Shrewsbury Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameShrewsbury Castle
Alternative NamesPengwern
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishShrewsbury

Remains of castle. Largely late C12-c1300, with various later modifications. Mostly red sandstone. PLAN: inner bailey wall, gateway and main hall survive. Curtain wall surrounds the inner bailey, built of coursed and squared red sandstone in several phases between 1164 and 1300. Walkway and crenellations survive in part. Gateway also late C12, with roll moulded outer archway with C17 wood panelled doors. Main hall in NW of bailey: begun in 1164 and enlarged 1300 and 1596. EXTERIOR: 3 storeys, 6-window range entered at first-floor level to right through steeply arched doorway with engaged shafts and moulding. This storey largely of c1300, over earlier structure to ground floor, begun 1164. Paired round-arched lancets to ground floor, and narrow doorway with shafts. Y-traceried windows in upper storey, and wide crenellated parapet. This upper storey built 1596 and re-fenestrated by Thomas Telford in 1780. Polygonal towers of c1300 at western angle, and to NE. INTERIOR: hall reveals complex building history: its present character is largely the result of a series of restorations, including the removal of a floor to open the second and third storeys together, and the removal of partitions introduced by Thomas Telford. Roof is late C16, with 8 trusses with moulded tie beams and principal rafters. Short king posts with carved decoration and fretted carving in the spandrels. Trusses to east and west are slightly different, and may be later reconstructions. Close studded screen at eastern end of hall, with gallery over added in 1643. Fragmentary remains of moulded cornice mark the original height of the walls. Fireplace with hood (renewed) against north wall. In the NW tower, a circular room with plaster panelled walls articulated by pilasters with swags, and a dado cornice. Enriched plaster work ceiling. This decoration formed part of the remodelling of the castle carried out by Telford c1780

HISTORICAL NOTE: the earliest castle on the site was a motte and bailey built by Roger de Montgomery of which no traces survive. It is possible that this itself replaced an earlier Saxon fortification. The castle was a royal castle until the time of Edward I, and Henry II and Edward I were both responsible for major programmes of building. Repair work was carried out during the Civil War in 1643, and the castle was again renovated in c1780 by Thomas Telford for Sir William Pulteney. In 1924 the Shropshire Horticultural Society purchased the castle and carried out an extensive programme of restoration which included removal of all the internal partitions introduced by Telford. Further alterations took place in 1985 when the castle was converted to house the Shropshire Regimental Museum. (Listed Building Report)

Founded in 1067, rebuilt 1280-1300, restored and altered by Telford in 1787, restored by Sir Charles Nicholson 1926. Red Sandstone. Norman entrance gate and postern. Edwardian drum towers and enceinte walls. Edwardian main hall with battlements, later divided laterally in 3-storeys with 6 Gothic lancets to the 1st storey, the rest of the windows are C17 transomed mullions. C17 pointed arch with foliated capitals. Associated with Henry IV and the Battle of Shrewsbury. The interior has oak beams and an oak and plaster screen and was held by Prince Rupert during the Civil Wars (Listed Building Report 1972).

HISTORY: A royal castle was extant by 1068 according to Odericus Vitalis. Possibly begun by William the Conqueror and completed by Roger de Montgomery 1070-83. Fabric of this phase: wall surrounding the courtyard, main entrance arch and stone facing of the mound. Rebuilding c. 1300. Great hall constructed during rebuilding. Roofs and floors decayed and only walls remaining temp Eliz I. Civil War. 1642 Walls raised to 10ft, great hall refloored and a new upper storey created by the insertion of a new floor. Main Tower and gateway giving access to the river east of the main building. Restoration by Telford c1790, including the erection of Laura's Tower. Restoration 1926 by Sir Charles Nicholson.

Motte and Bailey. An artificial oval mount 35ft high, the scarp of which merges into the scarp of the hill on the east. The top of the hill provides the bailey, around which a larger portion of the low vallum remains, supporting the foundation of the wall constructed by Roger de Montgomery (VCH 1908).

The outer bailey may have extended as far as the Council House. (SA 10226) (Pevsner).

The inner bailey wall is probably of the C12, as is the main gateway, although both have been repaired. The base of the wall enclosing summit of the motte is of the same type. The outer bailey wall probably dates from 1223. The substantial stretch of ashlar with chamfered plinth on the north side of Water Lane represents the south side of the outer bailey. The position of the west side of the bailey is unknown (Radford 1957/60).

Norman Main Gateway. C11 or C12. Illustrated (Owen and Blakeway 1822).

Postern. Built to provide access to the river in 1642. A rectangular building, two storeys high with three light mullioned window and rounded arch (OS record Card).

Laura's Tower. See SA 10129. Great Hall/Keep. A low basement for stores and a 3 storey tower at each end. Built c 1300. The outer walls were over 8 ft thick and the inner 5 1/2 ft thick (Forrest 1920/26).

The medieval details, much recut and modernised, indicate a date of c1300 (Radford 1957/60).

College? See SA 1429. In August 1992 the Great Hall was damaged by two terrorist bombs. Structural damage was slight. The seat of one incendiary device was the foot of the screen separating the main Hall from the entrance vestibule. In September 1993 CHAU were commissioned to survey the damaged portions of the screen (Morriss 1993).

In January 2005, a watching brief was carried out on the excavation of new drains connecting to the down pipes on the south east side of the Hall at Shrewsbury Castle. There were no period-indicative inclusions or finds although the material did contain a quantity of animal bone and a possible boar’s tusk (Baker 2005).

