Miserden Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameMiserden Castle
Alternative NamesLa Musardere
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishMiserden

SO 94400925 Castle Mound (NR) (OS Map)

Motte and bailey castle at Miserden, mentioned in 1146 and destroyed during the Wars of the Roses, sited at a crossing of the river Frome. The motte is 25-30ft above the moat on the north west side and there is a bank on the outer edge of the moat. A causeway on the south east side does not appear to be original. The stone walls of the castle are still very much in evidence and the interior of a shell-keep, 60 ft across, was partly excavated in 1907. The castle ceased to be inhabited between 1266 and 1289 and by the early 14th century had been replaced by a manor-house on a new site (SO 90 NW 38). Excavations in 1915 uncovered masonry of the 13th century and decorated ridge-crest tiles. A terra-cotta imbrex surmounted by a bear is preserved in Miserden Park. More recent excavations have revealed the remains of a 13th century gateway (Renn 1973: Cox 1949: RCHM Ms Notes 18.11.1971: VCH: APs).

Centred at SO 94400925 in Miserden Park, lies a well preserved motte and bailey castle, of considerable strength. It occupies the whole of a small, steep sided densely wooded rocky spur, formed by a meander of the river Frome, and is effectively sited to control any crossing.

A massive partly rock cut ditch 6.1m deep and 10.0m wide cuts north-south across the neck of the spur, completely separating it from the mainland. Further to the east a second slighter ditch 1.7m deep and 13.0m wide cuts similarly north-south. These two ditches isolate the high central part of the spur, to create a mound 10.0m high with a top 40.0m northwest-southeast by 34.0m transversely.

SO 94440928-SO 94450934. A substantial causway or bank 2.6m high runs north east from the north bank of the Frome and may suggest a damming of the river

This (controlled by sluices) would create a water-defence around the north side, which together with the river in the east, and steep natural slopes in the south, would make approach possible only from the heavily defended west side.

Outworks in the west, consist of a substantial rampart 2.1m high with outer ditch 1.9m deep. These run from the very steep natural valley slopes at the south, northward for some 70.0m to an inturned entrance. Traces of a possible guard-house together with other buildings are visible inside this rampart. From the entrance, the rampart curves north easterly for 20.0m where it is broken by a hollow way, and then merges with steep natural slopes around the north.

Traces of a curtain-wall remain around the top of the castle mound, and what appears to be the ruins of an inner gatehouse remains exposed on the south quarter. This corresponds with the lowest part of the mound.

The eastern end of the spur between the motte and the Frome is worthy of note; overlooked by the castle, relatively level, and bounded by a pronounced scarp, it may well have provided an additional bailey (F1 GB 23-SEP-77). (PastScape)

There was a castle at Miserden by the mid 12th century, standing on a site dominating a crossing of the river Frome. The castle ceased to be inhabited some time between 1266 and 1289, and by the early years of the next century had been replaced by a manor-house on a new site. The site of the castle, a motte and bailey of considerable proportions, was covered with firs in 1970. Excavation in 1915 uncovered masonry of the 13th century and ridgecrest tiles decorated with faitage and crockets; on the tiles were small sculpted collared bears standing processionally. More recent work has revealed the remains of a 13th-century gateway. (VCH)

The interior of a shell-keep 60ft across was partly excavated by D. Montgomerie (letter in Sands collection). (Renn 1973)

Gatehouse Comments

Given this was quite a fine residence by the C13 what was the reason for moving to a site a 400m away? Had the initial ridge end site become too cramped for the requirements of a C13 magnates house?

- 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 ReferenceSO944092
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 23
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 80
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  • Herbert, N.M. (ed), 1976, VCH Gloucestershire Vol. 11 p. 50 online transcription
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 245
  • Verey, D., 1970, Buildings of England: Gloucestershire Vol. 1 p. 323
  • Cox, C., 1949, Little Guide to Gloucestershire p. 123
  • Rudder, S., 1779, A new history of Gloucestershire p. 552-3 online copy (large file)


  • Walker, D., 1991, 'Gloucestershire Castles' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 109 p. 15 online copy
  • Rawes, B., 1977, 'A Check List of Castles and other Fortified Sites of Medieval Date in Gloucestershire' Glevensis Vol. 11 p. 39-41 online copy
  • 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)
  • Baddeley, 1918, Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club Vol. 20 p. 45-

Primary Sources

  • Potter, G.R. (ed), 1955, Gesta Stephani (Nelson) p. 123
  • Howlett, R. (ed), 1886, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I (London: Longman Rolls Series 82) Vol. 3 p. 118-9 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1906, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward I Vol. 2 p. 17 No. 17 view online copy