Whittington Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWhittington Castle
Alternative NamesCastle of Roger de Powis; White Tower; Witinton
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishWhittington

Whittington Castle is a well preserved example of an enclosure castle which evolved from its origins as a motte and bailey castle into a compact fortified stronghold. Buried structural and artefactual evidence relating to the original castle will contain valuable information on the less well documented early history and occupation of the site, whilst partial excavation has recovered evidence for the later phases in the castle's development during the 13th century. The importance of water as a medieval defensive feature is clearly seen within the marshland, in particular, contributing to the fortification of the castle. In addition, the accumulated silts within the ditches and the moat provide conditions suitable for the preservation of environmental evidence and artefacts relating to the castle's occupation and the landscape in which it was set. The buried remains of the late 18th century ornamental garden centred on the castle ruins will provide unusual information reflecting the contemporary preoccupation with archaeological sites and antiquity. As a site open to the public, Whittington Castle is a valuable educational resource and public amenity.

The monument is situated within the village of Whittington and includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of Whittington Castle, a motte and bailey and an enclosure castle, and the earthwork remains of its associated water control features. The standing remains of the castle are a Listed Building Grade I. The original castle at Whittington was a motte and bailey which was replaced by a fortified keep in the early 13th century. The castle defences were strengthened by a series of banks and ditches to the west and south, a moat to the east and an area of marshland to the north. The southern defences originally continued eastwards but this area has been affected by modern development and is not therefore included in the scheduling

