Wallingford Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameWallingford Castle
Alternative Namescastellum Walingafordense; Walingef'; Walingeforde
Historic CountryBerkshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishWallingford

Medieval motte and bailey castle, built circa 1067-71, slighted 1652. excavations in the bailey revealed a mid C12 bank and ditch and C17 wall. The excavations also indicated that the castle defences were extended in circa 1275. Medieval pottery was found. Large and important early motte castle built in corner of Saxon burgh. Used throughout the medieval period and besieged in both the Anarchy and the Civil War. Impressive earthworks remain but only fragments remain of the shell keep, curtain wall and interior buildings. The motte is 60 m. round and 13.2 m. high without a ditch.

The extensive and evocative earthworks of Wallingford Castle occupy much of the north-east quarter of the town. The Castle Meadows enable you to explore a complex array of banks, ditches and other features relating to late Saxon, medieval, post-medieval and early modern works and landscaping.

While the foundation of Wallingford castle is not documented specifically, it can be assumed with a reasonable level of certainty that the first castle was constructed in the immediate wake of the Norman Conquest, possibly as early as 1067. The likely context for this building operation was William the Conqueror’s systematic programme of castle-building within the major pre-Conquest urban centres of southern England, designed to suppress populations and seize control of the apparatus of royal government across the shires. The existence of a castle at Wallingford is first documented positively in 1071 when Abbot Aldred of Abingdon was imprisoned there as the result of probable complicity in the rebellion of Edwin and Morcar. The castle was subjected to a series of sieges from 1139-53, when it acted as one of the main power bases of forces loyal to the Empress Matilda

This succession of military actions led to construction of a number of siege castles (or ‘counter castles’) designed to blockade Wallingford and its garrison, although the precise numbers and locations of these short-term fortifications have been the subject of debate. Following the disturbances of the Anarchy, the castle passed to Henry II; it was repaired and strengthened in the last quarter of the twelfth century, and extensive construction work, including renovations to the ditches of both castle and town is recorded in the reign of John. The castle, honour and town were bestowed on Richard, Earl of Cornwall in 1231, and subsequently passed to his son, Edmund, before reverting to the Crown in 1300; the castle was again the subject of occasional royal investment before its general dilapidation in the late Tudor period, and was systematically demolished in 1652 following a Civil War siege.

Given the enormous potential of Wallingford’s topography and archaeology to illuminate the Saxo-Norman transition, the evidence of Domesday Book is especially relevant. The separate Domesday entry for Wallingford heads the entries for the rest of the shire, indicating a flourishing town with a Saturday market and mint, and also affords a tantalising glimpse of how the new Norman presence represented by the castle impacted on the town. In 1066 the royal borough contained 276 houses (hagae) on eight virgates of land; by 1086 eight of these properties had been destroyed to make way for the castle. This figure seems minimal in comparison to other urban centres into which castles had been inserted, such as Cambridge (where 27 dwellings were destroyed because of the castle) or Lincoln (166), and the reasons why less than 3% of properties were displaced at Wallingford remain open to speculation. Explanations include the likelihood that the original castle took up a far smaller area than the earthworks of the motte and inner bailey suggest, or perhaps more likely, that it was imposed upon a zone where settlement was undeveloped or had contracted. A further possibility is that part of the early castle occupied an area lying beyond the custom-paying boundaries of the borough, as at Stamford, where the Norman castle lay within a royal estate, and the number of properties displaced at Domesday (five) was similarly low. Possible evidence of high-status antecedent occupation on the site of Wallingford castle is provided by the reference in Domesday that Miles Crispin, the Norman lord of Wallingford and probable castellan of the castle, held the land, previously in the hands of Edward the Confessor, ‘where the housecarls lived’. (University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History Website)

Excavations in the bailey revealed that a mid C12 bank and ditch and later C17 wall constituted the main defensive earthworks. A C12 cob building was also found, preserved to a height of 1.8m, various internal features including wall plaster and door jambs impressions survived. (Carr)

