Newcastle under Lyme Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameNewcastle under Lyme Castle
Alternative NamesNovum Castellum de Staffordshira
Historic CountryStaffordshire
Modern AuthorityStaffordshire
1974 AuthorityStaffordshire
Civil ParishNewcastle under Lyme

The castle was built on low-lying ground and from this location there were extensive views of the surrounding land. The market centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme, probably established by the late 12th century, occupies the adjacent higher ground to the east. The castle was probably founded in the early 12th century. In 1149 King Stephen granted the castle and the accompanying lands to Ranulf de Gernon, Earl of Chester. After Ranulf's death in 1153 the castle appears to have remained in royal control for many years and was staffed by officials appointed by the Crown. Numerous documentary references indicate that in the late 12th and early 13th centuries a considerable amount of work was being undertaken to strengthen the castle's defences, and to construct and repair the internal buildings. A major element of the castle's defence, mentioned at this time, was the large pool that surrounded the castle, which was created by damming the Lyme Brook and the adjacent streams. A bridge, connecting the castle to the land to the north east, was repaired in 1191 and two years later stone embattlements were added. Other buildings mentioned include the stone tower which stood on top of the motte, a chapel, private apartments, kitchens and a gaol. There are also references to timber palisades and to bretasches (or timber platforms) for the defence of the castle walls. In 1267 Henry III granted the castle and manor of Newcastle to his younger son Edmund, who was created Earl of Lancaster. The castle was held by the Duchy of Lancaster throughout the rest of the medieval period. With the accession of Henry IV in 1399 the importance of the castle as a royal stronghold seems to have progressively diminished. Its low-lying situation surrounded by higher ground had rendered it particularly vulnerable to the new methods of siege warfare, made possible by the introduction of gunpowder and the subsequent development of artillery

During the 14th and 15th centuries the many documentary references to the castle relate to the continued repair and refurbishment of the castle buildings. By the second half of the 16th century, however, expenditure on the castle seems to have ceased. When Leland visited Newcastle in 1541 he recorded that little was standing of the castle except for a single great tower, and when the castle was leased to Ralph Sneyd in 1610 it was described as 'altogether decayed'. In 1828 Walter Sneyd of Keele purchased the castle and the surrounding pool from the Duchy of Lancaster. He had much of the pool drained in order to create meadows and gardens. In the mid-19th century Silverdale Road was built across the castle site, resulting in the truncation of the north eastern part of the motte. The construction of the Castle Hill Iron Foundry in 1855 on the western side of the motte, also led to the disturbance of the castle site, including the cutting back of the motte on that side. Lyme Brook was also redefined by this time. This straight and deeply cut water course runs next to the south western part of the motte. A map of 1832 shows the castle as an oval-shaped mound, approximately 75m east-west by 100m north-south, with a track (later John o' Gaunt's Road) leading to it from the north east. Archaeological investigations undertaken between 1933 and 1935 confirmed the size and shape of this artifically raised platform, which was constructed of layers of clay, sand and stone, with the remains of a timber palisade around its edge. At the south eastern end of the platform the earthen motte was constructed. This steep-sided, flat-topped mound was originally circular or oval-shaped. It is now D-shaped and measures approximately 26m by 40m at the base, 18m by 26m across the top, and stands to a maximum height of just over 4m. The lower part of the raised platform served as the bailey. A ditch, approximately 10m wide, was originally dug to define the motte and bailey, and to provide material for their construction. This ditch has been infilled and now survives as a buried feature. Within the bailey, to the west of the motte, the remains of a large rectangular stone building, thought to be a hall and kitchen, were found in 1934. In 1904 and in 1933-34, along the southern part of John o' Gaunt's Road, well-preserved ashlar walls and large oak timbers were found. Some of this masonry probably formed part of the curtain wall, which was built around the bailey in the late 12th century. Other walls may have formed part of a barbican (outer defences around the entrance to the castle), while other portions appear to have been directly associated with the large timbers of a bridge, which provided access to the castle from the higher ground to the north east. A further archaeological investigation, in 1935, at the southern end of John o' Gaunt's Road revealed more well-preserved sections of ashlar masonry, considered to be the remains of part of the gateway to the bailey. A portion of this wall, nearly 11m long, has been left partially exposed, while a section of masonry unearthed to the north was covered over again following the excavation and now survives as a buried feature. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceSJ844459
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Primary Sources

  • Cronne, H.A. and Davis R.H.C. (eds), 1968, Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1154 Vol. 3 Regesta regis Stephani ac Mathildis imperatricis ac Gaufridi et Henrici ducum Normannorum, 1135-54 p. 64-5 No. 178 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1190-3, 1199-1216 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 433


  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 42 online copy