Bridgnorth Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Palace (Royal)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBridgnorth Castle
Alternative NamesBridgenorth; Brug; Bruges; Brugge; Burgh; Bridgemouth
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishBridgnorth

The castle was probably built by Robert de Belleme c1101-1102 on the abandonment of Quatford, and was placed, according to Florence of Worcester on the site of a Saxon burh, built by Ethelflaeda in 912 AD. Belleme surrendered the castle to Henry I in 1102. It then fell into the hands of Hugh de Mortimer during Stephen's reign but was surrendered to Henry II in 1155. By Henry VIII's reign the castle was in ruins, the keep surviving until 1646 when it was slighted by the Parliamentarians. The original church of St Mary Magdalene stood within the castle. The shattered walls of the tower keep built between 1105 and 1113, and a fragment of the curtain wall extending from the south wall remain. A portion of a wall around the summit of Castle Hill is said to be extant in the yard of the White Lion in 3 West Castle St (SA 372), while remains of the wall of the Ward form the eastern boundary of gardens to modern properties on the east side of East Castle St.

The only remains now visible of the King's House, within which was the castle hall, are some fragments of well built masonry which stand close to the west side of the tower. It apparently extended from where the Tower House (sic) now is to the southern extremity of the Castle Hill, all along the western side of the inner bailey.

Bridgnorth Castle was situated on a steep sided promontory overlooking the River Severn. The remains are fragmentary and unconnected and most of the site has been built over, but the area enclosed by the bailey wall appears to have measured 360m N/S and 160m W/E at its widest point.

SO71659278: Three sides of the Keep, 18 to 20m in height remain, leaning spectacularly to the east. There is a fragment of another building (?the King's House) on its SW side . Ten metres to the SE is a large slab of fallen masonry, probably from the keep.

SO71729285 to SO71729302: An old stone wall 163m in length, much rebuilt, follows a sinuous course on the east of East Castle St

(Ordnance Survey Record Card 1979).

Only the Keep, a massive ruinous tower of circa 1200 remains with a fragment of the curtain wall extending from the south wall. The keep leans at an angle of 15deg from vertical (Listed Building Report).

The Castle was very large, the total length of the inner and outer baileys being 380m N/S. The outer bailey may always have been designed to accommodate a small borough, as at Quatford. The line of the defences is only certain at SO71599301, where a fragment (SA372) survives and at the site of the postern gate. (SA373). On the east side it is probable that Castle Walk and Bank St mark the line of the defences on this side. On the west the line is obscure between SA 372 and SO7161 9278, where the modern path along the top of the slope marks the line once more. The division between the inner and outer baileys is likewise unclear, but the church of St Mary was probably in the inner bailey, and the inner bailey defence may have run from c SO70629282 to SO71729250. The major surviving structure is the Keep, which is typologically of the early C12. The North side has angle buttresses of the Norman type. (detailed description see card). Other buildings mentioned are a Hall with chimney and glass windows, kitchen, pantry, buttery and stables, turrets, tilt yard, barbican containing constable's house with dungeons and well. A turret or mural tower was extant by 1226 when it was ordered to be repaired (Summary by I Burrow, 1976).

The new castle at Bridgnorth included the institutions of the old site at Quatford, including the Collegiate Church of St Mary (SA 05631) and apparently the Borough and its burgesses. From exchequer accounts of the 12th to 13th century it is clear that there was a great hall with chimney and glass windows, a King's Chamber, a Queen's Chamber with an oriel at the door, a royal kitchen, pantry and butlery, all of stone, and royal stables. From other sources - a great tower with a dungeon (Ethelfleda's Tower), turrets on outer walls, a tilt yard, a barbican in which was the Constable's house and a prison, stables, a drawbridge and a well. In 1261 the Sheriff is commanded to have the houses in the castle roofed and repaired where needful (p257). By 1281, the castle was in a bad state of repair (p258-259) (Eyton 1854).

The castle was according to Florence of Worcester built in 1100 and was a rebuild of the fortress of Ethelfleda. Some antiquaries consider that the Saxon fort was not here but at the mound known as Panpudding Hill. Watkins-Pitchford disagrees and thinks the Saxon fortress was under the present castle.

After being siezed by Parliamentary troops in 1646, the buildings were stripped and they and the walls were systematically mined and blown up (Watkins-Pitchford 1932).

In 1991 an evaluation trench was dug in the grounds of St Mary's Rectory, at c SO71679288. Evidence for an east-west ditch was found, which might represent a defensive feature separating the inner and outer baileys of the C12 castle (Thompson A & Walker W S. 1991).

It has been suggested that the Saxon burh must have been abandoned by the mid 11th century or it is hard to explain why the First Earl of Shrewsbury did not develop the Bridgnorth site instead of Quatford (Mason and Barker 1961)

The layout of the original castle is not known. Documentary evidence suggests that work on the present keep was carried out between 1166 and 1174 (Croom 1992).

