Thorpe Waterville Castle

Has been described as a Rejected Palace (Bishop), and also as a Rejected Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameThorpe Waterville Castle
Alternative NamesCastle Barn; Thorp Watervill
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishThorpe Achurch

Near the river here are the remains of Thorpe Waterville Castle, built by Walter de Langton, Bishop of Lichfield, (Pytchley, Bk. of Fees (Northants. Rec. Soc.), 42. Bridges (Hist. Northants. ii, 367) states that it was probably built by Ascelin de Waterville, but there seems to be no historical or architectural evidence for this early date.) who held the manor from 1300 to 1307 and had licence to crenellate his house there in 1301.

The castle is mentioned in 1307, after the forfeiture of his lands, when the gate of the castle and chapel are referred to. In the next century, the castle is regularly mentioned with the manors and in 1461 it was held for the Lancastrians against Edward IV, who ordered Sir John Wenlock to besiege it with three cannon. (Presumably it was more or less destroyed at this time. A constable was appointed certainly as late as 1485, and in 1537, 'le Parke' in the castle is mentioned. About the same time John Leland refers to the ruins of the outer wall of the castle as he passed through the village. The castle was apparently of the type of fortified manor house which was being built early in the 14th century. Only a portion of this house survives, which for a long time has been used as a barn. It is built of stone and measures externally 70 ft. in length from north to south, by 25 ft. 10 in. in width. This structure, which has a plinth all round and a gable at each end, was originally of two stories, but the upper floor has long been removed, and wide openings have been made in the middle of the side walls. There is evidence of a partition having run across the building at its centre and a two-story gabled porch is said to have stood on the east side until about a century ago. At the north end, corbelled out from the first floor, is a chimney, the upper part of which, above the gable, is octagonal and battlemented, and on either side of the chimney is a circular moulded opening, nearly 2 ft. in diameter

There is said to have been a similarly constructed chimney at the south end. There are loop windows in the longer sides, and the roof principals have moulded collars and kingposts. The walls are 3 ft. thick and the roof is covered with thatch. All the remaining architectural features are of 14th century date. (VCH 1930)

Great hall of castle, now a barn. Early C14 origins for Walter de Langton. Bishop of Lichfield. Squared coursed limestone with thatch roof. Rectangular plan, originally probably the hall and solar range. Originally part 2 storeys, first floor structure now removed. West elevation has central C19 cart entrance. Ashlar plinth. Ashlar gable parapets. Gable to left has projecting chimney breast, corbelled out from first floor level, and eith octagonal crenellated flue on square base. At attic level the chimney breast is flanked by deeply recessed circcular windows with moulded surrounds. Right gable has slit vents. Rear has C19 central cart entrance. Interior: very fine king-post roof structure. Tie beams have wall posts and curved braces, the king posts have braces in both directions, and similar braces opposite the collars. Main beams have moulded soffits. Moulded cornice. Evidence of screen in roof structure of bay to north. Evidence of first floor fireplace in north gable wall. Roof structure of hall range has smoke blackening. A 2-storey gabled porch is said to have been removed C19. Walter de Langton was licensed to crenellate in 1301. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Langton's lands were forfeited to Edward II in 1307, although he largely seems to have completed his building work by this time. This was a private house of the bishop's rather than an episcopal palace belonging to the see of Lichfield.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL022814
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  • Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 252
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 82
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 319
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 167, 174
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 168
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 318
  • RCHME, 1982, An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton Vol. 4: South-west Northamptonshire (HMSO) p. 193 online transcription
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1961, Buildings of England: Northamptonshire (Penguin) p. 429
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1930, VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 3 p. 136 online transcription
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 340-1 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 404 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 323
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 6 online copy


  • Brown, A.E. and Hdman, J.A., 1976, 'Some forgotten Northamptonshire excavations' Northamptonshire Archaeology Vol. 11 p. 178 download from ArchLib
  • 1931 June, Oundle School Commemoration Book p. 48-50
  • 1930 June, Oundle School Commemoration Book p. 46-7
  • Selby, T.L., 1861, 'Manor and Castle of Thorpe Waterville' Associated Architectural Societies' reports and papers (Lincoln, York, Northampton, Bedford, Worcester, Leicester and Sheffield) Vol. 6 p. 64-7

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1292-1301) Vol. 3 p. 561 (licence to crenellate) online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 345


  • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 562
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)