Castle Cary

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte Ringwork), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameCastle Cary
Alternative NamesLodge Hill; Castra Cari; Carey; castellum Carith
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishCastle Cary

Despite part of the western side of the inner and outer baileys of the castle site at Castle Cary having been destroyed by development, the site as a whole survives well and it is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological information relating to the castle, the lives of its inhabitants, their economy and the landscape in which they lived.

The monument includes the site of a medieval castle, including a motte with the foundations of a stone keep, an inner and an outer bailey and three earthwork mounds, situated on Lodge Hill overlooking Castle Cary to the west. The site occupies a natural spur formed by two conjoining irregularly shaped mounds extending from the north east to the south west. The ground gradually rises to the north and, more steeply, to the east, and falls away to the south. The outer bailey is located on the larger mound on the north side of the inner bailey which occupies the mound to the south. The outer bailey is defined on the north side by a low broad bank with a shallow external ditch. The east side is enclosed by a central ditch flanked on both sides by parallel banks between 2.5m and 7m high above the base of the ditch, with an overall width of approximately 42m. The banks form a curve at the south east corner of the outer bailey at its junction with the north east corner of the inner bailey. The east side of the inner bailey is enclosed by a ditch with an inner bank of approximately 12m wide and an outer bank approximately 5m wide. The south side of the inner bailey drops steeply down to Park Pond, a wide marshy area which is fed by springs and is the source of the River Cary. A steep drop to an area of modern development now defines the western side of the castle site

An evaluation in 1998, prior to this development, revealed that a continuous ditch of between 10m and 12m wide enclosed the inner and outer baileys and from this it is possible to plot the complete defensive circuit of the castle site, although nothing now remains of the western defences and therefore they do not form part of the scheduling. The two baileys are separated by a ditch of which only the easternmost part is now visible, however a continuation of the buried ditch was observed during a watching brief carried out in 1977. The remains of the stone keep are situated on relatively flat ground within the raised level of the inner bailey in the lee of a curving bank 4m high, located to the north and east and adjacent to the eastern inner defensive bank. The stone foundations were uncovered during a 19th century partial excavation and were located on an irregular surface at a depth of between 1.5m and 1.8m below the present ground level. A large rectangular keep was revealed, approximately 24m by 23m in ground plan and constructed from locally quarried stone faced with Ham and Doulting stone dressings. Also included in the monument are three low rectangular earthwork mounds of uniform shape, aligned broadly from north east to south west within the outer bailey. Each mound is 6m wide, the central mound is 18m long and the north east and south west mounds are 12m long. Although the precise nature and date of the mounds has not been definitely identified it is likely that they are minor building platforms or possibly pillow mounds for the rearing of rabbits in the post-medieval period. An agricultural settlement known as Cari had already been established by the time of Domesday, and it is likely that the town was initiated by the founder of the castle. It is known to have been built in the late 11th or early 12th century and remained in use for a comparatively short period until 1153 when it was besieged for a third, and final time, having been first besieged in 1138 and again in 1148 during King Stephen's reign. The castle was abandoned in favour of a new manorial settlement immediately to the west which was later to become a moated site and subsequently Manor Farm. (Scheduling Report)

Well defended motte and bailey castle on the lower slopes of a NW-facing hill. Strong bank and ditch on the SE, simple scarp on the NW. Three level ?building platforms in the bailey. Site of keep marked by stone piers (OS record card). The castle lies at the top of a slope E of the town, with a moderate slope up to the SE. A steep sided combe runs E-W S of site, opening into Park Pond on S. Improvements at Manor Farm have led to some encroachment on the W side, exact extent uncertain without survey. Probably built in the late C11 or early C12 - it was besieged twice in Stephen's reign in 1138 and 1148 and probably destroyed after c1153. Earthworks may survive (PRN 53641). Excavation history: i) 1856: casual digging - no record. (ii) 1890: Excavation by Gregory concentrating on the area of the "lower" (ie southern) mound and area to the W. Trapezoidal keep of local stone with Ham and Doulting stone dressing found with maximum dimensions 76ftx78ft (23mx24m). Two superimposed "concrete" floors 4" (10cm) apart with bone layer between. These appeared later than the keep and below the lower mound, perhaps deliberately piled against the keep. Inner bailey ditch sectioned N of the keep - 7ft (2.1m) sand in top, 6ft (1.8m) Doulting rubble and "virgin soil". Trenches in outer bailey showed no wall on bank or structure in the interior. iii) Watching briefs during building work in 1977 and 1978 in the area NW of the keep produced evidence for a ditch between the inner and outer baileys and a limekiln (see PRNs 55464, 55465 ). See PRNs 11632, 11639 and 11640 for recording work during building works at Manor Farm on the W side of the castle. Despite severe disturbance the castle ditches were recorded and the inner and outer baileys shown to be of one phase. There was evidence for deliberate infilling early in the medieval period. Following this, activity moved to the Manor House (PRN 11641). Remaining area of site Scheduled on 20/7/2001. The 2001 excavations (PRN 11639) recorded a massive ditch which may have comprised an early Norman D shaped ringwork, constructed in 11th century. The results of the excavations suggest that the initial ringwork was improved by the addition of a donjon or great tower. The ringwork was then demolished and the defences re-worked to give the impression of a tower on a motte with an inner bailey around it and an outer bailey to the N. (Somerset HER)

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 ReferenceST641321
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Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 269
  • Prior, S.J., 2007, 'Strategy, symbolism and the downright unusual: the archaeology of three Somerset castles' in M. Costen (ed), People and places: essays in honour of Mick Aston (Oxford: Oxbow Books) p. 76-89
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  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 32-3 (plan)
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 442
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  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 136
  • Burrow, Edward J., 1924, Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset (Cheltenham and London) p. 130
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 522-3
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 51-4 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. 433
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 131 online copy


  • Leach, P. and Ellis, P., 2003, 'Roman and Medieval Remains at Manor Farm, Castle Cary, 1998-2001' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 147 p. 80-128
  • Keynes, J. and Keynes, R., 1979, 'Manor Farm, Castle Cary' in S Minnitt and B J Murless (eds), 'Somerset Archaeology 1978' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 123 p. 90
  • Keynes, J. and Keynes, R., 1978, 'Manor Farm, Castle Cary' in M A Aston and B J Murless (eds), 'Somerset Archaeology 1977' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 122 p. 128-9
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Gregory, R.R.C., 1890, 'Notes on the discovery of the site of Castle Cary Castle' Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 36 p. 168-174 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 211 online copy
  • Meade, 1878, Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 24 p. 50-2
  • Meade, 1856-7, Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 7 p. 82-99 (history only) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 43 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription >])


  • John Oswin, Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society and Matthew Charlton, June 2011, Geophysics at Castle Cary The Castle Site (Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society) online copy
  • Prior, Stuart, 2004, "Winning Strategies" An Archaeological Study of Norman Castles in the Landscapes of Somerset, Monmouthshire and County Meath, 1066-1186 (PhD thesis; University of Bristol) Vol. 1 p. 78-9; Vol. 2 p. 123 Download via EThOS