Cranborne Castle Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameCranborne Castle Hill
Alternative NamesCastle Hall
Historic CountryDorset
Modern AuthorityDorset
1974 AuthorityDorset
Civil ParishCranborne

Motte and bailey stands on a prominent rise called Castle Hill, at the N.W. end of a broad ridge. Nothing is known of its history. The earthworks cover some 2 1/2 acres and comprise a circular motte, 180 ft. in diameter and 28 ft. high, surrounded by a small ditch with an outer bank on the W. and N.W. A crescent-shaped bailey on the E. is bounded by a rampart up to 25 ft. high, with an outer ditch. A causeway across the ditch, and what appears to be an entrance through the rampart, are at the S. end of the bailey (RCHME 1975).

The tumulus on the summit of the great mound is modern and was raised in the early 19th century by L D G Tregonwell over the remains of two favourite horses (Warne 1872). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The location is somewhat unusual in being somewhat away from the centre of Cranborne. This may have been the Norman manor but the palace of King John at Cranborne Manor, built at the beginning of the C13, is at a more usual location for a manorial centre, adjacent to the church, and that may represent the site of the pre-Conquest manor. It is, therefore, possible that Castle Hill represents a rare example of Norman castle, built on a virgin site chosen for its height and/or defensive quality.

- 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 ReferenceSU059126
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 22
  • Pomeroy, Colin, 1998, Discover Dorset Castles and Forts (Dovecote Press) p. 22
  • Wilton, P., 1995, Castles of Dorset (Wimborne)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 65-6
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 127
  • Penn, K.J., 1980, The Historic Towns of Dorset (Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Monograph 1) p. 124
  • RCHME, 1975, An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset Vol. 5: east p. 15 no. 31 (plan) online transcription
  • Sumner, Heywood, 1913, Ancient Earthworks of Cranborne Chase (London) p. 50-1
  • Warne, 1872, Ancient Dorset (Bournemouth) p. 251-5 and plate viii
  • Hutchins, J., 1861-73 (3edn), History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset (Blandford) Vol. 3 p. 381


  • Smart, T.W.W., 1890, 'Castle Hill, Cranborne' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 11 p. 146-58 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 203 online copy
  • Barnes, W., 1881, 'Cranborne–The so-called Castle' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 134-6 (Nonsense) online copy


  • Dorset County Council, 2011, Dorset Historic Towns Survey: Cranborne Download copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 114 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 120 online copy