Bishops Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry footings remains

NameBishops Castle
Alternative NamesLydbury Castle; Lydbury North; Lydney North; Lindeberinort; Ledebir; Newcastle; Y Trefysgob; Bissopescastle; Castrum Episcopi
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishBishops Castle

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great works of architecture and displays of decoration. Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated, containing a range of buildings often of stone, including a hall or halls, chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or courtyards. The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post-medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Throughout its history the castle at Bishop's Castle has influenced the form and shape of the surrounding town, and the various alterations to the castle should be seen in relation to the town's changing status. It is a significant example of marcher castle which also functioned as a bishop's palace. It thus provides important evidence concerning the development of, and relationship between, military and high status domestic architecture in the Welsh Marches during the medieval period. Interpretations concerning the structural sequence have been aided by the small-scale archaeological excavations undertaken next to the outer ward wall. The upstanding structural remains and earthworks, the buried structural features, and the associated deposits containing artefactual and organic remains, together with the numerous documentary sources relating to the castle, will provide a detailed picture of the activities of the inhabitants of the site. This evidence can be used, alongside that existing for the town, to understand more fully the relationship between different sectors of medieval society. The castle site as a whole remains a prominent feature within the town

Parts of the monument are accessible to the public and as such constitute a valuable public amenity.

The monument includes the known surviving extent of the earthwork, buried and upstanding structural remains of a motte and bailey castle and bishops' palace, which lie within two separate areas of protection at the northern end of the town of Bishop's Castle. The first area of protection forms the majority of the monument and includes remains of the northern part of the castle and bishops' palace. To the south of this lies the second area of protection which includes remains of the southern part of the castle and palace. All the upstanding sections of the castle and palace walls are Listed Buildings Grade II and are all included in the scheduling. The motte and bailey castle was built by the bishops of Hereford, probably between 1085 and 1127, and lay within the large episcopal manor of Lydbury, which had belonged to the bishops of Hereford since the late eighth century. After the Norman Conquest the bishops of Hereford controlled the manor as marcher lords. The first documented reference to the castle is in the mid-12th century when the castle was seized by Hugh de Mortimer from Bishop Robert de Betun. Ecclesiastical control was probably restored by Betun's successor, Bishop Gilbert Foliot. In 1167 the castle was re-fortified at a cost of 20 marks. It is considered that this work involved replacing timber buildings with structures built of stone. A settlement became established close to the castle, which in 1203 was granted a market charter by Bishop Giles de Broase. This act is believed to have been the impetus for the establishment of the planned town to the south of the castle. In 1263 the castle and the town were attacked and the castle was captured by John FitzAlan, Lord of Oswestry and Clun, and Earl of Arundel. Records indicate that the estimated total cost resulting from the damage to buildings in the town and the castle was in excess of 200 marks. The castle served as a palace of the bishops of Hereford throughout the medieval period, and it was also the centre of administrative and legal control for the area. It is recorded that Bishop Cantilupe stayed here often in the mid-13th century, and it was one of the episcopal palaces maintained as residences by the bishops of Hereford after 1356. It continued to be used by the bishops until the 16th century. Records indicate that from 1170 to 1610 constables were appointed to maintain the castle, and a reference by Leland in 1530 described it as being of good strength. A survey of the castle undertaken in the reign of Elizabeth I records that there were 13 rooms covered with lead, a tower on the outer wall, a stable on the eastern side, and two rooms covered with tiles. A gatehouse, a prison tower and two other rooms referred to as a 'new building', were also noted. An 18th century illustration based on an Elizabethan drawing shows a square keep within an inner ward defined by a curtain wall and adjoining towers occupying the area of the motte. Along the outer ward wall a gatehouse, a round tower and a rectangular building are shown, with a further rectangular structure within the interior. In 1603 the castle was granted by James I to the Howard family. During the 17th century it was allowed to fall into ruins and was used extensively as a quarry for building materials by the inhabitants of the town. Following the adandonment of the castle, The Square, in the south eastern part of the outer ward, was created as an extension to the market place occupying the central street within the town. The Castle Hotel, opposite The Square, was built in 1719. The Square and The Castle Hotel are not included in the scheduling. During this period much of the outer ward and the defended area immediately to the west of the outer ward wall were used as agricultural land. On the levelled remains of the keep and the inner ward a bowling green was created in the 18th century. The adjacent summerhouse, built in the late 18th or early 19th century, is a Listed Building Grade II. The castle is situated at the southern end of a spur overlooking the town. The roughly circular motte occupies a high point on the spur, and measures approximately 56m at its base and 44m across the top. The height of the southern portion of the motte is accentuated by the sloping ground on which it stands and is about 5.7m high. To the north, where the ground rises more gradually, the motte has been reduced in height in order to create a level surface for the bowling green. The bailey was located on the lower ground to the south of the motte. Its exact dimensions are unclear, but it was probably of a similar size to the later outer ward, about 0.5ha, that occupies this area. All the upstanding sections of walling defining the outer ward are roughly coursed and consist mainly of locally derived stone. The wall marking the western side of the outer ward is 2m wide and stands to a maximum height of 3.7m. The southern and eastern sides of the outer ward are defined by substantial retaining walls standing up to 7m high, built onto, and revetting deeply excavated sections of bedrock. The wall along the southern side is strengthened by stone buttresses. At the north eastern corner of the outer ward are the remains of a rectangular projection with rounded ends, which is considered to be the base of a tower. At the south eastern corner, close to what is believed to be the site of the gatehouse to the outer ward, the retaining wall takes the form of a rectangular recess. Within this recess are three projecting sandstone corbels and an associated scarcement (a ledge built into the wall). Together these features would have provided support for a balcony 3.6m above the present ground surface. Small-scale archaeological excavations carried out in 1937-38 and in 1988, close to the south western part of the motte, appear to confirm the existence of the rectangular inner ward which was depicted on the 18th century copy of the Elizabethan drawing. The investigation undertaken in 1988 also found that this section of the inner ward wall was sealed beneath a sizeable dump of masonry from the demolished castle buildings. A limited archaeological excavation carried out in 1999 next to the southern portion of the outer ward wall found evidence of post-medieval stone structures abutting, and running parallel to, the wall. (Scheduling Report)

