Wilton Abbey

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are no visible remains

NameWilton Abbey
Alternative Names
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishWilton

In the Civil War of Stephen, the King was about to fortify the nunnery, in order to check the garrison which Maud, the Empress, had at Old Sarum, when Robert Earl of Gloucestershire, the Empress' chief supporter, unexpectedly set the town of Wilton on fire, and so frightened the King away. (Timbs and Gunn)

The exact site of the abbey is not recorded, although it is reputed to have stood a little to the west of the later Wilton House. (VCH 1962)

There are, however, indications that the peace of the cloister at Wilton was much disturbed by the turmoils of the Anarchy. In 1141 the empress was probably at Wilton and there had her meeting with Archbishop Theobald, and tradition has it that two years later the nunnery was fortified by Stephen. (VCH 1956)

There is documentary evidence that a castle was begun at Wilton in 1143 but not completed. (PastScape ref King 1983)

Gatehouse Comments

The suggestion the nunnery was being fortified maybe a misinterpretation of the Chronicles which may have had a deliberate bias. It seems likely the Nunnery was used as a temporary royal residence (a quite normal procedure) but fortification may have been slight and concentrated on the existing Wilton town defences.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU098310
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 103
  • 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. 502
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 318
  • Haslam, J., 1976, Wiltshire towns: the archaeological potential (Devizes: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society) p. 68-9
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 347
  • Crittall, Elizabeth (ed), 1962, VCH Wiltshire Vol. 6 p. 7-11 online transcription
  • Pugh, R.B. and Crittall, E. (eds), 1956, 'Houses of Benedictine nuns: Abbey of Wilton' VCH Wiltshire Vol. 3 p. 330-1 online transcription
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 7-8 online copy


  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 108 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 91-92 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' , Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription > http://web.archive.org/web/20101229213751/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/speight.htm])
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1879, The Chronicle of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls Series 73) Vol. 1 p. 125 online copy


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