Hanwell Castle

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHanwell Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishHanwell

Country house, now 3 dwellings. Former great house of which only the south-west tower and south range remains of a 2-storey house built round a courtyard with main entrance on west. Begun c.1498 for William Cope, cofferer to Henry VII. Mostly demolished in C18. East wing and restorations c.1903. Left part. Complex range incorporating C15, C19 and C20 builds. Squared coursed ironstone. Steeply pitched stone slate roof laid to diminishing courses. Stone and brick ridge stacks. Double depth plan. 2 storeys. 2-window range. Entrance porch has plank door and 4-centred wood head. Front has C20 windows with wood lintels. Rear has Tudor windows some renewed. Central part: long rectangular south range. Diaper patterned blue and red brick. Limestone dressings. Steeply pitched stone slate roof laid to diminishing courses. Brick ridge and end stacks. 2 storeys. 5-window range. Gabled porch has entrance with 4-centred doorway. Ground floor has C20 windows with wood lintels. First floor has 2- 3- and 4-light C15/C16 windows, some with King mullions and an oriel window. Tower on right. Red brick with diaper patterns in blue brick and ironstone quoins. 3 storeys. 2 corner turrets. Crenellated parapets. South side has 4-light C15/C16 windows that are on ground floor transomed. Interior not inspected but south range is noted as having 2 large kitchen fireplaces placed back to back; plain moulded stone doorways; late marble fireplaces. Tower noted as having contemporary stone fireplaces on upper floors and newel stair in north-west turret. James I visited in 1605, 1612, and 1624 Leland records the castle as a very pleasant and gallant house in c.1540. The earliest example of C15 brickwork in north Oxfordshire. The C20 addition on east is not of special architectural interest. (Listed Building Report)

15th-16th century brickwork with stone quoins in SW tower which is the one remaining of the original four

The castle was originally quadrangular with a frontage of 109ft. There is Tudor work on the N side including some stone mullioned windows. The caste was partially pulled down c1777 and restored in 1903 with additions on the E. The original gate piers remain. Visited by James I in 1605, 1612 and 1624. Grade II-star. (MHLG 1899/11/A undated)

The surviving tower at SP 4362 4360 and brickwork forming what is now the N front are the sole external Tudor remains of "Hanwell Castle". This was evidently a castelled manor house of considerable pretensions and is of architectural interest. The S side has been rebuilt or renovated and is of stone construction as are the modern additions (with Tudor style windows), to the E. See GP's. From SP 4367 4370 to SP 4415 4353 a string of very large fishponds occupies an area of about 13 acres. They are up to 2.0m deep, all but one being dry. Their size precludes normal domestic use and suggests that they were either partly ornamental or formed a fish farm.

Hanwell "Castle", originally known as Hanwell House, a two-storeyed building with decorative battlements and octagonal towers, was begun c.1498 by William Cope, cofferer to Henry VII. The W. front was symmetrical, with a gatehouse and an oriel window. In the late 18th century the house was mostly demolished and the remains turned into a farmhouse. Surviving features of the original building include the SW tower and the S. wing running back from it. (Pevsner)

Five fishponds at Hanwell Castle were investigated in 1981. According to R. Plot there were waterworks in a "House of Diversion" built on an island in one of the fishponds, where there was a ball tossed by a column of water and an artificial shower. He was probably referring to the westernmost pond, which is still full of water and has an island. The ponds must date from at least the 18th century because nobody can remember them being used as fishponds in the Victorian period. (Steane) (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Called 'a very appealing and elegant house' by Leland. Gatehouse was informed by Mr Christopher Taylor of Hanwell in 2006 that "The house was not, in fact, complete at the time of its first builder's death - William Cope, ob. 1513 - and was finally completed by his heir, and only after legal coercion to that effect by William's executors, sometime in the 1520's. The date 1498, usually quoted in secondary sources, is actually that of the grant of the manor to Cope and it is unlikely that building commenced until some time later, or that any of the surviving architectural remains predate the early years of the C16. The building has not, in fact, been well studied at all and all the printed sources get it significantly wrong in some respect, from Parker who thought the surviving tower was a gatehouse - conclusive evidence that he never made an on-site inspection! - to the VCH, whose team, we believe, also never visited and who came up with the notion, rightly derided by Pevsner (who, however, only made a very cursory inspection and got it wrong in other respects) that the courtyard, though defined by 4 corner towers, was nevertheless open on the East side - it wasn't, of course. Incidentally, there is an unconfirmed story that the house was built primarily from stone salvaged from Deddington Castle, some 10 miles south of here; that is a 'real' castle, of course. As to the fishponds, they were working medieval manorial stewponds, not at all C18, or merely ornamental; there are some interesting references to the still-active upper pool in Robert Plot's 'Natural History of Oxfordshire' in the 1670's and there are yet remaining extensive traces of the 'House of Diversion' mentioned there, on the island in that pool - which have never been examined archaeologically." Since then Stephen Wass has made some archaeological investigations of the water features in 2013-15 - see his website for current information

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceSP436436
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 385
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 72
  • Pevsner, N. and Sherwood, J., 1974, Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (London) p. 632
  • Lobel, Mary D. and Crossley, Alan (ed), 1969, VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 9 p. 114 online transcription
  • Wood-Jones, R.B., 1963, Traditional Domestic Architecture in the Banbury Region p. 164
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 158 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 271 online copy
  • Beesley, A., 1841, History of Banbury p. 191-2, 240
  • Plot, R., 1705, Natural History of Oxfordshire p. 240- , 269- online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 371
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 40 online copy


  • Goodall, John, 1995, 'A study of the Grotesque 14th-century Sculpture at Adderbury, Bloxham and Hanwell in its architectural context' Oxoniensia Vol. 60 p. 271-332 online copy
  • Steane, J., 1982, 'Hanwell Castle. Fishponds' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 12 p. 88-9 online copy
  • Askew, H., 1937, 'Hanwell Castle, Oxfordshire' Notes and Queries Vol. 173.9 p. 160-


  • Christopher Taylor, 2006 August 24, pers. corr.