Powerstock Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NamePowerstock Castle
Alternative NamesPoorstock; Porstock; Porestok; Athelstan's Castle
Historic CountryDorset
Modern AuthorityDorset
1974 AuthorityDorset
Civil ParishPowerstock

A motte-and-bailey castle, probably of the late C11 or C12. The motte is an irregular oval 150ft x 140ft and 19ft. above its surrounding ditch, of semi-circular shape, for the motte is defended naturally on the N. by the steep fall in the ground. The motte has been damaged by stone quarrying. The bailey is defended by a 15ft. high rampart on the E, and by a slightly lower rock-cutting on part of the rest of the enclosure. It is subdivided by a cross bank with two gaps. The outer enclosure of about 9 acres is of triangular form, defended by a rampart. On the W. side is an additional ditch and outer rampart, and a ditch at the E end cuts across the narrow neck of the promontory. At the S. end of this ditch is an entrance and beyond the ditch to the E. a small defended platform. An oblique pathway through the defences at the W. end may represent another entrance. It has been suggested that the outer enclosure may be of earlier date than the castle, but only excavation can decide this point (RCHME).

I see no reason for the supposition that any part of the earthwork is Iron Age. The main defence to the outer and inner bailey has been the scarping of the hillside in a contour following fashion and though this may follow in Iron Age tradition it is the easiest and obvious method of defence for any period. These defences are now topped by modern hedges. Outside the outer bailey the land falls steeply away on all sides but the east where the wide and deep ditch at A is a good substitute for lack of natural defence across the narrow ridge.

The western ditch has a maximum inner depth of 2.0m and at its southern terminal is an apparent entrance at B. The ditch is broken in the North by a modern break at C. The inner bank of the outer bailey in the West is weak and fragmentary. The interior of the inner bailey and the Motte have been greatly disturbed by quarrying though the ditch is but slightly damaged

OS 1/2,500 of 1929 incorrectly shows the rock face of the ditch around the motte as walling and omits other rock faces of the ditch. No trace of a building was found. Streams pass close to the site both in the North and in the South East. The site is grass covered (F1 JR 04-MAY-55).

'Poorstock' was the caput of the barony of the Newburgh family but acquired by King John in 1205. The "Kings houses" were completed in 1206-7 and were probably constructed within the bailey. Although Henry III stayed there in 1230, the manor again passed into private hands during Edward I's reign (HKW). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

There is a local tradition of this being a residences of the Saxon King Athelstan but the tenurial history does not support a Saxon royal residence here so probably fanciful. The question being at what date such tradition arose and if it affected the decision of King John to obtain the castle.

- 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 ReferenceSY521958
Latitude50.7611198425293
Longitude-2.68004989624023
Eastings352100
Northings95850
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 25
  • Pomeroy, Colin, 1998, Discover Dorset Castles and Forts (Dovecote Press) p. 31-2,33
  • Wilton, P., 1995, Castles of Dorset (Wimborne)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 69 (slight)
  • Poole, H.S., nd ?1987, Powerstock A Short Social History p. 1 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 281-2
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 285
  • Pevsner, N. and Newman J., 1972, Buildings of England: Dorset (London) p. 345
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 987-8
  • RCHME, 1952, An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset Vol. 1: west (HMSO) p. 183-4 no. 3 (plan) online transcription
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 121, 123 online copy
  • Hutchin, J., 1863 (3edn org. pub. 1774), History of Dorset Vol. 2 p. 318 (Facsimile edn by EP Publishing produced 1973)

Journals

  • Farrar, R.A.H., 1952, 'List of R.A.H.Farrar' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 74 p. 84
  • Bertelot, R.Grosvenor, 1943, 'Vanished Mediaeval Castles of Dorset' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 66 p. 69-70
  • Dalison, R.H.W., 1899, 'Powerstock, Church and Castle' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 20 p. 137-147 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Potter, G.R. (ed), 1955, Gesta Stephani (Nelson) p. 147
  • Kirkus, A.M. (ed.), 1946, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the ninth year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas 1207 (Pipe Roll 53) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 60)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1216-25) Vol. 1 p. 124-5 online copy