Although the fortifications of the castle included an outer bailey, this area was by 1242 legally part of the town (Pounds 1990).

The royal palace or "King's House" in the inner bailey was nominally maintained as a royal residence down to the 17th century (Watkins-Pitchford 1947).

Described by Leland between 1536 and 1542: "The Walles of it be of great height. There were 2 or 3 stronge wardes in the castle, that now goe totally to ruine. I count the castle to be more in compasse than a third part of the town. There is one mighty gate by north in it, now stopped up, and a little posterne made of force thereby through the wall to enter into the castle. The castle ground and especially the base court, hath now many dwellinge houses of tymbre in it newly erected"

A watching brief was undertaken at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, during excavations for drainage works. Only two features were recorded, these being a brick tomb and an isolated block of solid, random sandstone rubble masonry in lime mortar. This did not appear to be a tomb and seemed too slight to be associated with the castle. It is thought that it may have been a temporary structure relating to the construction of the church (Cook M. 2007). (Shropshire HER)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceSO716927
Latitude52.5315895080566
Longitude-2.41894006729126
Eastings371650
Northings292780
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Books

  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 172
  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 31-3
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, Index and Amendments to Mike Salter's English Castles Books (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 2
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 24-5
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 209-10
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 33-5
  • Pounds, N.J.G., 1990, The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: a Social and Political History (Cambridge University Press) p. 196
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 5-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 421
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 194
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 114, 116-7
  • 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. 576-7
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: Shropshire (London, Penguin) p. 82-3
  • Mason, J.F.A., 1957, The Borough of Bridgnorth (Bridgnorth Borough Council) p. 47
  • Watkins-Pitchford, W., 1951, Brief History of Bridgnorth Castle (Shrewsbury)
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 133
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 127-9 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 273-83 online copy
  • Anderson, J.C., 1864, Shropshire, Its Early History and Antiquities p. 11- online copy
  • Bellett, G., 1856, Antiquities of Bridgnorth (Bridgnorth) (history) online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1854, Antiquities of Shropshire (London) Vol. 1 p. 253-89 (history only) online copy
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 246-9 online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 5 p. 2-5 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. 392, 393, 396
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 85 online copy

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Mesqui, Jean, Renn, Derek and Smals Laurens, 2008, ''The Portcullis in Medieval Great Towers: An Impression' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 289-95
  • Croom, J.N., 1992, 'The Topographical Analysis of Medieval Town Plans: the Examples of Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth' Midland History Vol. 17 p. 16-38 esp 20
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 308
  • Roe, A., 1983, 'Bridgnorth, Shropshire' West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 86–7
  • Wilcox, R., 1972, 'Timber Reinforcement in Medieval Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 193-202
  • Mason, J.F.A. and Baker, P.A., 1961-4, 'The Norman Castle at Quatford' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 57 p. 37-46
  • 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
  • Watkins-Pitchford, D.W., 1948, 'A visit to Bridgnorth' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 52 p. 153-178
  • Watkins-Pitchford, D.W., 1938, 'Collections for a history of Bridgnorth, Salop: a MS by William Hardwicke' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 49 p. 199-204
  • Watkins-Pitchford, D.W., 1932, 'Bridgnorth Castle and Ethelfleda's Tower' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 46 p. 3-12
  • Clark, G.T., 1874, 'Bridgenorth, Oldbury and Quatford' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 29 p. 263-73 (reprinted in MMA) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Laud Chronicle AD1102 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
  • Coxe, H. (ed), 1841, Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica sive Flores Historiarum (London) Vol. 1 p. 170 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
  • Howlett, R. (ed), 1889, ‘The Chronicle of Robert of Torigni' in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I (Rolls series 73) Vol. 4 p. 185 online copy
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 409-10
  • Chibnall, Majorie (ed), 1978, Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica book XI (Oxford: Clarendon Press) Vol. 6 p. 20 (1102 siege) online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1166-74, 1211-12 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p.464
  • 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. 436 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Charter Rolls Henry III 1226-1257 Vol. 1 (HMSO) p. 155 view online copy
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Cook, M., 2007, Watching brief at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorth, Shropshire
  • Buteux, Victoria, 2005, 'Archaeological assessement of Bridgnorth, Shropshire' in Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Gaffney, C, Gater, J., 2000, Geophysical Survey: Bridgnorth, Shropshire Report No. 2000/109. Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (GSB Prospection): Thornton, Bradford online copy
  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2001 (1st broadcast), 'The Leaning Tower of Bridgnorth, Shropshire' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) View online
  • Thompson, A. and Walker, W.S., 1991, The Archaeological Implications of ... a New Parish Centre at St Mary's Rectory, Bridgnorth (Gifford and Partners Rep.)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1986, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 31098 (13/10/1986)