Upper Gwarthlow Motte

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameUpper Gwarthlow Motte
Alternative NamesBrompton and Rhiston
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishChirbury With Brompton

Gwarthlow castle motte survives well and is a fine example of its class. It will retain archaeological information relating both to its construction and to its occupation. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed will be preserved within the mound and the ditch fill. Such castles provide valuable information concerning the settlement pattern and social organisation of the countryside during the medieval period.

The monument includes the remains of Gwarthlow castle motte castle which is believed to have been the centre of the manor of Rhiston. The castle is situated on the summit of a low ridge commanding excellent views of the surrounding landscape. It includes a well defined earthen castle mound, or motte, circular in plan with a base diameter of 28m and standing up to 6.3m high. The motte has been constructed by cutting a scarp around the ridge summit to form a foundation mound and then piling further material on top to give the desired height. The summit of the motte is roughly oval in plan with dimensions of 12m east to west by 10m north to south, its surface sloping from east to west. Surrounding the motte is a ditch from which material would have been quarried for the upper part of the motte. It remains visible around the eastern quarter as a shallow depression 0.2m deep and 4m wide and will survive around the remaining sides as a buried feature of similar proportions. There is no visible evidence for a bailey associated with the motte. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

This large and impressive mound on a hilltop has very good views all round and can be seen from a large area. However, there is no evidence of residential use and the windswept site is an unlikely residential site. King and Spurgeon wrote intense cultivation has infilled the ditch. There does not seem to be any particular signs of intense cultivation or of particularly intense erosion and the ditch, of which there are scant remains, may well have been slight. There is no bailey. Presumably used as a watch tower. Although all the authorities seem certain of this site as a motte Gatehouse has doubts and wonders if this is a Saxon barrow (Gwarthlow has a low element - a place name thought to be derived from hlaw a saxon term for a burial mound), possibly connected with nearby Offa's dyke.

- 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 ReferenceSO252954
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image (Panoramic images open in a new window)
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image (Panoramic images open in a new window)

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  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 168
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 87 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 26
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 421 (Brompton and Rhiston No. 2)
  • Bird, A.J., 1977, History on the Ground (University of Wales Press) p. 90
  • Wall (after Downham), 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Shropshire Vol. 1 p. 383, 385 (plan)


  • King, D.J.C. and Spurgeon, C.J., 1965, 'The mottes in the Vale of Montgomery' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 114 p. 75, 79-80 (plan)
  • 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
  • Chitty, Lily, 1949, 'Subsidiary Castle Sites West of Shrewsbury' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society Vol. 53 p. 83-90
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1942, 'Excavations at Ffridd Faldwyn Camp, Montgomery, 1937-9' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 97 p. 4 and n


  • English Heritage, 1995, Scheduling Papers (Affirmation, 15/11/1995)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1985, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 18108