Castle Orchard

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

There are earthwork remains

NameCastle Orchard
Alternative Names
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishStourton With Gasper

Earthwork remains of a Motte and Bailey castle. The castle was excavated by Pitt-Rivers in 1879-80 when a quantity of Norman and Medieval pottery was found. Excavations also took place in 1939. (PastScape)

A very good example of a motte and bailey castle occupying the east end of a steep sided densely wooded spur. The motte has an uneven top resulting from excavations, particularly those of 1939 where the trenches are still open though in part collapsed. Such masonry as can be seen forms no intelligible plan. The bailey is to the west of the motte with a deep ditch cutting it off from the spur. In the south-east corner a quarried out platform seems to incorporate a building site but this platform may be of subsequent date and not connected with the fortifications. It now affords the only reasonable approach to the interior. There are no traces of bridge abutments at the ends of the bailey. Immediately north of the castle is a natural shelf, much lower than the spur. Part of this has been enclosed to form an outer ward, utilising a steep valley slope on the east and north east and constructing a bank and ditch along the north west to about the bailey ditch. The bank is now approximately 2.0m high and very spread, the outer ditch mostly completely silted, but 0.4m deep in two short sections. (PastScape–ref. Field Investigators Comments-F1 NVQ 10-JUN-70)

Gatehouse Comments

One of three closely space castles, the others being Ballands Castle and Cockroad Wood, 'with which Castle Orchard may have formed part of a unified programme of castle-building' (Creighton). Creighton writes the site was fortified with a buttressed rectangular keep. NB. This castle is sometimes placed in Penselwood parish, Somerset.

- 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 ReferenceST769319
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 100
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 278 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 501
  • Aston, M., 1982, 'The medieval pattern 1000-1500AD' in Aston, M. and Burrow, I. (eds), The Archaeology of Somerset: A Review to 1500 A.D. (Taunton: Somerset County Council) p. 125
  • Pugh, R.B. and Crittall, Elizabeth (ed), 1957, VCH Wiltshire Vol. 1 Part 1 p. 269
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 513-8
  • Kerslake, T' 1887, A Primaeval British Metropolis (Bristol)
  • Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., 1884, Report on Excavations at the Pen Pits, near Penselwood (London)
  • Kerslake, T., 1882, Caer Pensauelcoit (London)
  • (of the works by Kerslake, David King writes "These are eccentric works, involving a controversy with Lane-Fox (who is, of course, the person later and more generally known as Pitt-Rivers). Mr Kerslake was concerned to contend that the castle and the large area of millstone quarries known as the Pen Pits constituted an ancient British city: he carried on his argument in a pamphlet called The Liberty of Independent Historical Research (London, 1885), in which he disclaims any pretence at dating the actual castle (pp. 37-42)."


  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 111-2 online copy
  • 1952, Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 96 p. 10
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 211 (mislocated in Somerset) online copy
  • Winwood, H.H., 1884, 'The result of further excavations at PenPits' Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeology and Natural History Society Vol. 30 p. 149-53
  • Lane-Fox, A.H. and others (Pitt-Rivers, A.L.), 1879, 'Report of Pen Pits Exploration Committee" Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeology and Natural History Society Vol. 25 p. 7-17


  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 255 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 245 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 249 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 227 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 225 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 225 online copy