Winchester 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 major building remains

NameWinchester Castle
Alternative NamesWintoniae
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire (City of Winchester)
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishWinchester

Motte and bailey castle was probably built in 1067 and survived until the late C13. It was a favourite Royal residence with a complex of halls, chambers and chapels, but all that survives is the early C13 great Hall built, 1232-1240, by Henry III, now part of the County Offices complex. The entrance to the Great Hall was altered in C19 and the roof was renewed in 1873 by T H Wyatt. The medieval round table is situated on the west wall. The castle was demolished in 1645 and in 1683 a palace for Charles II was commenced, to be used successively as a prison and barracks, before being destroyed by fire in 1854. (PastScape)

Winchester Castle occupied several acres of rising ground at the west end of the city. The Motte, presumably the work of William or his sons, was situated at the southern end of the site, with the bailey occupying the majority of the remainder. Until the end of the 13th century it was a favourite royal residence with a complex of halls,chambers and chapels, but all that survives is the early 13th century Great Hall, now part of the County Offices complex. The earliest reference to a keep is in 1196. In 1216 it was captured after a siege of 2 weeks by Louis of France using siege engines. Under Henry III, extensive repairs and alterations amounting to £10,000 were made. These included the demolition of the old hall and its replacement, the construction of interval towers, and the rebuilding of the great keep. Numerous chapels are also documented. The royal were badly damaged by fire in 1302, and apparently were not made good

The Great Hall was restored under Richard II (HKW).

The castle was demolished in 1645 and in 1683 a palace for Charles II (The King's House) was commenced, to be used successively as a prison and a barracks before being destroyed by fire in 1854 (VCH).

Recent excavations in the vicinity of the hall have confirmed some of the details noted on Colvin's plan (Biddle 1962-3).

Winchester Castle is mainly occupied by a modern army barracks. The surviving remains comprise the castle ditch preserved on the south and the Great Hall, now used as the County Court. Preserved within the Castle Hall is the so-called Round Table of King Arthur. Of considerable antiquity it is none the less merely a mappa mundi using the legend of Arthur as its motif (F1 CFW 21-APR-68).

Excavations from 1968 to 1971 were carried out in the Castle Yard. Two Anglo-Saxon streets were found below the castle earthworks, one of which had been repaired at least seven times. Timber pits and buildings of the same period have also been discovered (Biddle 1969; 1970; 1975.

The Castle was probably built about 1067 with a motte at the north end of the bailey and the rest of the castle built on an immense platform running north-south. A chapel of this period was also found. Nothing now remains of the early Norman defences or buildings; the castle was completely remodelled in the reign of Henry III. (PastScape)

M. Biddle ... uncovered part of the apse and nave of the early Norman chapel of the castle. The NE. angle of the nave was still standing 8 ft. high and turned in long-and-short quoins, and the Anglo-Saxon technique of construction suggests that the chapel should be dated c. 1070. The inner face of the N. wall of the nave was painted with a series of half-length draped figures, the heads of which had been destroyed when the building was demolished c. 1150. The chapel stood at the N. limit of the outer bailey, immediately beside the foot of the motte which commanded the N. apex of the castle. The motte had originally been revetted with timber, but when this was replaced in stone, the new wall, which was structurally later than the chapel, curved to avoid the NE. corner of the nave. (Med. Arch. 1971)

