Wem Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameWem Castle
Alternative NamesAlleys Hill; Haly; Walls; Wemme
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishWem

Despite the reduction in its height, the motte castle in the centre of Wem is a good example of this class of monument. Throughout its history Wem Castle has influenced the form and shape of the surrounding settlement. Its later modification should be seen in relation to the changes occurring to the town attributed to a renewal in economic prosperity. The motte will retain evidence of its construction and the organic remains preserved in the buried ground surface beneath the motte, and deposited within the remains of the encircling ditch, will provide information about the local environment and the use of the land prior to and following the construction of the motte. The small-scale archaeological excavation has helped to determine the nature and the degree of survival of the deposits forming the motte. The importance of the castle is also enhanced by documentary sources, providing information about the various phases of rebuilding and about ownership during the medieval period.

The monument includes the known surviving extent of the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle situated next to the medieval church of St Peter and St Paul in the middle of Wem. The castle was at the centre of the Pantulf baronry and was used by the Pantulfs as their principal residence, or caput. A documentary source suggests that the castle was constructed by William Pantulf between 1135 and 1154. Around the beginning of the 13th century Hugh Pantulf, with the help of Richard de Slepe, rebuilt the castle by replacing wooden structures with stone buildings. In 1235 the castle passed by marriage to the le Botiler family. In 1290 it was in ruins and was rebuilt in 1313, at which time it was held for the le Botiler's by Hugh fitz Aer. In 1459 title to the castle passed to the de Audleys and it was dismantled shortly afterwards. In 1538 all that remained visible of the castle was the motte and an encircling ditch

In Garbet's History of Wem (1818) it is noted that the height of the motte had recently been reduced by quarrying and ploughing. In the mid-19th century the southern portion of the motte was further reduced in height and a brick-built retaining wall, aligned east-west, was built across the mound. The oval-shaped motte occupies a slightly elevated position with the surrounding ground lower to the south and west. The motte measures approximately 50m by 56m at its base, 28m by 35m across the top, and stands nearly 3m high. Where it has been reduced in height to the south it is about 1.7m high. According to Garbet's description of the castle, the encircling ditch was eight yards (about 7.5m) wide. To the north the ditch has been infilled and survives as a buried feature. To the south and west little is expected to survive of this feature because of extensive landscaping carried out here in the 18th and 19th centuries. To the east much of the area of the former ditch is occupied by the graveyard of the neighbouring church and is not included in the scheduling. A limited archaeological excavation was carried out in 1998 in relation to proposed repairs to the 19th century retaining wall, which defines the western and southern sides of the motte. Deposits of earth forming the original structure of the motte where found, sealed by layers of soil attributed to the landscaping of the site in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Scheduling Report)

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 ReferenceSJ511288
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  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 172-4
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 83
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 61
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 431
  • Meisel, J., 1980, Barons of the Welsh Frontier p. 79, 187-88
  • 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. 387-9
  • Anderson, J.C., 1864, Shropshire, Its Early History and Antiquities p. 379-80 online copy
  • Garbet, S., 1818, History of Wem p. 250 online transcription alternative [online transcription > http://www3.shropshire-cc.gov.uk/ebooks/L000002.pdf]



  • 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)
  • Anon, 1920-6, 'Field Meeting, Wem Castle, Wem Fortifications, Wem Grammar School' Transactions of the Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club Vol. 7 p. 63
  • Vane, 1902, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 2 p. 287-90
  • 1888, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 1 p. 143, 161

Primary Sources

  • 1836, Excerpta e Rotulis Finium ... Henrico tertio rege, A.D. 1216-1272 (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 237 (1233)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1906, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward I Vol. 2 p. 229 No. 390 online copy
  • Illingworth, W. (ed), 1818, Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III et Edw. I (London: Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 56 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. 423


  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • English Heritage, 2001, Scheduling Papers (Revision, 11/12/2001)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1985, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 17057