Documentary sources indicate that the castle was fortified against Stephen in 1138 and that Henry II granted aid to Roger de Powys for the castle's repair in 1173. Fulke Fitz Warine was confirmed in possession of Whittington Castle by King John in 1204 and granted a licence to crenellate in 1221. Two years later it was unsuccessfully besieged by Llewellyn the Great, suggesting that the castle was fully defensible by this time. The castle was decayed, but nearly entire, when surveyed in 1545; it was later granted to the Earl of Arundel, but subsequently fell into ruin and was robbed for its materials. In the late 18th century the castle site was laid out as a garden with pebble-laid pathways and brick structures and the outer gatehouse was repaired. The buried features of this garden provide interesting evidence for the 18th century reuse of the site and are included in the scheduling. The oval flat-topped mound in the central part of the site is believed to represent the remains of the original motte castle, with a triangular-shaped bailey immediately to the north and west. The buildings of the late 11th or early 12th century castle are thought to have been timber structures which were subsequently replaced by stone built ones. The inner court is located to the east of the motte and consists of a rectangular raised platform, enclosed by a curtain wall with the remains of semi-circular towers at each corner and an additional tower at the north west angle, which formed part of the inner gatehouse. The foundations of several buildings have been located during excavations within the inner court, including those of a central rectangular keep and a hall building to the east. To the north west of the inner court is a small outer court which occupies the south eastern corner of the original bailey. A small mound at the southern end of the latter is thought to have supported the northern end of the bridge which originally provided access into inner court. The outer court was partly defended by a curtain wall, a short length of which survives along the north east side of the court together with the ruins of two semi-circular towers, and by a moat to the east and south east, which remains waterfilled. It would have originally been occupied by additional buildings, including stables and ancillary buildings, the buried remains of which will survive beneath the ground surface. At the eastern end of the outer court is the outer gatehouse, built of regularly coursed and dressed grey limestone, which has been restored several times since the 1800s. It consists of two D-shaped towers that flank the arched entranceway and is approached by a coursed limestone rubble bridge. A timber-framed cottage, thought to date from the 16th century but with later alterations, has been built behind the north tower. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, remains of. Begun c.1221 by Fulke Fitz Warine on site of late C11 or C12 motte and bailey castle. Regularly coursed and dressed grey limestone blocks with ashlar dressings; towers of outer gatehouse now with slate roofs. Original castle of motte and bailey type with bailey to north-west, replaced by rectangular plan with projecting semi-circular towers to inner and outer baileys, protected by elaborate water defences. Principal survival is outer gatehouse: 2 D-shaped towers flanking broad pointed single-chamfered arch with roll moulding. 2 levels with plain corbel table and embattled parapet. Restored pointed windows with C19 cast-iron casements to upper level and cross- shaped arrow-loops to lower level; stepped plinth. Arch has double nail- studded plank doors with restored panelling to inner face; small armorial shield above looks C19. Projecting corbelled fireplaces to left and right in angle with curtain wall, which has cross-shaped arrow-loops plus 2 semi- circular bastions to right side. Gatehouse approached by short roughly coursed limestone rubble late medieval bridge with segmental pointed arch. Left return wall of left tower has 2-light trefoil-headed window with square label on upper level. Inner wall has segmental-headed chamfered doorway in angle with gateway. Right curtain wall has late C17 cottage, now offices, behind. Timber framed with narrow red brick infill, rendered to front and left gable end; slate roof. One storey and attic; apparently of 2 framed bays. Framing: square panels, 3 from chamfered plinth to wall-plate, much altered to front; collar and tie beam truss exposed to left gable end. 2 late C20 casements to ground floor and 3 contemporary raking eaves dormers. Entrance to right through late C20 panelled door under contemporary lean-to porch. Stepped external end stack to left has top rebuilt in late C19 yellow brick; similar red brick stack to back wall also with top rebuilt in C19 yellow brick. Extensive ruins of rectangular raised platform to south of moat to south of outer gatehouse. Facing largely robbed but rubble core survives. Semi- circular bastion at north-west angle has narrow C13 four-centred arch on first level to east side, probably originally approached by external steps; remains of mutilated window opening above and narrow arrow-loop to west. Remains of another small bastion behind, formerly forming part of gatehouse, and of larger bastions to north-east, south-east and south-west corners. Foundations of several buildings on platform uncovered by excavation, including those of central rectangular tower (possibly the keep) with a forebuilding to east and a circular tower. Several fireplaces and a well. Extensive earthworks in fields to south and west and probably also formerly to east, but now truncated in latter direction by road, include an oval-shaped flat-topped mound to west, which may be the original motte. Water played an important part in the castle's defences and the surrounding moats are best preserved to the north, south and east of the outer gatehouse. Much destruction occurred in the mid-to late C18, the eastern tower collapsing in 1760 with one of the northern towers and part of the west wall being demolished shortly afterwards to provide material for repairs to the Whittington-Halston road. (Listed Building Report)

P. J. Brown has completed a research programme for English Heritage at this Marcher castle, which was sited on low-lying ground, using the natural springs and marshy ground for defence. It was defended on its S. and W. sides by a sequence of either two or three ditches. Aerial photography and geophysics have revealed that the W. ditches continue northwards beyond the castle, where they are no longer visible as earthworks. The evidence suggests that the site originated as a curved, ditched enclosure in the later prehistoric period, and that the castle builders re-used a section of these defences for their own work. Fragmentary archaeological and documentary evidence suggests that the site was also occupied in the pre-Conquest period.

The first documentary reference to the castle is in 1138, when it was fortified for Matilda, and the tower keep, excavated in 1970 (Medieval Archaeol., 15 (1971), 148), may date from this period. In 1223 the Welsh sacked the castle and soon after this it was rebuilt on a more substantial scale, with a barbican at the entry that survives with later alterations. The most interesting element of this work was the remodelling of the inner bailey in stone. The motte, which was then surmounted by the tower keep, was encapsulated within a circuit wall with a twin-towered gateway and three corner towers. The structure was then infilled, to create a small raised platform within a formidable defensive circuit that was surrounded by water. (Med. Arch. 2004)

Gatehouse Comments

A licence to crenellate was granted to Fulk Fitz Warine in 1221, but castle quite able to withstand siege by welsh in 1223, suggesting stonework completed by that date and the castle had been a strong earthwork and timber fortress before then. A licence for a market was also issued in 1221 shortly before licence to crenellate. The tenurial history immediately before this had been complex and the licence to crenellate, although probably mainly a royal blessing of new building work, may have also been sought to help confirm Warine's claim to the castle.

