Quatford Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameQuatford Castle
Alternative Namesoppidum de Quatford
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishBridgnorth

The motte and bailey castle 90m west of St Mary Magdalene's Church at Quatford is a well-preserved example of this class of monument, despite the later modification to the eastern part of the bailey by road widening. Archaeological excavation of this part of the bailey has revealed that the castle will retain structural and artefactual remains and associated deposits dating from the 12th century onwards. The excavation of the ditch between the motte and bailey also produced artefacts which can be attributed to the initial occupation of the castle. Documentary sources provide valuable information about the castle's establishment and its abandonment. The importance of the monument is further enhanced by its association with the former collegiate church of St Mary Magdalene. The monument remains a prominent feature within the landscape.

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey castle, occupying a commanding position over the valley of the River Severn and with extensive views of the uplands to the west. It is recorded in the Domesday survey that the fortfied borough and the 'new house' (considered to be the castle) at Quatford had been built by Roger de Montgomery. In 1086 he founded the former collegiate church of St Mary Magdalene, which is located a short distance to the east of the castle. A documentary source records that the 'oppidum de Quatfort' (the settlement of Quatford) was transferred to Bridgnorth in 1101-02. The flat-topped, steep-sided D-shaped motte stands about 9m high and measures approximately 35m by 50m at its base and 11m across the top. It was constructed next to a vertical cliff above the River Severn and is bounded on its eastern side by a 3m deep rock-cut ditch, which separates it from the bailey. The ditch was excavated in 1830-31 and produced a variety of finds, including a penny of Henry I (1068-1135)

Old excavation trenches, 2m wide, for which no archaeological records survive, cut across the top of the motte. The bailey, about 0.5ha in area, occupies a low ridge with the ground falling away to the north and south. It is defined on its northern and southern sides by well-defined scarps, approximately 2m and 1.3m in height respectively, which were created by cutting into the natural slopes. The western end of the southern scarp is surmounted by a short bank to the south of which, continuing the line of the scarp, is a short ditch. The eastern side of the bailey has been cut into by a modern road. An archaeological excavation, undertaken in 1960 prior to the widening of the road, failed to locate any original defences defining the eastern side of the bailey. Numerous post holes were found during the investigation marking the positions of wooden structures which were probably used for storage or keeping livestock. Evidence from the excavation suggests that these structures were short-lived and helps to support the historical evidence that the site was abandoned by 1102 when Robert de Belmese established his castle at Bridgnorth, 6km to the north west. (Scheduling Report)

Oval motte c30ft high, and 60ft by 120ft diameter on top. Small bailey of c 1 acre to the E and NE (Armitage 1912).

The castle was built by Roger de Montgomery before 1086 and a burgh was founded here, possibly on the site of the Danish encampment of 895-6 and of Aethelflaed's Burgh of 912 (but more probably at Bridgnorth). Abandoned in c1102. Excavation in the bailey for the Ministry of Works in advance of widening of the A442 at c SO7384 9075 produced post holes but no early material indicating the form of the burh, buildings dating to the period of the castle, or any signs of Danish activity. Sections through the "rampart" and "ditch" revealed no ditch, a C19th coin at the base of the rampart and unstratified late finds throughout the material (Mason and Barker 1961/4). (Shropshire HER)

P. A. Barker excavated for the Ministry of Works on the outer edge of the bailey in an area to be destroyed by road widening. The Quatford region is the reputed site of a camp of the Danish host in the winter of 89S/896; the recorded site of a 'new house' built by Roger de Montgomery before 1086, and of a borough then rendering nothing; and, visibly, the site of a motte-and-bailey castle, presumably deserted by 1102, when Robert de Belesme moved castle, borough and collegiate church to Bridgnorth. On this promising site the results were baffling. A segment 90 ft. long and 30 ft. wide was thoroughly examined, the central area of about 900 sq. ft. being stripped to the bedrock. A complex of more than 70 post-holes, ranging in both diameter and depth from 2 in. to 3 ft., all undatable, and at present unintelligible, occupied this central area. There were no floors, or hearths, nor any other evidence of continuous occupation, nor was there firm evidence of more than one period of construction. Finds included a 12th- or 13th-century bronze annular brooch, and a 15th- or 16th-century bronze buckle, together with a thin scatter of sherds of pottery dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries. The apparent rampart along the edge of the bailey had 17th- to 18th-century pottery at its base; there was no evidence of a stockade, and there was no bailey ditch. It seems likely that the post-holes represent outbuildings which were hardly used before being abandoned. (Med. Arch. 1961)

nova domus et burgus Quatford dictus nil reddit (a new house and borough called Quatford yielding nothing) Domesday Book entry for Ardintone (Eardington)

Gatehouse Comments

This was an early caput for Earl Roger and he founded a collegiate church next to the castle in 1086 but is was abandoned in favour of Bridgenorth in 1102. The reason for this change is obscure. The site at Quatford is quite restricted and on the edge of the river. Did the river undermine the site? Was there a sudden collapse of part of the site into the river and was this taken as an ill omen for the site? The possible ford (or even bridge) at Quatford is not now easily accessed; did changes to the river course make the crossing unviable and the associated borough uneconomical? Had the economic collapse of the site started before 1086, as suggested by the Domesday entry, and if so what was the reason for still building a castle and collegate church here? Did the site still have some political and administrative significance as a hundred court centre? N.B. There is north of the village at SO73499759 a C19 house called Quatford Castle or Morf Mount built of red brick in the Oxford Gaol style. This has nothing to do with the medieval castle.

- 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 ReferenceSO737907
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  • Mason, J.F.A. and Barker, P.A., 1961-4, 'The Norman castle at Quatford' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 57 p. 36-62
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Primary Sources

  • Chibnall, M. (ed), 1969, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis (Oxford University Press) Vol. 4 p. 32, 229n5


  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1986, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 20815