Wigmore Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWigmore Castle
Alternative NamesWigemore; Wygemore
Historic CountryHerefordshire
Modern AuthorityHerefordshire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishWigmore

Multi-phase stone-built castle. Probable mid-C11 origins built by William Fitzosborn, Earl of Hereford and held by Ralph de Mortimer at the time of the Domesday Book Survey (1086). Some of the masonry is C12 and C13 but the structure was otherwise rebuilt during the early C14, probably by Roger Mortimer. It was repaired during the mid- to late C16 by Sir Henry Sydney and used as a prison. In 1643 it is said to have been dismantled by the Harley family who had bought it in 1601. Sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. Present ruins consists of parts of the walls of a shell-keep on a mound to the north-west of the site, portions of the enclosing walls of the bailey to the south-east including three towers, a gatehouse and a single fragment of wall near the middle of the enclosure. Keep: roughly oval and entered from east side with a stretch of wall on the north side with a flat buttress and terminating in a second buttress. The upper part of this wall and the rest of the surviving walling of the keep is C14. There was also a south tower, of which the south wall remains with the embrasure of a single-light window, and a west tower, which must have been at least three storeys high and contained a spiral staircase. The main curtain wall carried up to the keep mound at the east end and the south side. North tower: C14. It retains its outward side and plinth and two of the faces have the remains of window embrasures. East tower: probably C13. Circular outward face with plinth survives with large window embrasure and grade-robe shaft. Gatehouse: C14. Only the central portion remains with a four-centred archway (half-choked with debris) of two orders; the outer moulded and the inner order chamfered, and between them is a portcullis groove. East of the archway is the remains of a small room with a west doorway, a right-angled passage and a rubble vault

The wall west of the archway has the remains of a window and door and adjoins a fairly well- preserved section of curtain wall. South tower: C14. Rectangular plan and of at least three storeys with a basement and a moulded plinth; the basement under the east half is approached by a square-headed doorway in the north-west angle down a flight of steps. The ground floor has four windows and a fireplace (the two south windows have cusped pointed heads) and there are four first floor windows. The curtain wall to the west is quite well preserved and adjoins the south-west tower: this was of similar date, plan and height to the south tower. The south wall has a plinth and second and third storey window. The adjoining curtain wall to the north has traces of a window, a chimney flue and an ogee-arched doorway. There are also the remains of a rectangular inner enclosure south-east of the keep mound. An engraving by Buck of 1732 shows little more of the building than presently survives. It was one of the largest castles built along the Welsh border and appears to have been a structure of the first importance. (Listed Building Report)

Wigmore Castle lies on the Welsh border and is one of the largest of its type. The original motte and bailey castle was built by William FitzOsbern, one of William the Conqueror's captains at the Battle of Hastings, in the mid 11th century. It soon came into the ownership of the powerful Mortimer family, and became their chief fortress from which they controlled large parts of central Wales. There is some 13th and 14th century masonry but the castle was rebuilt in the early 14th century by Roger Mortimer, who virtually ruled England after Edwards II's deposition and murder in 1327. Roger was subsequently executed by Edward III in 1330. The castle passed from the Mortimer family to the Duke of York in 1424, and ultimately to Edward IV, although it was rarely used and became partly ruinous. It was repaired in the late 16th century and used as a prison after Elizabeth I sold it to the Harleys of Brampton Bryan. The castle was partially dismantled in 1643 to prevent Royalist forces using it, and has been ruinous ever since. The castle was taken into guardianship in 1995 and repairs were completed in 1999, although much of the castle still remains buried up to first-floor level. Only earthworks of the outer bailey remain, and the gatehouse is half buried in its own fallen masonry. The early 14th century curtain wall extends from either side of the gatehouse, and includes three surviving residential towers. There are earthwork and stone remains of a huge rectangular hall, and a chamber block once lay at the far end. A half-octagonal tower completed this range. The inner bailey is situated on top of the motte; at the far west end is a keep, with only its stair turret visible above ground. The great ditch incorporates part of a natural feature and separates the castle from the ridge beyond. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

After being taken in care in the mid 1980s was conserved and maintained as a 'romantic ruin' and nature reserve by English Heritage in the late 1990s when some archaeological investigation was undertaken. Because the stone is of such poor quality the castle has undergone either states of fairly constant repair, while it was inhabited, or period of neglect and ruin, and much of the fabric of the castle is buried under a considerable depth of rubble (6m deep in some places). This is most notable at the gatehouse where consolidated rubble fills the gate passage to a few feet below the passage arch. The archaeological potential of the site is considerable but the thick layers of rubble would make such archaeology vastly difficult and expensive (although they do protect the site).