Remains of Castle on Castle Site. Defensive walls. Castle founded circa 1100 for the Bishops of Hereford; now no more than sundry walls standing between 20 and 3 feet high in considerable earthworks. Coursed limestone rubble. Original plan: petrified motte and bailey. Some of the masonry is thought to be C14, and one C12 buttress is thought to be identifiable at NGR SO 32382 89048. Sections of the wall survive behind Nos. 10-20 (even), Market Square (Nos. 10 and 20 not listed) and Nos. 2-8 (even), Welsh Street, and behind Nos. 1-5 (odd), Bull Street (Nos. 3 and 5 not listed) and bound the Public Park on the east side. The motte is encircled partly by a rebuilt retaining wall incorporating stretches of mediaeval masonry. Confusingly the best surviving section to the north-east is incorporated in a wall which continues both to the north-west and south-east (neither extension included). Other walls included in this item may well be of mediaeval date, particularly the stretch between the south-east corner of the motte and the middle of the bailey. The top of the motte has been levelled to form a bowling green with a summerhouse (q.v.). In the bailey various buildings, mostly of post-1700 date, demonstrate how, at the end of the C17, the castle was allowed to decay. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Built around 1100 as a motte and bailey, the vague plan of which survives today. This was given in 1154 by Bishop de Betun of Hereford to the Mortimer Earls of Shrewsbury. It was subsequently regained by the next Bishop, Foliot, and in 1167 it was re-fortified, probably in stone. In 1263 the Castle was stormed (and known then as Lindeberinort Castle). John FitzAlan, who stormed the Castle, held it for sixteen weeks and caused a great deal of damage. The Castle became "Bissopes Castle" in 1285. In 1538 Leland described the Castle as 'a castle of goode strength'. In 1610 the Castle, then owned by the King, was granted to the Howards who allowed it to fall into decay. The main part of the stonework remaining is a piece of quite tall curtain wall leading up the side of the bailey towards the motte, portions of shell keep were still visible in 1940.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceSO323891
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 23
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476, 512-14
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 177
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  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 133
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Wall (after Downham), 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Shropshire Vol. 1 p. 383 (plan)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 126 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London) Vol. 11 p. 203- online copy
  • Stackhouse-Acton, Frances, 1868, The Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire (Shrewsbury) p. 14-16 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 228, 393, 397
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 50 online copy ; Vol. 5 p. 15 [online copy >]


  • Walmsley, C., 1992, 'The Castle of Bishop's Castle: a reinterpretation' Journal of the South West Shropshire Historical and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 7-11
  • Tonkin, J.W., 1976, 'The palaces of the bishop of Hereford' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 42.1 p. 53-64
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132 (survived into C13 without being rebuilt in stone)
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Lavender, F., 1941-3, 'The castle at Bishop's Castle' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 51 p. 157-9
  • Lavender, F., 1937-8, 'The castle at Bishop's Castle' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 49 p. 245-9
  • 1894, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 6 p. 4-5 online copy
  • 1893, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 5 p. 344-5
  • 1888, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 1 p. 413
  • Eyton, R.W., 1887, 'The castles of Shropshire' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 10 p. 25-6

Guide Books

  • Tyler, A.W., 1981, The Castle at Bishops Castle

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 559b (1233) 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. 408-9
  • The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fourteenth year of the reign of King Henry II A.D. 1167-1168 (Pipe Roll Society 12)
  • Webb, John, (ed), 1855, A roll of the household expenses of Richard de Swinfield, bishop of Hereford, during part of the years 1289 and 1290. Abstract, illustrations, glossary and index (Camden Society) Vol. 62 p. xxii online copy
  • Morey, D.A. and Brooke, C.N.L. (ed), 1965, The letters and charters of Gilbert Foliot (cambridge University Press) p. 372
  • E178/1880 (Survey of 3 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference


  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • English Heritage, 2002, Scheduling Papers (Revision, 11/12/2001)
  • 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)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1986, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 26554