Spelsbury Court Close

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Palace (Bishop), and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are no visible remains

NameSpelsbury Court Close
Alternative NamesCastle Ditches
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishSpelsbury

Re-examination of Allen AP from 1935 indicates that large rectangular platform to west of church is comprised or rubble, with small circular and linear dumps to the north. Abundance of rubble suggests a substantial stone building. Original interpretation of SMV is unsustainable. Court Close is identified as the site of the Wychwood residence of Bishops of Worcester, and later as that of a castle of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick. (Oxfordshire HER)

In 1842 Alfred Beesley, the author of the History of Banbury, was informed that there was 'until lately' a camp at Spelsbury. Lewis says:—'On an eminence near the village is an extensive triangular entrenchment called Castle Ditches, enclosing a space of about 24 acres.' It would appear to have been recently destroyed when Beesley received his information. (VCH 1907)

The site of a large medieval stone building, possibly a high status residence or Manor House. The site was originally interpreted as a Medieval Shrunken Village but investigations carried out in 1991 do not support this interpretation.

The site compromises of an area of earthworks under pasture just to the west of All Saint's Church. A rectangular feature or "platform" made up of a spread of rubble with smaller circular and linear dumps to the north has been identified. These remains suggest the presence of a substantial stone building and the associated banks indicate that the building complex occupied a substantial area of land.

The site was initially interpreted as a shrunken village, however the re-examination of the remains does not support this. Another interpretation put forward for the site is that it may have been a high status residence and even the Wychwood residence of the Bishops of Worcester which later became a castle of the Beauchamps, Plantagenet Earls of Worcester

This interpretation of the site as a high status residence may be supported by the finding in 1933 of a gilt bronze dish, possibly a late 7th or early 8th century hanging-bowl escutcheon. A Mercian royal charter of 840 (the earliest historical reference to the Spelsburg area) may also support this interpretation as it refers to King Berhtwulf granting to Bishop Heaberht of Worcester land for a residence at Wychwood. (PastScape)

On an eminence near the village is an extensive triangular intrenchment called Castle Ditches. (Lewis)

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceSP348215
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  • Corbett, E., 1962, History of Spelsbury (Wychwood Press)
  • Potts, W., 1907, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 2 p. 334 online transcription
  • Lewis, Samual, 1848, A topographical Dictionary of England online transcription


  • Ray, Keith, 1991, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 21 p. 82, 84-85 (plan)


  • The VCH reference to Beesley was to a hand-written note add to the author copy of History of Banbury.