- 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 ReferenceSJ325310
Latitude52.8734703063965
Longitude-3.00299000740051
Eastings332560
Northings331090
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook All Rights Reserved
Copyright Deirdre Snook 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
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

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print

Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 183
  • Remfry, P.M., 2007, Whittington Castle and the families of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, Peverel, Maminot, Powys and Fitz Warin (Castle Studies Research & Publishing)
  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 178-82
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 84-6
  • 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. 218-9
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 63-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 432, 434
  • Meisel, J., 1980, Barons of the Welsh Frontier p. 36, 38, 42, 88, 190-1
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 317-8
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 345
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: Shropshire (London, Penguin) p. 317
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 134
  • 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. 401
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 160-1 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 521-5 online copy
  • Stackhouse-Acton, Frances, 1868, The Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire (Shrewsbury) p. 18 online copy
  • Eyton, E.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire Vol. 11 p. 29- online copy
  • Catherall, W.,1855, History of Oswestry: comprising the British, Saxon, Norman and English Eras p. 281
  • Davies, William, n.d. c.1813-15, History of Whittington (mainly on dilapidations)

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. 396, 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. 76 online copy
  • Kemp-Welch, Alice (trans), 2001, The History of Fulk Fitz Warine (London) (Translation of medieval manuscript - 'an historical romance containing much romance and a little history') online copy

Journals

  • Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Portcullis - design and development' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 132-201
  • Swallow, Rachel, 2014, 'Gateways to Power: The Castles of Ranulf III of Chester and Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 171 p. 289-311
  • Frost, P., 2008, 'Whittington, Whittington Castle' West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 51 p. 34-5
  • Brown, P., King, P. and Remfry, P., 2004, 'Whittington Castle: the marcher fortress of the Fulk Warin family' Shropshire History and Archaeology Vol. 79 p. 106-27
  • Bradley, J and Gaimster, M. (eds), 2004, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2003' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 48 p. 287-8 online copy
  • 2003-4, 'Whittington Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 11-13
  • Coulson, Charles, 1993 Aug, 'Specimens of Freedom to Crenellate by Licence' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 18 p. 3-15
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1977, 'Medieval Britain in 1976' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 21 p. 238 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1973, 'Whittington Castle' The Hundred-and-Twentieth Annual Meeting in Wrexham and District, 1973, CAA p. 24-5
  • (Hartley), 1971, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 15 p. 148 download copy
  • 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)
  • Hemp, 1923, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 78 p. 409-412
  • Eyton, R.W., 1887, 'The castles of Shropshire' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 10 p. 19-20
  • Anon, 1882, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society p. 241-250
  • Clark, G.T., 1878, 'Oswestry and Whittington' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 33 p. 187-93 online copy
  • 1814, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 84 Part 2 p. 105 online copy

Guide Books

  • Brown, Pete, 2003, Whittington Castle Shropshire (Whittington Castle Preservation Trust/English Heritage)

Primary Sources

  • 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 (Book8 Chapter26)) (1138)
  • Pipe Rolls 1165, 1195-98, 1200, 1204-6 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 460a, 520b, 554a
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli de oblatis et finibus in turri Londinensi asservati tempore regis Johannis (Record Commission) p. 224 online copy
  • Williams ab Ithel, John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) 1223 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. 423-4
  • C145/215(3) (Survey of 1378) The National Archives reference (calendared in Evans, D.L. (ed), 1957, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 4 p. 23-4 No. 35 [online copy > http://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000095331652?urlappend=%3Bseq=35])

Other

  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1983, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 14576
  • English Heritage, 2000, Scheduling Papers (Revision, 09/11/2000)