Bolebec Castle, Whitchurch

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

There are earthwork remains

NameBolebec Castle, Whitchurch
Alternative NamesBolbeck
Historic CountryBuckinghamshire
Modern AuthorityBuckinghamshire
1974 AuthorityBuckinghamshire
Civil ParishWhitchurch

Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey with a tradition of a masonry keep, is listed as a ringwork by Chateau Gaillard. An artificially scarped natural mound forms the motte with traces of building foundations on the summit. The bailey to the north on higher ground is triangular shaped; consists of a ditch and 15 ft high rampart both now partly destroyed. Built probably by Hugh de Bolebec during the reign of Stephen (1135-54). The ruins were demolished at the end of the Civil War. (PastScape)

A castle mound with bailey, situated in a commanding position at the end of a spur, bounded on the south east and west sides by natural slopes. The name Bolebec Castle is applied locally to the stone-built castle which formerly occupied the earthwork, and not the earthwork itself. Presumably the castle comprised a curtain wall around the summit with interior dwellings and outbuilldings, but nothing remains of this and the only stonework observed is an interrupted line of footings, 24.0m long, which just protrudes through the turf towards the south side. The south east part of the interior is flat, and is the only logical position for the main castle building. The castle mound, preserved under permanent pasture, is scarped out of the natural slope of the spur to enclose a sub-oval area about 80.0m north-south by about 60.0m east west. Only in the north arc is an inner counter-scarp bank 0.8m maximum height. At about 5.0m below the level of the enclosed area is a moat, now dry except for a marshy area around a spring in the south east arc. This spring was undoubtedly the water source for the moat. The north part of the moat is now occupied by Castle Lane, and the west arc is mutilated by later ground disturbance. There is no obvious entrance; the two ways up to the summit from the west and north east appear to be modern. The bailey lies to the north of the castle in the garden of Bolebec Place, and has been severely mutilated by landscaping

On the east side the rampart is reduced to an outward-facing scarp, and in the west, the massiveness of the bank suggests it has been enlarged and altered in recent years. (PastScape–ref. F1 NKB 24-JUL-1977)

Gatehouse Comments

The suggestion of a construction date during the reign of Stephen seems to be one of received wisdom rather than something based on historical or archaeological evidence. As with many such castles it is just as likely to have been constructed on the site of an already existing defended Saxon thegnal burh in the immediate post-Conquest periods although refurbishment and enlargement are possible at any time after this.

- 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 ReferenceSP799208
Latitude51.8798904418945
Longitude-0.839640021324158
Eastings479970
Northings220820
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Rob Farrow and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 33
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 26
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 317
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 344
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1925, VCH Buckinghamshire Vol. 3 p. 443-4 online transcription
  • RCHME, 1913, An inventory of the historical monuments in Buckinghamshire Vol. 2 (north) p. 17, 324-5 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 436-7 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 144-5 online copy
  • Sheahan, J.J., 1862, History of Buckinghamshire (London) p. 774 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Marsh, J., 1858, 'On the Noble Family de Bolebec' Records of Buckinghamshire Vol. 1 p. 246-54 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Stevenson, J. (ed), 1858, Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon (London: Rolls Series 2) p. 200 online copy