Wallingford featured prominently in the wars between Stephen and Matilda, and had become a royal possession before 1173. It was strongly refortified in 1215-6, and in 1220 the old hall was replaced by a new one. Used as a prison from the 1430s. (HKW)

Gatehouse Comments

The original castle was probably built over an existing Saxon royal site within the Saxon burh and was funded by a large lordship of over 100 knights fee's spread over nine counties which also existed pre-Conquest. Thus the castle, while altered and much enlarged over time, represents the continuity of Saxon lordship by the Norman's after their conquest. See also Wallingford siege castles.

- 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 ReferenceSU609897
Latitude51.6025390625
Longitude-1.12136995792389
Eastings460950
Northings189730
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming All Rights Reserved
Copyright David Hemming 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
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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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Books

  • < >Keats-Rohan K.S.B., Christie, Neil, and David Roffe (eds), 2015, Wallingford: The Castle and the Town in Context (Oxford: Archaeopress BAR British series 621) < >
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2015, 'Castle, Landscape and Townscape in Thirteenth-Century England: Wallingford, Oxfordshire and the 'Princely Building Strategies' of Richard, Earl of Cornwall' in Jörg Peltzer (ed), Rank and Order: The Formation of Aristocratic Elites in Western and Central Europe, 500–1500 (Ostfildern: Thorbecke Jan Verlag) p. 309-341
  • < >Christie, Neil, Creighton, Oliver et al, 2013, Transforming Townscapes From burh to borough: the archaeology of Wallingford AD 800-1400 (London: Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 35) < > passim but especially chapter 5 'Structures of Power: the Castle by Oliver Creighton
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 70-2, 248
  • Keats-Rohan, K.S.B., 2009, 'The Genesis of the Honour of Wallingford' in K.S.B. Keats-Rohan and D.R. Roffe (eds), The Origins of the Borough of Wallingford (Archaeopress BAR British Series 494) p. 52-67 onine copy
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 270-75
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 77-9
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 6
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 219-21
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 12
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 313
  • Hassall, T.G., 1977, 'The battle of Wallingford Castle 1971-1977' in R T Rowley and M Breakell (eds), Planning and the Historic Environment II (Oxford University Department for External Studies)
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1975, The history of the King's Works Vol. 3: 1485-1660 (part 1) (London) p. 298-301
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 337
  • Pevsner, N., 1966, Buildings of England: Berkshire (London) p. 248
  • 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. 850-2
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 37-8
  • Page, Wm and Ditchfield, P.H. (eds), 1923, VCH Berkshire Vol. 3 p. 523-31 online transcription
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 228-30 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Page, Wm and Ditchfield, P.H. (eds), 1906, VCH Berkshire Vol. 1 p. 265, 267
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 176-80 online copy
  • Hedges, J.K., 1881, The History of Wallingford (London: W. Clowes) p. 139
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 53-4 online copy

Antiquarian

  • 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. 30
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 119 online copy

