Trowbridge Castle

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

There are uncertain remains

NameTrowbridge Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishTrowbridge

Trowbridge Castle is first mentioned in 1139 but by the 14th century it was probably no longer a fortress. Leland refers to it c 1540 as 'clene down' and in 1670 Aubrey referred to the 'ruinated castle of the Dukes of Lancaster'. Fragments of the ditch and tower and ramparts were extant in the early 19th century. In 1875 Canon Jones gave a detailed description and plan of motte and bailey which was bounded by the Biss on the west and by a moat, now followed by the line of Fore Street on the east up to the market, and then south-west to rejoin the Biss. Renn describes the castle as being a ringwork containing a motte.

A small portion of an old wall behind a house in Fore Street is traditionally thought to be a part of the castle wall. Excavations in Court Street in 1902 and 1924 for the Co-operative Society's Bakery revealed four 12th-century tombstones and burials. The tombstones are now in the parish church. They may mark the site of the castle chapel or an early parish church (VCH 1953; Renn; Jones; Goddard).

No remains of Trowbridge Castle were seen nor was it possible to see the "traditional" castle walling in Fore Street. Jones's location is doubtless correct but the regularly curved walls of the Home Mills woollen factory at ST 85495797 suggest that it utilises earlier foundations and that the area of the castle is less than Jones surmised. The Co-op Bakery at Court Street is at ST85545793. The published reference to "Wooden Piles" seems to have no documentary authority (F1 NVQ 07-JUL-69).

ST 85565788. During building operations at Knee's Department Store in Castle Street a large ditch containing stratified sherds of the 13th to 17th century was discovered

The position of the ditch suggests that it was part of the castle defences (WANHM 1973)

No change to previous information, but the recent excavation report seems to indicate that the ditch was that of the motte since it is well inside the traditional boundary of the castle (F2 MJF 06-SEP-76).

Excavation in 1977 revealed the foundations of a late Saxon church (ST85NE36), overlain by a layer of re-deposited clay, interpreted as the remains of the castle mound (Borthwick 1988).

Excavation in 1986 at ST855580 showed that a wall of possible late Medieval origin, reputedly on the line of the West side of the outer bailey, was constructed in the fill of a ditch, at least 2.5m.deep, producing C12-C14 material. Further excavations within the outer bailey revealed sequences of Medieval and later usage.

Excavation in 1988 located the ditch between the inner and outer bailies, as well as earlier settlement showed that a wall of possible late Medieval origin, reputedly on the line of the West side of the outer bailey, was constructed in the fill of a ditch, at least 2.5m. deep, producing C12-C14 material (Med. Arch. 1987)

The excavations at the castle have not determined whether or not the defences had been substantially established before the castle was besieged in 1139, nor whether the putative motte and two baileys were the product of a single phase of construction or a process of long-term development. Morphological evidence sugests a sequence sililar to Goltho, that is, a motte added to a pre-existing sub-rectangular ringwork. A Saxo-Norman settlement was cleared to make way for the castle, and a church and cemetery were incorporated within the castle bounds (Creighton 2000). (PastScape)

A castle had been built on the site of the Saxo-Norman settlement in c.1139. This comprised an inner bailey, to the north and east of which lay an outer bailey, the extent of which can be inferred by the line of some of the known Medieval streets. Although there was no archaeological evidence for a motte, cartographic and historical sources indicate the presence of one in the north-west corner of the inner bailey. Indeed, in the late 18th century the motte was apparently tall and steep enough for a drunkard to be killed rolling down its side (Rogers 1984). The excavations demonstrated the size of the moat and the width of the defensive banks, although there was only limited evidence of their structure. The inner bailey lay on the crest of the Cornbrash ridge, and its banks sealed the ditches of the Saxo-Norman manorial complex. (Mcmahon)

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST855578
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  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 270
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 100
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, Index and Amendments to Mike Salter's English Castles Books (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 11
  • Graham, A.H. and Davies, S.M., 1993, Excavations in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 1977 and 1986-1988 (Salisbury: Wessex Archaeological Report No. 2) p. 57-77, 146-8
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford)
  • Rogers, K., 1984, The book of Trowbridge (Barracuda Books Ltd)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 502
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles)
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 335
  • Pugh, R.B. and Crittall, Elizabeth (ed), 1953, VCH Wiltshire Vol. 7 p. 131-2 online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 235 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 12 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. 492
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 137 online copy
  • Harvey, J.H. (ed), 1969, Itineraries (of) William Worcestre (Clarendon Press) p. 140


  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 107 online copy
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 289-90 online copy
  • Borthwick, A., 1988, CBA Group 12 Newsletter p. 21-3
  • 1988, 'Excavations and fieldwork in Wiltshire 1987' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 82 p. 178–80 online copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1987, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 168 online copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 169 online copy
  • 1973, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 68 p. 138 online copy
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Goddard, E., 1926, 'Medieval Gravestones at Trowbridge' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 43 p. 345 online copy
  • Goddard, E., 1905-6, 'Early Gravestones found at Trowbridge' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 34 p. 218 online copy
  • Jones, W.H., 1875, 'Early Annals of Trowbridge' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 15 p. 215-9 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Potter, G.R. (ed), 1955, Gesta Stephani (Nelson) p. 61
  • Potter, K.R. (ed), 1955, The Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury (Nelson's Medieval Texts) p. 36 (A revised edition by Edmund King (Oxford University Press, 1999) should also be consulted)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 471


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