Somerton Castle, Oxfordshire

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

There are no visible remains

NameSomerton Castle, Oxfordshire
Alternative Names
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishSomerton

In a field slightly north-east of the church and sloping down to the river, mounds and fishponds can still be seen marking the site of the medieval castle of the De Greys. An extent of 1295 mentions its court, dovecote, fishponds, curtilages, and gardens. It was presumably uninhabited in the early 16th century, when William Fermor built a new manor-house on another site, but the chapel in the castle yard was still standing in 1580 when Thomas Fermor bequeathed it for use as a school. There is a tradition that the present school-house stands on the site of this chapel. Thirteenth-century pottery was dug up near by in 1954. (VCH)

There are several references to a 'castle' at Somerton in North Oxfordshire. In Oxoniensia 17-18 (1952-3) p.218 it is stated that' there is a tradition that the school stands on the site of the inner court of a castle', and in VCH Oxon Vol. 6 (1959) p.290 the 'site of the medieval castle of the de Greys in a field northeast of the church has mounds and fishponds'. In 1295 an extent mentions its court, dovecote, fishponds, curtilages and gardens.

Figure 4C shows the earthworks remaining around the school, north of the church; only the immediately adjacent earthworks and fishponds have been sketch planned but there are more earthworks of a large shrunken medieval village to the south and north. It will be seen that the construction of the railway in 1850 obscured the western part of the site and it is likely that medieval earthworks were buried then. The watermill site possibly from the C11 was certainly destroyed at that time.

The breaks of slope around the school seem to indicate a moated area round a central roughly rectangular platform. The ditch of the moat, which can never have been entirely water filled, is clearly marked on the southwest sides by an embankment 1-1.5m high

On the east side it is not so clear but the present road appears to follow its outer edge.

Details of the western side of the castle site are unknown; it could either have been a motte and bailey with the motte possibly buried under the railway embankment or it could have been a simple moated enclosure with the lower western moat lying parallel to the river Cherwel. (Aston 1974)

Gatehouse Comments

There is a definite kink in the road which seems to have been diverted to go around a moated manorial complex.

- 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 ReferenceSP495287
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 79 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 387
  • Lobel, Mary D. (ed), 1959, VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 6 p. 290 online transcription
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 165-6 online copy
  • Blomfield, J.C., 1884, Deanery of Bicester Vol. 1 part 4 p. 90, 93, 152


  • Chambers, R.A., 1984, Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit: newsletter Vol. 4 p. 9
  • Chambers, R.A., 1983, Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit: newsletter Vol. 3 p. 11
  • Aston, M., 1974, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 4 p. 16-17 (plans) online copy
  • 1952-3, Oxoniensia Vol. 17-18 p. 218 online copy