South Cerney Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSouth Cerney Castle
Alternative NamesCerne; Cernei
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishSouth Cerney

Site of a Norman or C12 castle. Excavations in 1935-6 revealed a square well, masonry, roofing and glazed tiles and C16-C17 pottery. Medieval pottery, mainly C12 in date, was also found. The castle may have been built by Milo Fitzwalter and captured by King Stephen in 1139 although the earthworks at Ashton Keynes or a lost castle at Calne have also been suggested for this event. It should be noted the excavation of 1935-6 has never been published and seems to have been an amateur affair. Presumably the found masonry is of C16-C17 date and that the C12 castle was of timber. King warns "Frequently muddled with Cerne, Dorset and Calne, Wilts. (Derived from PastScape)

The writer of the Gesta Stephani noted that during the campaign of 1145 the king's men 'had built a very large number od castles in Gloucestershire', and two years later he recorded that 'the new castles could be seen rising that Earl Robert built in haste'. Some of these new foundations of these years can be identified. Miles of Gloucester built a little castle (quandam munitiunculam) at South Cerney 'to excite rebellion against the king', and Stephen attacked and took this fortification in 1139. (Walker 1991)

et castellum de Cernei, quod ad seditionem in eum concitandam Milo construxerat, adhibitâ captum violentiâ obtinuit (Sewell edition of Gesta Stephani - and the castle of Cernei, that Miles built to stir up rebellion, was stormed with force)

Ipse vero rex, antequam Malmesbiriam venisset, quandam munitiunculam Milonis supernominati, Cernei nomine, occupaverat, ibique milites suos posuerat

(Hardy edition of Historiae novella - But the king himself, before coming to Malmesbury, had taken over a fortress of the above named Miles called Cernei and placed his own soldiers there.)

Gatehouse Comments

Regarding the castellum de Cernei mentioned in 1139 this castle was stormed, rather than besieged, so this may suggest a small castle although still significant enough to be mentioned. South Cerney is most generally accepted as the site of this munitiunculam of Miles of Gloucester. The other places mentioned in this paragraph of the Gesta Stephani are Trowbridge and Malmesbury which might suggest this was a campaign against urban centres in Wiltshire, which makes Calne a weak possibility. South Cerney was a holding of Miles of Gloucester and is, therefore, probably the correct identification. However, it should be noted the identification of this site as a Norman castle is based on an unpublished and amateur excavation.

- 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 ReferenceSU047976
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  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 270
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 32
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 181


  • 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
  • Walker, D., 1958, 'Miles of Gloucester, Earl of Hereford' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 77 p. 73 online copy
  • Kennen, F., 1931, 'Proceedings at the Annual Meeting held at Cirencester, 7-9 July 1931, and Report of Itinerary' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 53 p. 55 online copy
  • 1884, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 8 p. 187 online copy
  • Bazeley, W., 1878-9, 'On the Earls of Gloucester' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 3 p. 381 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 59 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription >])
  • Hardy, D.H., (ed), 1840, Willelmi Malmesbriensis monachi gestis regum Anglorum atque Historiae novella (London) p. 726, 732 online copy
  • Potter, K.R. (ed), 1955, The Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury (Nelson's Medieval Texts) p. 39, 42 (A revised edition by Edmund King (Oxford University Press, 1999) should also be consulted)


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk South West Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 159 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk South West Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 160 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 170 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 162 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 178 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 163 online copy