Oswestry Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameOswestry Castle
Alternative NamesAlbum Monasterium; Blancminster; Blankmouster; Blancmustier; Croes Oswald; L'Oeuvre; L'uvre; Castle Loure; Luure; Luvre; Lvvre: Castle Philip; Oswaldestre; Meresberie
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishOswestry

The remains of the motte, forming part of the motte and bailey castle in Oswestry, survive well. The motte, together with the area of the bailey indicated by street names, provides evidence of the changing nature of the military and economic conditions during the medieval and post-medieval periods which shaped the town. Episodes in the history of the castle and the town are well documented. In addition to the remnants of the stone keep, buried remains of earlier structures that stood on the motte will survive. The surviving structural, artefactual and organic remains, together with the historical sources, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the castle. Archaeological investigation undertaken in 1988 has helped to demonstrate the nature and extent of the buried remains of the castle and the adjoining part of the town wall. The monument is a significant public amenity and has considerable educational value. It remains a prominent feature within the landscape.

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte, which was originally part of a motte and bailey castle, the ruins of a stone keep built upon its summit and an adjoining portion of the town wall. The castle is referred to as 'castelle Lurve' in the Domesday Survey and was constructed by Reginald, Sheriff of Shropshire. Throughout the medieval period the estate of Maesbury (Oswestry) was held by the FitzAlan family, who developed their landholding into the marcher lordship of Oswestry by the late 12th century. The castle was never used as a principle residence of the FitzAlans, but served as a depot for major campaigns against the Welsh, as well as forming the base for a defensive force of light cavalry. The castle was strengthened at the end of the 13th century, but its military significance declined shortly afterwards, although it was used to muster Welsh troops for the war in France in the 14th and 15th centuries

The castle was the scene of a parliament held by Richard II in 1398. It was garrisoned by Royalist troops during the Civil War, but was slighted by Cromwellian forces in 1644, and had been largely demolished by about 1650. A natural isolated oval mound, probably of glacial origin, has been adopted and utilised to form the motte. It is about 12m high and measures approximately 52m by 72m at its base. Upon the summit and around the top are the in situ and collapsed remnants of the stone keep possibly dating to the 13th century, replacing earlier structures probably built of timber. The remains of the keep are a Listed Building Grade II. The internal layout of the keep is not known, but an inventory compiled in 1398 notes a great chamber, a middle chamber and a high chamber, the Constables Hall, a wardrobe, a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, a kitchen, larder and buttery. From the evidence of the standing fabric it is considered that the keep was a square or rectangular structure. To the south east of the keep are the remains of a probable bastion, largely rebuilt in the late 19th century. It is a Listed Building Grade II and is included in the scheduling. The base of the mound is defined by substantial revetment walls of probable late 19th century date, incorporating two gate piers removed from one of the former town gates known as the Beatrice Gate. These walls and the gate piers are also Listed Grade II and included in the scheduling. The castle bailey, which lies to the south of the motte, probably served as the initial focus for the development of the town. The town had certainly grown beyond the original limits of the castle bailey before the second half of the 13th century when the town walls were constructed. The location of the bailey is recorded in the street names Bailey Street and Bailey Head, although its exact extent is not certain and is therefore not included in the scheduling. An archaeological excavation on top of the motte undertaken in 1988 revealed a metre thick layer of demolition rubble dating to the 17th century, whilst in a trench dug at the base of the mound a small section of a substantial wall, thought to be part of the 13th century town defences, was found. This wall is approximately 2m wide, aligned south west-north east, and is built of mortared rubble with its eastern side faced with dressed sandstone blocks. An opening though the wall was uncovered and is believed to mark the position of an original postern gate. The wall would appear to overlie the remains of the motte ditch and it thus post-dates the construction of the motte. This section of the town wall has been consolidated and remains have been exposed. In the late 19th century the castle mound was extensively landscaped in order to create a public pleasure ground. The earliest large scale Ordnance Survey map published in 1874 shows a series of terraces defining a spiralling path around the mound. This scheme formed the basis of the subsequent landscaping which included the construction of a stone wall around the top of mound. All these structural features are included in the scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Although Oswestry was a significant castle of the welsh marches generally its garrison in the C12 consisted of 1 knight, 2 porters and 2 watchmen although it could be increased in times of trouble but up to a hundred servientes (sergeants - man at arms) (see Suppe 1984).

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSJ290298
Latitude52.8611106872559
Longitude-3.05523991584778
Eastings329060
Northings329810
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 94
  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 122-24
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 64
  • 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. 215
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 44-5
  • Suppe, F., 1984, 'The Garrisoning of Oswestry: A Baronial Castle on the Welsh Marches' in Kathryn Reyerson and Faye Powe (eds), The Medieval Castle: Romance and Reality (Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa) p. 63-78 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 427
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 273
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 271
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 134
  • Watkin, I, 1920, Oswestry with an Account of its Old Houses, Shops, etc, and Some of their Occupants p. 164, p. 281, p. 285-287, p. 289-293
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 179-80 online copy
  • Lloyd, J.E., 1912, A history of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (London) p. 494 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Wall (after Downham), 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Shropshire Vol. 1 p. 316, 386
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 145-8 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 346-51 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London) Vol. 10 p. 316- online copy
  • Catherall, W.,1855, History of Oswestry: comprising the British, Saxon, Norman and English Eras p. 15, p. 92, p. 183-184

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. 395, 397
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1906, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 3 p. 75 online copy

Journals

  • Briggs, Keith, 2008, 'The Domesday Book castle LVVRE' English Place-Name Society Journal Vol. 40 p. 113-8
  • 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)
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 242-3 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
  • Parry-Jones, J., 1894, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 17 p. 107-73
  • (Parry-Jones), 1894, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 49 p. 59-67 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. 211 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1887, 'The castles of Shropshire' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 10 p. 20
  • 1885, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 8 p. 145-86
  • Clark, G.T., 1878, 'Oswestry and Whittington' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 33 p. 179-87 (reprinted in MMA) online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book Di, 253b,1 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1160-62, 1164-65, 1167, 1170 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Brut y Tywysogion 1149, 1216 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • The Memoranda Roll of the tenth year of the Reign of King John (1207-8) : together with the Curia Regis Rolls of Hilary 7 Richard I (1196) and Easter 9 Richard I (1198). A roll of plates held by Hugh de Neville in 9 John (1207-8), and fragments of the close Rolls of 16 and 17 John (1215-16) (Pipe Roll Society 69) (Close Roll entry)
  • 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 Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 434 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 26, 34, 426 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. 417-8
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 222-4 online copy Vol. 2 p. 173-5 [online copy > http://archive.org/stream/memoirsofcivilwa02philiala#page/173/mode/1up]
  • C145/263(11) (Survey of 1397) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Worthington, M., 1989, Oswestry Castle and Town Wall: Report on the Excavations in 1988
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1983, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 14575