Radcot; The Garrison

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Tower House

There are earthwork remains

NameRadcot; The Garrison
Alternative NamesRatrotam
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishGrafton And Radcot

Probably large homestead moat altered by construction of draingage works on all sides. Interior uneven, but no buildings seen. Geophysical work by AAAHS and Time Team as well as evaluation trenches have proved presence of Matilda's keep and Civil War earthworks.

1) Observation located the/an original entrance to the moated enclosure

2) Site has yielded C13th or C14th glazed pottery and clay roofing tile and is probably a homestead moat of that period. The writer of the 'Gesta Stephani' states that in 1141 the Empress Matilda built a castle at Radcot, surrounded by water and marsh. This may have been a flimsy affair as it is listed with another 'in the village of Bampton on the tower of the church there'.

3) Moated meadow, 121m x 152m. Does not seem to have been constructed to surround buildings

5) Geophysical work by Roger Ainslie identifed keep structure; J Blair and AAAHS put in single trench and found footing layer, as well as evidence of robbing and burning. Blair's single trench was located on W side of the square keep built by Hugh of Buckland (c1100-1120) to control the road between Witney and Faringdon.

6) Radcot (Rocote) is mentioned from Domesday. A castle was situated from the early C12 to control the crossing over the Thames. Previous excavations showed that the keep was demolished in the late C13. The 'Garrison' is likely to be so called from the fortification of Radcot in 1142 by Matilda. Past geophysical work had already demonstrated that magnetometry worked well at Radcot; this project confirmed those findings with clear pictures of the 'Garrison' and surrounding buildings (possible kitchen and apsidal chapel). More extensive survey would be beneficial. GPR produced the most striking results.

7) Evaluation by Time Team revealed the NE corner of the keep and also the supporting pier for the first floor of the castle. No evidence of a main entrance, stairway or fore-building identified

Remains of the heavily robbed gatehouse and main access road into the castle complex, remains of the demolished curtain wall and the northern moat were identified, as well as a heavily robbed structure interpreted as a chapel. These structures post-dated deposits containing C11-12 pottery, consistent with an early post-conquest construction date which could link it with Hugh of Buckland, the local major landowner around the turn of the C12. Possible evidence of the subsequent strengthening of the keep was observed (in what Blair described as demolition rubble), perhaps associated with Matilda's fortification of the castle during the Anarchy Period of C12, shortly thereafter surrendered to Stephen. Abandonment of the castle was dated to late C13-early C14, and there was a clear hiatus in the pottery sequence from that date until the C16 which fits with the later occupation of the site (as a homestead moat) by the de Besilles family. In the mid C17 a 'minor Royalist fort' was constructed that involved the refortification of the E half of the medieval moated complex by the excavation of a large ditch which split the moated site in two. The C17 defensive ditch was shown to surround an earthen bastion for the placing of cannon. These remains are still visible as earthworks. Also found were late Roman ditches, possible field boundaries, as well as low level of residual later prehistoric material, suggesting activity on or close to the site. (Oxfordshire HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Suggested Stephanic castle site at a strategic crossing of the River Thames.. There is documentary evidence of a Stephanic castle at Radcot built and taken in 1142. This castle was presumably sited close to the Thames crossing at a site now called The Garrison. The Garrison is recorded in PastScape as "Large medieval moat altered by later drainage works. Medieval pottery, C13 or C14 in date, and roofing tile have been found. Field investigations in 1973 noted no visible traces of buildings within the interior. The examination of aerial photographs as part of the Thames Valley Mapping Project in 1996 found it to be rectangular in plan, measuring 130m by 110m with cropmarks of a linear ditch, possibly part of an enclosure within the interior. A linear bank, 64m long abutted the southeastern corner of the moat, this may have formed part of a second enclosure." Leland wrote 'this used to be a strong tower and is now a mansion house' of the Bessel family. What did Leland mean by 'strong tower' here? Omen writes was a peel-tower apparently built by the Lovells in C15. Site of TimeTeam evaluation excavation in May 2008. A square building had been identified by earlier investigations and this was re-examined as is suggested to be dated c. 1100 and to be similar to the bishop's castle at Witney (although Gatehouse would suggest also considering St George's tower at Oxford Castle.). This was a square building with 4m thick walls 'the excavation revealed a cross wall on the interior of the keep, which was added later than a central pillar built at the same time as the main walls. The archaeologists speculated that this cross wall, which showed signs of having been added in a hurry, may have been part of Matilda's fortifications as Stephen's army approached. ... the keep didn't survive for long

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU284996
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 75
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 387
  • Coulson, Charles, 1994, 'The Castles of the Anarchy' in King, Edmund (ed.), The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign (Oxford University Press) p. 70
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 289
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 28
  • Potts, W., 1907, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 2 p. 332 online transcription


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 372
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 72 online copy


  • Blair, J., 2010, 'Radcot: Norman keep, baronial house, Civil War fort, World War II stop-lone' Current Archaeology Vol. 21.1 p. 26-31
  • 2010, 'Time Team at Rodcot - Oxfordshire' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 23 p. 125-7 (short news report)
  • 2009, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 39 p. 66-7
  • Jope, E.M., 1948, 'Recent medieval finds in the Oxford region' Oxoniensia Vol. 13 p. 72-3 (pottery) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 87, 88 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription > http://web.archive.org/web/20101229213751/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/speight.htm])


  • Blair, John, 10 Feb 2010, The recently-discovered Norman keep at Radcot Bridge and its regional context. (Talk for the Royal Archaeological Institute at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly)
  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2009, Feb 15 (1st broadcast), 'Anarchy in the UK' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) view online
  • Wessex Archaeology, 2009, Radcot, Oxfordshire Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results online copy
  • Wood, E., 2008, Geophysical Survey at Radcot, Oxfordshire' (2008/26. Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (GSB Prospection): Thornton, Bradford) online copy (An impressive piece of geophysics)