Woodgarston, Wootton St Lawrence

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameWoodgarston, Wootton St Lawrence
Alternative NamesWoodcastle; Monk Sherborne; Castle of the Wood; Castellum de Silva
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishWootton St Lawrence

The earthwork at Woodgarston is situated on fairly level ground near the edge of the chalk plateau which slopes rapidly down to the Kennet valley about 500 yards to the north. It is circular, 43 yards in diameter from crest to crest of the vallum. The rampart stands 8 feet above the area and 19 above the bottom of the ditch, and there is no bank on the counterscarp.

In the grass field to the west of the road, are traces of the curved bank and ditch of the bailey - C.D. vertical only 3 1/2 feet. The bank begins at the back of the cart sheds and is lost at the corner of the field in the fence which runs northwards on a 5 feet bank. On the east of the road, continuing the line of the buildings beyond the pond, is the faintest fold in the ground curving round to the north-east towards the line of a garden fence.

The rampart of the keep is covered with large flints, both lying loose and embedded. They are especially well seen under the roots of an elm on the west.

The soil is clay - two or three feet thick on chalk and the ground would be naturally forest. There is a well within the keep, still in use. Early mention is made of a chapel at Woodgarston. All the modern farm buildings are within the line of the bailey (Williams-Freeman).

In a grant of land by Eadmund ("B.803" A charter of A.D.945 Cartularium Saxonicum, Vol. II (1887), p. 560, (birch) Wealagaerstune - 'the Grass Enclosure of the Walls' is mentioned. This is now represented by Woodgarston Farm by which are the remains of an old fort; hence the 'Walls' in the old name (Grundy).

The main earthwork - a ring motte - is in good preservation, under grass and trees with a few portable sheds and small farm-lumber within it. The bank and ditch, as described by Williams-Freeman, survive on all but the south side. Here, opposite the farmhouse, the bank has been levelled and there is no trace of the ditch

On the west, the ditch has a causeway opposite a lowering of the bank.

The interior of the motte is raised above the general level and its north-east corner is slightly raised possibly indicating the site of a building. On the bank are numbers of large flints and, as stated by Williams-Freeman, under the exposed roots of one tree is the debris of a well. The well is now disused and covered by iron and timber posts.

The bank and ditch described as a bailey by Williams-Freeman accompanies an old hedge-bank, on the south-west. It appears to be a continuation of the hedge bank to the north, and I am of the opinion that it is so slight as to be of doubtful antiquity. No trace of its extension to the east was seen.

Dr. Crawford, in conversation, August 1956, dismissed the identification of the motte with the Saxon derivation of Woodgarston (Field Investigators Comments F1 WCW 22-DEC-56). (PastScape)

There were 4 hides of land at WOOTTON which were granted in 940 by King Edmund to his thegn Edric for three lives, and in 956 by King Eadwig to Æthelwold: this land was perhaps included in the 5 hides which belonged at the time of the Domesday Survey to Hugh de Port and had previously been held of King Edward the Confessor by Elmar and Alviet. The estate was probably incorporated in the manor of Monk Sherborne and granted to the priory there by Henry de Port, for no mention occurs of it among the St. John lands, and Michael, the Prior of Sherborne, was stated to be holding a lay fee in Wootton St. Lawrence in the reign of Henry III. (VCH)

Gatehouse Comments

Scheduled as a 'ring-motte'. The dismissal of this earthwork as being derived from Saxon place-name is in line with the state of knowledge in the 1950s. However it is entirely possible this earthwork is a Norman rebuilding or strengthening of any earlier Saxon site. The site is beside a crossroads (although the N/S road is now reduce to a foot path the E/W route is still a major trunk road), on the side of a hill beside a well. It is close to farm buildings and probably represents the site of a medieval farmstead. If this was the thegnal manor of Edric it may be it was strengthened in the post-Conquest period and became one of the castles 'destroyed' at the request of Henry II after The Anarchy by being granted to a priory (The 'destruction' being an economic one where the tenant changed from someone paying with military service to someone paying a rent to a priory - although not necessarily a different person) This has been suggested as the 'Castle of the Wood' stormed in 1147 although it may have been too small a site and too lowly held to be mentioned. Silchester is possibly a better alternative for that site but see also Woodchester.

- 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 ReferenceSU584550
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Sebastian Ballard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • Osborne, Mike, 2011, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud: The History Press) p. 243 (listed in Appendix)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 61
  • Barron, W.G., 1985, The Castles of Hampshire and Isle of Wight (Paul Cave) p. 55
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 191
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 350
  • Williams-Freeman, J.P.,1915, An Introduction to Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire (London) p. 73-4, 420
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1911, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 4 p. 239-42 (parish history) online transcription


  • Hughes, Michael, 1989, 'Hampshire Castles and the Landscape 1066-1216' Landscape History Vol. 2 p. 27-60
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Grundy, 1931, Archaeologia Vol. 81 p. 101
  • Bigg-Wither, R.F., 1898-1903, 'On the manor of Woodgarston and some documents relating thereto' Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 241-52

Primary Sources

  • Potter, G.R. (ed), 1955, Gesta Stephani (Nelson) p. 138