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2014, 'Castle, Burh and Borough: Unravelling an Urban Landscape of Power at Wallingford, Oxfordshire' Château Gaillard Vol. 26 p. 113-124
  • 2010-11, 'Wallingford Summer excavation season July 10-24th 2010. Excavations reveal what is believed to have been royal landing point for Wallingford Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 195 (brief excavation report)
  • 2009-10, 'The Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 23 p. 134-39 (news report)
  • Creighton, O. et al, 2009 May/June, 'The Big Dig: Wallingford' British Archaeology Issue 106 online version
  • Creighton, O.H., 2004, ''The Rich Man in his Castle, The Poor Man at His Gate': Castle Baileys and Settlement Patterns in Norman England' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 25-36
  • Bradley, J and Gaimster, M. (eds), 2004, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2003' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 48 p. 284-6 download copy
  • Christie, N. et al, 2004, 'Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 34 p. 94-5 online copy
  • Christie, N., O'Sullivan, D., Creighton, O. and Hamerow, H., 2003, 'Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project: First Interim Report, 2002' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 33 p. 105-12 online copy
  • Creighton, O., Christie, N., O'Sullivan, D. and Hamerow, H., 2002, 'The Wallingford Burh to Borough Research Project' Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report Vol. 17 p. 43-6 online copy
  • Speight, Sarah, 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stehani' _Château Gaillard_ l. 19 p. 269-274
  • Spurrell, M., 1995, 'Containing Wallingford Castle, 1146-53' Oxoniensia Vol. 60 p. 257-70 online copy
  • 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)
  • 1990, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 20 p. 85-6 online copy
  • Durham, B.G., 1987, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 99 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 310, 318
  • Dewey, J., 1979, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 9 p. 18 online copy
  • Hassall, T.G., 1978, 'Wallingford Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 135 p. 292-3
  • 1977, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 7 p. 3, 37, 52, 55 online copy
  • 1976, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 6 p. 61, 75 online copy
  • Carr, R., 1973, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 3 p. 18 online copy
  • (Carr), 1973, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 159-61 download copy
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • 1972, Current Archaeology Vol. 3 p. 318
  • Durham, B., Hassall, T.G., Rowley, T. and Simpson, C., 1972, 'A cutting across the Saxon defences at Wallingford' Oxoniensia Vol. 37 p. 82-5 online copy
  • (Brooks), 1969, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 13 p. 255 online copy
  • Brooks, N.P., 1965-6, 'Excavations at Wallingford Castle, 1965: an interim report' Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 62 p. 17-21 download copy
  • Slade, C.F., 1960, 'Wallingford Castle in the reign of Stephen' Berkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 58 p. 33-43 download copy
  • 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
  • Chalkley Gould, 1906, Journal British Archaeological Association (new series) Vol. 12 p. 122-4
  • Armitage, E., 1904, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 436-7 online copy
  • Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 85, 87 online copy
  • Hedges, J. Kirby, 1895, 'Wallingford Castle' Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 1 p. 41-5 download copy
  • Hedges, 1891, Journal British Archaeological Association Vol. 47 p. 124-31
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 200 online copy

Guide Books

  • Dewey, J. and Dewey, S., 1978, Wallingford Castle: a Brief Guide (Wallingford Historical and Archaeological Society)

Primary Sources

  • Stevenson, J. (ed), 1858, Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon Vol. 1 p. 486 (London; Longman Rolls series) online copy (A newer edition based on the earliest manuscript should be consulted. see Hudson, J. (ed), 2007, Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis The History of the Church of Abingdon (Oxford; Oxford University Press)
  • 1086, Domesday Book online copy
  • Stevenson, J. (ed), 1858, Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon Vol. 2 p. 3 (London; Longman Rolls series) online copy (A newer edition based on the earliest manuscript should be consulted. see Hudson, J. (ed), 2007, Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis The History of the Church of Abingdon (Oxford; Oxford University Press)
  • Pipe Rolls 1173-4, 1178-9, 1182-3, 1194-6, tempus John (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi Asservati (1201-16) (Record Commission) p. 135, 142, 186 view online copy
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 8, 187, 199 online copy
  • 1920, Liber Feodorum: The Book of Fees, commonly called the Testa de Neville Vol. 1 AD1198-1242 (London) p. 116 view online transcription
  • 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 (in Berkshire), 433 (in Bedfordshire) 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. 90-3
  • Bodleian Library MS. Top. Berks. c.28 (R), F.25 (Survey of 1555) (in Hedges, 1881, History of Wallingford Vol. 2 p. 96-7)
  • E317 Berks./31 (Survey of Commonwealth) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) esp. 89-140 available via EThOS
  • Hammond, S., 2006, 24 Castle Street, Wallingford, Oxfordshire; an archaeological watching brief' (06/31. Thames Valley Archaeological Services: Reading) online copy