Shirburn Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameShirburn Castle
Alternative NamesSherborne
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishShirburn

Castle constructed circa 1378 on the site of a moated grange, altered in 1720 and the early C19. It is constructed of red brick which is partly rendered, dressed chalk and limestone, and is of three storeys, in a quandrangular plan with rounded corner towers. It was originally of Early Perpendicular style, remodelled in Georgian style and early C19 Gothick style. Licence to crenellate issued to Sir Warren de Lisle in 1377.

West Shirburn manor-house is referred to as late as 1359 in a lease by Peter de Burghfield, Rector of Burghfield church in Berkshire, but after the two manors had been united and Warin de Lisle was granted licence to build a castle in 1377, it seems that he built on the site of this house and that East Shirburn manor-house, which had belonged to his ancestors, was allowed to decay. It was described as 'ruinous' in 1417. The castle was built mainly of brick, but the centre of the west front was of dressed stone and chalk. There is a record of small repairs being carried out in 1418 and 1419, when Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, was lord. The court rolls then record a charge against the farmer of the manor, Bartholomew Collingridge, of the theft of building material including freestone, 'plankstones', and lead. Collingridge declared he had taken the lead to put on the lord's tower to make gutters and do other necessary repairs and he called John Plomer as his witness. The plumber said that he had been ordered to go to Shirburn by Lord Berkeley, then lord of the manor, and had newly covered the tower with lead and made spouts for the gutters. The castle, as built in 1377, seems to belong to a recognizable type of quadrangular castle, with four corner towers, that appears in the last quarter of C14; it may be compared with Bodiam in Sussex (1385), Castle Bolton, Yorks. (1378), Wressel, Yorks. (c. 1380), Sheriff Hutton, Yorks. (c. 1382), and Lumley, Co. Durham (c. 1392)

Shirburn castle probably consisted of a quadrangle, enclosed by four ranges of buildings, with a round tower at each corner, and a gate tower in the middle of the west side. The living quarters would have been contained in the four ranges round the quadrangle; one might expect the hall to have been on the east side, opposite the gate tower (as at Bodiam and Lumley). Of the original building there survive the gate tower, the west outer wall, the south outer wall (now englobed in later buildings), and probably the southwest and south-east towers; the other two towers may have been rebuilt at the time of the extensive alterations in C18. Originally there were three drawbridges with a portcullis at the main entrance. The wide moat, doubly wide on one side, is of running water supplied from springs on the east side of the castle and also in the moat itself. In C16 Leland described the building as a 'strong pile or castlelet'. Sir Adrian Fortescue was often there after he left Stonor, and an inventory of his goods at the castle made in February 1539, a few months before his execution, throws some light on the internal arrangement of the rooms at this period. It mentions the wardrobe, the entry, the great chamber at the lower end of the hall, the inner chamber, 'the brusshynge howse', the hall and the chamber over the parlour, and an inner chamber there; there was also a cellar, buttery, chambers each for the butler, priest, horse-keeper, cook, and chamberlains, an additional chamber, a low parlour, a kitchen larder, boulting house, fish-house, garner, brew-house, and other outhouses. From the end of C15, when Richard Chamberlain, his wife, and chaplain died there, to the middle of C17 the castle was lived in, at least for a part of the year by the Chamberlains, and they held it for the king during the Civil War. The importance and size of the building may be judged from the fact that in the 1660's it was among the eleven houses in the county for which 30 hearths or more were returned for the hearth tax of 1665. Only the Earl of Lindsey at Rycote, the Earl of Downe at Wroxton, the Earl of Clarendon at Cornbury, Sir Francis Lee at Ditchley, Sir John Lenthall at Burford Priory, and William Knollys of Rotherfield Greys returned more than Shirburn's 32 hearths. Michael Burghers depicts the castle on his map of the county and the coat of arms of Lord Abergavenny, then lord of the manor, heads the 143 shields drawn in the border. (VCH)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceSU696959
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 261, 314-7
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 153-7 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 75
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 206
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 386
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 297
  • Pevsner, N. and Sherwood, J., 1974, Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (London) p. 761-2
  • Lobel, Mary D. (ed), 1964, VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 8 p. 178-181 online transcription
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 212
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 46-9
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Potts, W., 1907, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 2 p. 327 online transcription
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 163-5 online copy
  • Frances, Countess of Macclesfield, 1887, Scattered Notices of Shirburn Castle
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 419-21 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 275-6, 418 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1853, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 267 online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 363
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 115 online copy


  • Emery, Anthony, 2003-4, 'Shirburn Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 110-14 (version of Greater Medieval Houses entry)
  • Mowl, T. and Earnshaw, B., 1981, 'The origins of the 18th century neo-medevalism in a Georgian Norman castle' Journal of the Society of Architectural History Vol. 40 p. 289-94
  • 1900, 'Shirburn Castle' Country Life Vol. 7 p. 80-84
  • Money, W., 1895, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 1 p. 289-95 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1374-77) Vol. 16 p. 434 online copy