Great Bedwyn

Has been described as a Rejected Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are no visible remains

NameGreat Bedwyn
Alternative NamesGreat Bedwin
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishGreat Bedwyn

Leland writes 'I had once been told that there was a castle at Great Bedwyn, but no-one in the town could tell me anything about it.' but, elsewhere, 'At Bedwyn in Wiltshire there used to be a castle or fortress, and its ruins and site may still be seen.'

Great Bedwyn emerged as the centre of a large Anglo-Saxon estate in the 8th century, although its genesis may lie in the landscape around and beyond the Study Area. Circa 1km to the south of the modern village, beyond the scope of detailed examination in this survey, lies the large villa complex of Castle Copse, where extensive excavations (Hostetter & Howe 1997) have demonstrated continuous occupation from the 1st to 5th centuries AD. It is believed that the villa acted as the focal point of a large agricultural estate, and it is in this role, although probably not in direct succession, that the settlement is thought to have begun (Eagles 1997) – possibly by the later 6th century. Haslam (1976) advances the theory that following the decline of centralised Roman authority, the old Iron Age hillfort of Chisbury (c.2.2km to the north of Great Bedwyn) was reoccupied and effectively became the centre of a new estate based largely upon the bounds of the former Romano-British one. Chisbury is thought to be the stronghold of 'Cissanbyrig', listed in the 10th century Burghal Hideage, and Haslam suggests that if this were so it would only have been a temporary refuge in times of strife, with ordinary 'civilian' life based within the fertile river valley below the fort. (Mcmahon p. 13)

Gatehouse Comments

Salter thinks he may have been referring to Iron Age Hill fort at Chisbury. There is also the site of a large Roman courtyard villa at Castle Copse (SU28356295). Timbs and Gunn also give both Chisbury castle and a site they call 'Castle Hill, south of the town' for a fortification 'formed or strengthened by Cissa, a Saxon chieftain'. (NB. Chisbury is north of Great Bedwyn). Gatehouse suspects Leland was, in fact, referring to both sites in his two entries. Great Bedwyn was a significant Saxon settlement with a mint from 1056-65 and was a borough in C11 and C12, but failed to flourish after this. Although there may have been a Saxon royal manorial centre in the town there is little likelihood of a post-Conquest castle at, or near, Great Bedwyn.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU283629
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 91
  • Hostetter, E and Howe, T.N. (eds.), 1997, The Romano-British villa at Castle Copse, Great Bedwyn (Indiana University Press)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 502 (possible)
  • Haslam, J., 1976, Wiltshire towns: the archaeological potential (Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society)
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 12 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 499, 504
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 27 online copy ; Vol. 5 p. 80 [online copy >]


  • Mcmahon, Phil, 2004, The Archaeology of Wiltshire's Towns An Extensive Urban Survey Great Bedwyn (Wiltshire County Archaeology Service) online copy