Dendrochronology survey carried out in 2004 on timbers from the Hall Range of Shrewsbury Castle, Shropshire. Construction of the Hall was thought to have begun in AD 1164, although it is commonly accepted that it was rebuilt circa 1280 by Edward I as part of his campaign to fortify the Welsh Border. It was enlarged in 1596 and it is not clear as to whether any of the 12th century timbers remain. 32 timbers were sampled. The earliest felling date identified for a reset timber over a doorway between the east tower and the balcony which forms part of the current roof structure over the Hall. This was most likely felled in the period AD 1184 – 1214. Nine timbers were dated from the stairways at either end of the Hall and these were most likely felled in the period AD 1234 – 49. Five floor beams from the Hall and three timbers from the screen form a single group of timbers with similar date ranges, one of which retained complete sapwood and was felled in the winter of AD 1647/8 (Bridge and Miles 2005).

In 2000 geophysical survey was carried out at Shrewsbury Castle using a resistivity and ground probing radar. In the southern extent of the bailey, the radar identified a complex subsurface with no obvious discrete features that could be interpreted as a coherent structure. This may represent occupation deposits where no masonry structure was built, only timber buildings. To the north evidence of structural remains of a substantial building were found during the resistivity survey, believed to coincide with the parch marks seen during the summer months. In the same area the radar again showed evidence of much subsurface complexity but little that could be correlated with the suspected foundations.

-> The banks on the east and west side of the bailey were identified as made up ground, up to 1.9m deep with the original ground surface beneath. Unknown features were identified within the fill particularly towards the northern end of the west bank. There is some tenuous evidence for a motte ditch, though no similar feature is seen elsewhere as would be expected. A possible large pit, a well or pit, a wall or a path and a near surface dump of conductive material such as ash or clinker were also identified within the area of the bailey.

-> On the motte top there were many discrete anomalies characteristic of wall foundations of a building or buildings with several rooms. Defensively, one building makes the most sense and it is possible the foundations are from several phases, supported by some features being deeper than others. Around the western end, a wall may have run around the motte as a defensive feature. A pit and a shallower feature, possible buried metal, were also identified in the area (Geophysical survey report 2000).

Trial trenches located above 'The Dana' on the exterior of the castle's north wall identified no medieval deposits or features. Of the five trenches, four showed intact post-medieval archaeological features, while the fifth showed post-medieval deposits. A wall like feature, identified in Trench 1, probably' represents post-medieval underpinning, possibly part of the works undertaken by Thomas Telford in the late 18th century. In Trench 2 identified a construction cut for a curved brick and stone culvert likely to be of 18th or 19th century date cut into the natural clay. Here the ground levels outside the circular room are not artificially high and do not appear to have been subject to levelling. In Trench 3 a construction cut for 'The Dana' retaining wall was located running parallel with the wall and was found to be partly backfilled with stones. Trench 4 identified evidence of tip lines suggesting the sandy deposit noted in the trench had been banked up against the castle wall, and possibly represented levelling material. Two pits were also cut into this sandy deposit both containing 19th or early 20th century material. Trench 5 identified a compact stony clay layer which appeared to form part of a possible bank deposit, and at the northern end further dumped banked material was encountered. Three further pit features were also identified (Smith). (Shropshire HER)

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 ReferenceSJ494128
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  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
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  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • 2003-4, 'Shrewsbury Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 8-9
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
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  • Morris, J.A., 1937-8, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 49 p. 97-118
  • (Nicholson), 1926, The Builder Vol. 130 p. 229-31 (plan of alterations, etc.)
  • Forrest, H.E., 1920-26, Transactions of the Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club Vol. 7 p. 206-7
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Guide Books

  • Morris, J.A., n.d. c.1938, (Shrewsbury) (leaflet guide)
  • Beaumont, H., 1977, Shrewsbury: a Brief History (Shrewsbury: Wildings)
  • Forrest, 1924, Story of Shrewsbury Castle

Primary Sources

  • le Prevost, A. (ed), 1840, Orderici Vitalis, Historiae Ecclesiaticae Vol. 2 p. 193 (as praesidium regis) online copy
  • 1086, Domesday Book D i, 252a,1 online copy
  • Thorpe, B. (ed), 1849, Florentii Wigorniensis monachi. Chronicon ex Chronicis (London) Vol. 2 p. 50 (1102) p. 110 (1138) online copy
  • le Prevost, A. (ed), 1855, Ordericus Vitalis, Historica Ecclesiastica Vol. 5 p. 111 online copy (see Chibnall, M. (ed), 1968-80, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis Vol. 4 (Book13 Chapter37)) (1138)
  • Pipe Rolls 1164-9, 1172-3, 1181-1215 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Brut y Tywysogion 1215 (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)
  • Illingworth, W. (ed), 1818, Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III et Edw. I (London: Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 106 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. 420-2
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 285-7 online copy Vol. 2 p. 235-8 [online copy >]
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference
  • C145/255(6) (Survey of 1394) The National Archives reference


  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Bridge, M. and Miles, D., 2005, Tree-Ring Analysis of timbers from Shrewsbury Castle, Shrewsbury (Scientific dating report)
  • Baker, Nigel J., 2005, Archaeological Watching Brief and Excavation at Shrewsbury Castle (Archaeological fieldwork report)
  • Geophysical survey report, 2000, Shrewsbury Castle: GRP survey. Stratascan Rep.
  • Morriss, Richard K., 1993, Shrewsbury Castle - An Interim Report on the Fire Damaged Screen in the Great Hall (Field survey report)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1986, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 26555
  • Smith, C.E., Shrewsbury Castle, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; archaeological evaluation. CAP Rep. 623.