Ritton Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameRitton Castle
Alternative NamesRitton in Wentnor
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishWorthen With Shelve

Despite some ground disturbance associated with the 19th century settlement, the slight univallate hillfort and the ringwork and bailey castle at Ritton survive as good examples of these classes of monument. It is an interesting example of a prehistoric hillfort which has been modified in the medieval period to form a ringwork and bailey castle. Within the hillfort, partly sealed beneath later occupation deposits, a range of buried features, and artefactual and organic remains are expected to survive, which have the potential to illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The hillfort defences will retain evidence of their construction and any alterations made to them in the medieval period. Organic remains surviving in the buried ground surface beneath the rampart and within the external ditch will also provide important information about the local environment and the use of the land before and after the hillfort was constructed. Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosed, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. In Shropshire, ringworks are comparatively rare in relation to other types of contemporary early medieval castles incorporating a conical mound, or motte. Within the ringwork and bailey the remains of contemporary structures will survive as buried features, which, together with the associated artefacts and organic remains, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and life styles of those who inhabited the site during the medieval period

The ringwork defences will retain significant information about their construction, and the organic remains preserved in the buried ground surface under the rampart and within the associated ditch will also provide additional information about the changes to the local environment and the use of the surrounding land.

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a slight univallate hillfort, and a ringwork and bailey castle. The hillfort was constructed around a projecting shelf on the north western side of Brooks Hill where the ground slopes steeply to the north, south and west. From this commanding position there are extensive views over the neighbouring valley and the surrounding uplands to the north and west. The hillfort is sub-rectangular in plan, with overall dimensions of 116m north west to south east by 215m south west to north east. The defensive circuit encloses an area of about 1ha. Its size would suggest that it was the settlement of a largish community, perhaps where particular centralised economic and social activities were practiced. Where the surrounding ground falls away steeply the earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of a steep scarp bounded by an external terrace, or berm, which for the most part is between 1m-2m wide. To the west, part of this scarp has also been divided by a narrow berm. On the eastern side, where the ground rises gently to the south east, the hillfort is defined by a bank, which averages 6m wide and 1m high, and an external ditch, which is between 6m and 8m wide and 1m deep. To the south this ditch is bounded by the steep scarp which continues along the western and northern sides of the shelf, and to the north east where the ditch turns outwards to join the scarp. The original entrance into the interior of the hillfort was via a causeway, about 5m wide, through the north eastern part of the defences. In the medieval period the hillfort was reutilised to form a ringwork and bailey castle, which is believed to have been the principal residence, or caput, of Ritton manor. The first known reference to the manor is in a deed of about 1203 when Robert Corbert of Caus granted Ritton to Buildwas Abbey. The ringwork, which was constructed in the northern part of the hillfort, is roughly triangular in shape, measuring approximately 28m south west to north east by 30m north west to south east, internally. The sizeable earthwork defences along its southern side consist of a curving rampart of earth and stone, between 14m and 18m wide and averaging 2.2m high, with an external ditch between 8m and 10m wide, and between 1.2m and 2.2m deep. There is a 4m wide entrance passage through these defences which provides access into the interior. The northern part of the defensive circuit of the ringwork reuses the steep scarp which originally defined the north western corner of the hillfort. The position of the ringwork within the hillfort would suggest that the rest of the hillfort interior served as a bailey to the ringwork, and would therefore have contained a range of ancillary structures, including stores, stables and other domestic accommodation. The earliest large scale Ordnance Survey map published in 1882 shows a small settlement occupying the site. A pathway is shown linking this settlement to the nearby lead mine to the north, which worked intermittently from 1852 to 1874. The mine itself is not included in the scheduling. Apart from mounds of rubble from the demolished buildings, all that remains visible of this settlement is a square embanked enclosure with an adjoining small quarry and several associated shallow sunken trackways. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Ritton was a place in the large manor of Wentnor, held by the Corbet family Barons of Caus. Much of this manor was granted away to the Church including all of Ritton in the first years of the C13 when in went to Buildwas Abbey. Before then this may represent the house of a sub-tenant, although it is difficult to identify one and, presumably, the line of that tenant must have died out before the sub-manor was granted away. If it was a residence then it may well have been an isolated farmstead requiring some defence.

- 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 ReferenceSO344976
Latitude52.572868347168
Longitude-2.96851992607117
Eastings334440
Northings297650
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 135-6
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 88 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 48-9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 429
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 11 p. 182, 190-91 (tenurial history) online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1858, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 7 p. 18 (tenurial history) online copy

Journals

  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124

Other

  • English Heritage, 2001, Scheduling Papers (New Scheduling, 18/09/2001)