Marshwood Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameMarshwood Castle
Alternative NamesMersshwode
Historic CountryDorset
Modern AuthorityDorset
1974 AuthorityDorset
Civil ParishMarshwood

The earthworks consist of a roughly rectangular moated enclosure with outer enclosures on the South and parts of the East and West sides. The main enclosure has remains of an inner rampart at the NW angle and along most of the N sides. The moat has been filled up for the most part and is now only wet in two places; the rampart at its highest point, rises 10ft above the present bottom of the ditch. In the SW angle is a mound or motte, now much damaged and rising about 8ft above the level of the enclosure. On it stands the remains of a rectangular tower 40ft x 29 1/4ft of coursed rubble with internal quoins: the external face has been removed but the walls were from 6-10ft thick: there are remains of a former opening in the N wall which still stands to a height of 14ft. In the NW angle of the enclosure (SY 40389775) are traces of the walls, uncovered in 1839 of the former Chapel of St Mary which seems to have been a building some 24' wide: it became ruined in the C17 (RCHME).

Consideration of the morphology of the site and its topographical location leads to the conclusion that this is not a 'motte' and 'keep' but the remains of a (perhaps unfinished) 'water castle' of later medieval date (Mark Bowden/EH Field Investigation/ 05-July-2005). (PastScape)

Remains of Angle Tower, Marshwood Castle. Stone rubble walls with mortared core standing up to 10 feet in places. Plan: 3 1/2 sides of an angle tower, 40 feet x 29 feet, in the south-west angle of an originally moated enclosure. Facing-stones of walls do not survive. Walls originally from 6 ft to 10 ft thick. Head of the Honour and Barony of the Norman Mandeville family. Only head of a Barony in Dorset. Perhaps identifiable with Wootton Fitzpaine in Domesday Book. Mandevilles became Earls of Essex, 5 Stephen. Became extinct 2 Richard I. (Listed Building Report)

Edward III commissioned a repair of the castle and park in 1357 for his son Lionel of Antwerp. (CPR)

Gatehouse Comments

The history would suggest an early castle but the remains seem to suggest a later medieval castle. The Mandeville's built some strong earthwork castles in their heartlands of Essex, but this was a peripheral holding. It seems likely that there was an early castle here but the remains, after a long period of abandonment, were seriously altered and redeveloped as a fashionable 'water castle' (like the Paston's Caister Castle in Norfolk) presumably in the 1350/60's. If the earlier castle was so readily refashioned it does imply that it was not a particularly strong earthwork castle. It may have been a ringwork enclosure, the supposed 'motte' being later demolition rubble.

- 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 ReferenceSY405977
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 23
  • Pomeroy, Colin, 1998, Discover Dorset Castles and Forts (Dovecote Press) p. 29-31
  • Wilton, P., 1995, Castles of Dorset (Wimborne)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 69 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 127
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 259
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker)
  • Pevsner, N. and Newman J., 1972, Buildings of England: Dorset (London) p. 271-2 (slight)
  • Pugh, R.B. (ed), 1968, VCH Dorset Vol. 3 p. 126 online copy
  • RCHME, 1952, An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset Vol. 1: west (HMSO) p. 156-7 no. 1 (plan) online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Hutchins, J., 1863 (3edn), History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset (Blandford) Vol. 2 p. 263


  • Bertelot, R.Grosvenor, 1943, 'Vanished Mediaeval Castles of Dorset' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 66 p. 70-71 (of little use)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1909, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1354-58) Vol. 10 p. 642 online copy


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk South West Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 135 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk South West Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 137 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 144 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 140 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 154 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 141 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 40 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 142 online copy
  • Bowden, Mark, 2005, Marshwood Castle, Dorset: An Interim Statement (English Heritage: Archaeological investigation report series (AI/14/2005))