Swerford Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameSwerford Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishSwerford

The motte and bailey castle at Swerford survives as an extant earthwork monument at the centre of the village whose development it both promoted and then later affected. It is a good example of its class and part excavation has demonstrated that it contains archaeological remains relating to the monument, the landscape in which it was built and the economy of the inhabitants.

The monument includes the 12th century Swerford motte and bailey castle and an associated enclosure extending to the north east situated on a north facing crest, overlooking the valley of the River Swere at a point where the river is fordable. The motte survives as a small stone and earthen conical mound c.18m in diameter at its summit and c.30m across at its base. It stands c.4m above the original ground level. It has been slightly truncated to the south where it has been levelled into the ditch. The bailey to the south of the motte is roughly kidney-shaped. It encloses an area c.52m from east-west and 47m from north-south surrounded by a stone rampart 5m across and up to 3m high and a substantial ditch 10m wide and c.5m deep. It survives around the entire circuit except for a short 20m long section in the south west corner which was destroyed in 1925 by an extension of the adjacent churchyard. A number of platforms within the bailey mark the location of stables, kitchens and store rooms which will have buried remains. The original entrance lies on the north side of the castle, facing the ford. It is situated between the motte and the bailey ditch and measures 8m across. To the north east of the motte lies a second, smaller, bailey on which two slight circular platforms stand. Both platforms, believed to be the locations of a dovecote and windmill, measure c.13m in diameter and 0.4m high. The bailey has no ditch as such but is formed by a raised platform of material cut out of the slope. It measures c.32m from north-south and 19m from east-west

Slight traces of ridge and furrow cultivation are visible in the north east corner of the field in which the castle lies. These represent agricultural activity around the site in the Middle Ages. To the south west there is also a slight hollow way running through the line of the ditch which is believed to date to the period after the castle fell out of use. Part excavations in 1938 and 1956 recovered a large quantity of pottery and some metal work. Much of the pottery was of the same type as that found at Ascott d'Oyley castle, believed to have been built at a similar date by the same family. The pottery suggests a date for the castle's construction in the second half of the 12th century, perhaps linked to the unrest of the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Mathilda known as 'the Anarchy'. (Scheduling Report)

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 ReferenceSP372311
Latitude51.9777603149414
Longitude-1.45922005176544
Eastings437240
Northings231170
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright David Stowell 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. 76
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 206 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 304
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 318
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 418-19 online copy
  • Potts, W., 1907, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 2 p. 326-7 online transcription
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 168 online copy

Journals

  • 1958, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 2 p. 195 download copy
  • Jope, E.M., 1938, Oxfordshire Archaeological Society Report Vol. 84 p. 85-93