- 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 ReferenceSO407692
Latitude52.318431854248
Longitude-2.86961007118225
Eastings340780
Northings269290
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Books

  • < >Rátkai, Stephanie, 2015, Wigmore Castle, North Herefordshire: Excavations 1996 and 1997 (Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series 34) < > series web page
  • Brooks, Alan, 2012, Buildings of England: Herefordshire (Yale University Press Pevsner Architectural Guides)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 62, 253, 427, 453
  • Shoesmith, Ron, 2009 (Rev edn.), Castles and Moated Sites of Herefordshire (Logaston Press) p. 288-301
  • Brown, Graham, 2002, Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire (English Heritage Report AI/14/2002)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 68-70
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 102
  • Remfry, Paul M., 1994, The Mortimers of Wigmore, 1066 to 1181. Part 1: Wigmore Castle (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)
  • Stirling-Brown, R., 1989, Herefordshire Castles (privately published) p. 22-24 (plan)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 212
  • 1981, Herefordshire Countryside Treasures (Hereford and Worcester County Council) p. 5
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 318
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 345, 347
  • Pevsner, N., 1963, Buildings of England: Herefordshire p. 321
  • 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. 854 (slight)
  • RCHME, 1934, An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire Vol. 3: north-west p. 205-8 No. 2 (plans) online transcription
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 148,149
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 232-3 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Herefordshire Vol. 1 p. 247-8 (plan)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 118-20 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 526-34 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 491-4 online copy
  • Robinson, C.J., 1869, The Castles of Herefordshire and Their Lords (London: Longman) p. 137-42 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 116

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 216, 397
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 13 online copy

Journals

  • Mortimer, Ian, forthcoming, 'The chronology of the twelfth-century de Mortemer family of Saint-Victor-en-Caux and Wigmore: a reappraisal' Historical Research
  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • 2004-5, 'English Heritage's Landscape Investigation: Wigmore Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 18 p. 90-1 (news report)
  • Channer, J., 2001, 'Wigmore Castle' Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings News Vol. 22 p. 4, 21–5
  • Stanford, C., 2000 Nov, 'On Preserving our ruins' Journal of Architectural Conservation Vol. 3
  • 1999-2000, 'Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire SO408693' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 13 p. 26-29 online copy
  • 1999 Dec, Heritage Today Vol. 48 p. 12-16
  • Selkirk, 'Wigmore Castle - £1m restoration' Current Archaeology Vol. 166 p. 373-
  • Cooke, John, 1998-99, 'Update on Wigmore' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 12 p. 34-5 online copy
  • Lowe, Ros, 1998, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 69 p. 31
  • Shoesmith, R., 1998, 'Archaeology, 1998, Report of Sectional Recorder' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 49.2 p. 291-4
  • Coppack, Glyn, 1997-98, 'News from English Heritage Properties Midlands Region' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 11 p. 20 online copy
  • Archaeological Research Section Woolhope NFC, 1997, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 68 p. 6-7
  • Shoesmith, R., 1997, 'Archaeology, 1997, Report of Sectional Recorder' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 49.1 p. 128-9
  • Guy, Neil, 1996-97, 'Wigmore Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 10 p. 52-54 online copy
  • 1995, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 63 p. 15
  • 1993, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 59 p. 5
  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Redhead, N., 1990, 'Wigmore castle - a resistivity survey of the outer bailey' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 46.3 p. 423-31
  • Hopkinson, Charles, 1989, 'The Mortimers of Wigmore 1086-1214' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 46.2 p. 177-93
  • Shoesmith, R., 1988, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 48 p. 30 (plan)
  • Shoesmith, R., 1987, 'Neglect and decay: Wigmore Castle — home of the Mortimers' Rescue News Vol. 42 p. 3
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 317
  • Curnow, P.E., 1981, 'Wigmore Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 23-5
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Shoesmith, R. (ed), 1967, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 6 p. 7
  • 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)
  • Auden, 1909, Shrops. Arch. etc. Socy. (ser3) Vol. 9 p. 367-72
  • Armitage, E., 1904, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 439-40 online copy
  • Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 86 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 205 online copy
  • Davies, Rev J., 1881, 'Wigmore Castle and the Mortimers' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 22-7
  • Clark, G.T., 1874, 'Wigmore' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 29 p. 97-109 (reprinted MMA) online copy
  • Larking, L.B., 1858, 'Inventory of the Effects of Roger de Mortimer at Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire; A.D. 1322' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 15 p. 354-62 online copy
  • 1852, 'Excursion' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 7 p. 326 (mention only) online copy

Guide Books

  • Remfry, Paul M., 2000, Wigmore Castle Tourist Guide (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book Di, 180a, 2 (or D i, 183b, 1.) online copy
  • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) Vol. 6.1 p. 349 online copy
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1879, Historical works, the Chronicle of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (Rolls series 73) Vol. 1 p. 162 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 171 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 289 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1321-24) Vol. 4 p. 215 online copy
  • Larking, L.B., 1858, 'Inventory of the Effects of Roger de Mortimer at Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire; A.D. 1322' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 15 p. 354-62 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 137 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. 250-2
  • C145/124(18) (Survey of 1333) 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. 338 No. 1382 [online copy > https://archive.org/stream/calendarofinqu02grea#page/338/mode/1up])
  • E142/27 (Survey of 15 Edward II) The National Archives reference
  • E163/4/48 (Survey of 16-18 Edward II) The National Archives reference
  • SC12/8/18 (Survey of 17 Edward II) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Cooke, J., forthcoming, Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire: Fabric Survey (English Heritage Research Department Reports series 13-2012) (written 2008 - contains Barrett, G, 1998, 'Wigmore Castle Topographical Enhancement Survey - Shell-keep and Inner Ward Interiors' (Historic England online reference)
  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy