle for all its strength exhibits the classic characteristics of an Iron Age settlement. It is set into a slope, its entrance is at the change of slope and the rampart of 'hood' fades away on the downhill side until it is non-existent. So skilfully is this done that from the outside the inner slope of the ditch presents a remarkably uniform face. The earthwork thus created is a large platform protected on its upper side by a strong rampart and open on its downhill side where it overlooks and dominates to Wye Valley. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Suggested as siege castle of Anarchy date but if overlying Saxon site than possibly C11. Probably the castle of West Wycombe mention c. 1210 in the Winchester Pipe Roll. The excavation in the 1980's suggested abandonment in the early C12.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU847933
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 35
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 28
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 350
  • RCHME, 1912, An inventory of the historical monuments in Buckinghamshire Vol. 1 (south) p. 318 online copy
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Buckinghamshire Vol. 2 p. 24 online copy
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 442-3 online copy
  • Langley, Thomas, 1797, History and Antiquities of the Hundred of Desborough (London) p. 2-8 online copy


  • Collard, M., 1988, 'Excavations at Desborough Castle, High Wycombe, 1987' Records of Buckinghamshire Vol. 30 p. 15-52
  • Collard, M., 1988, 'Desborough Castle, High Wycombe' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 18 p. 28-9 online copy
  • Farley, M., 1987, 'Desborough Castle, High Wycombe' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 34 online copy
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Downs, R.S., 1878-86, 'Desborough Castle' Records of Buckinghamshire Vol. 5 p. 248-60 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1873, The pipe roll of the bishopric of Winchester, 1200-1211 (Manchester University Press) p. 78 online copy