Gatehouse Comments

Interestingly the castle was not built on the site of the Saxon royal palace, which was in the centre of the town adjacent to the cathedral precinct. This may be because in 1067, when William the Conqueror was still trying to confirm his possession of the English Crown with the co-operation of the English, the Saxon palace was still occupied and used by Queen Edith, widow of King Edward the Confessor, sister of Harold Godwinson and, questionably, the author of the Bayeux Tapestry, who died at Winchester in 1075 and was always considered with the greatest respect by William. William is reported as rebuilding this palace in 1070, or at least equipping it with a hall large enough for great gatherings of the lords. However, Armitage suggests the decision to build castles on the edge of towns was one motivated by defensive considerations and access to an escape route from hostile townspeople. Renn (1973) states that William's palace was within the town and that the castle may not date until after 1141 although this then raises the question as to the reason for the move at that time. Biddle interpreted his fairly extensive excavations of the area as being that of a castle started 1067. The original castle appears to have been an extensive earthwork platform raised over the Roman wall and part of the Saxon town, which Biddle writes was timber revetted but there may not have been a motte in sense of an isolated tall mound. If William was using the palace within the city as his residence and place for his kingly display and gatherings then that would suggest the castle was being built as a military base and secure redoubt in times of trouble (and possibly also a a prison)

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU477294
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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  • Keevill, Graham D., 2000, Medieval Palaces, An Archaeology (Stroud; Tempus) p. 27, 72, 86, 96, 136
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  • 1969, Archaeological excavations 1968 (HMSO) p. 51
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  • Portal, 1882, The Great Hall, Winchester Castle (Winchester and London) (a good book, not confined to the Hall)
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  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 175-7 (many plates) online copy
  • Milner, 1798, History and Survey of the Antiquities of Winchester (Winchester) Vol. 2 p. 158-76 (history)
  • Grose, Francis, 1787, Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 8 p. 84-6 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. 199
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 270 online copy
  • William Speed, 1611, Map of Hampshire online copy


  • Hughes, Michael, 1989, 'Hampshire Castles and the Landscape 1066-1216' Landscape History Vol. 2 p. 27-60
  • Biddle, M., 1975, 'Excavations at Winchester, 1971; tenth and final interim report: part I' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 55 p. 96-126
  • 1971, 'Medieval Britain in 1970' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 15 p. 147 online copy
  • 1970, 'Medieval Britain in 1969' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 157, 176 online copy
  • Biddle, M., 1970, 'Excavations at Winchester 1969, 8th interim report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 50 p. 285-92
  • Biddle, M., 1969, 'Winchester 1961-68' Château Gaillard Vol. 4 p. 19-30
  • Davidson, Brian K., 1969, 'Early earthwork castles: a new model' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 37-47
  • Biddle, M., 1969, 'Excavations at Winchester, 1968: seventh interim report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 49 p. 296-302
  • Biddle, M., 1968, 'Excavations at Winchester 1967: sixth interim report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 48 p. 258-9
  • 1965, 'Medieval Britain in 1964' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 9 p. 190 online copy
  • Biddle, M., 1965, 'Excavations at Winchester 1964, Third Inteim Report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 45 p. 240-1
  • 1964, 'Medieval Britain in 1962 and 1963' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 253-4 online copy
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  • 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)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
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  • Wyatt, 1873-4, Transactions of the Royal Institute British Architects p. 157-69
  • Smirke, E., 1845, 'On the Hall and Round Table at Winchester' Proceedings at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute p. 44-80 online copy
  • Milner, 1797, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 1 p. 397, Part 2 p. 545, 637-8 online copy

Guide Books

  • Biddle, M. and Clayre, B., 2000, The Castle, Winchester: Great Hall & Round Table (Winchester)
  • McIlwain, John, 1994, Winchester Castle and the Great Hall (Pitkin Guides)
  • Biddle, M. and Clayre, B., 1983, Winchester Castle and the Great Hall (Winchester: Hampshire County Council)
  • Portal, c1882, (An abstract of his 1882 book published as a guide book)

Primary Sources

  • le Prevost, A. (ed), 1840, Orderici Vitalis, Historiae Ecclesiaticae Vol. 2 p. 166 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1169-73, 1174-6, 1195-6 tempus John (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 421 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 235-7
  • C145/74(22) (Survey of 1314) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 43 No. 179 [online copy >])
  • B.M. Cotton MS. Titus B.II, F.242 (Survey of 1570) British Library collection information
  • C145/315(10) (Survey of 1455) The National Archives reference


  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS