Nunney Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameNunney Castle
Alternative NamesNonny
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishNunney

Nunney Castle is a quadrangular castle in the centre of the village of Nunney, on the west bank of Nunney Brook. The castle is of a highly distinctive design, consisting of a tall four storey rectangular building containing the principal rooms, with large closely-spaced circular towers providing more private chambers. The towers still rise almost to their full height, and are crested by a parapet surmounted by a drum turret. They were originally covered by conical roofs whilst the main block had a pitched roof. Entry was on the ground floor via a drawbridge from the North. The building is tightly enclosed by a wide moat. The interior originally comprised of Kitchen and stores on the ground floor, servants' quarters on the first floor, the principal rooms including the Great Hall on the second floor and sleeping chambers above. Nunney Castle was built by Sir John de la Mare in 1373, later Keeper of Old Sarum and Sheriff of Somerset, when he obtained a licence to fortify and 'crenelate' his house. He contributed to the one hundred years war in France and the castle has evidently been influenced by the French tradition of architecture. It was extensively modernised in the late 16th century. The owners, the Prater family, were Royalists and Roman Catholic in the Civil War, and the castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians in 1645, falling after two days when the north side of the castle was severely damaged by gunfire. It was 'slighted' thereafter, although the walls were left intact, the north wall only finally collapsing on Christmas Day 1910. The moat was restored in the early part of the 20th century. Originally it would have been far more substantial, with water extending to the castle walls. In 1926, Robert Bailey-Neale, lord of the manor, placed the castle in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works

Nikolaus Pevsner described the castle in his Buildings of England: series (No.13, 1973) as 'aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset' (PastScape)

The quadrangular castle known as Nunney Castle is considered by Pevsner to be 'aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset'. It lies in the centre of Nunney, still surrounded by its water-filled moat, and is much visited. The castle benefits from being flanked by an 18th century manor house which is privately owned. The castle's builder, Sir John de la Mare, served in the French Wars, and the castle is unusual in that it is more in the French tradition of architecture than most in this country. It is an outstanding example of its class and will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it was constructed. The castle is well documented throughout its history, with specific records of its construction and its significance during the Civil War.

The monument includes a quadrangular castle in the centre of Nunney adjacent to the church. The castle stands on the west bank of Nunney Brook at a point where the Brook and the valley in which it lies change direction from north- south to north east-south west.

The castle is of a highly distinctive design, consisting of a high four-storey rectangular building containing principal rooms such as the great hall, with large closely-spaced circular towers providing more private chambers. It displays a high level of sophisticated planning. The towers still rise almost to their full height, and are crested by a parapet surmounted by a drum turret. The building is tightly enclosed by a wide moat.

Nunney Castle was built by Sir John de la Mare in 1373, when he obtained a licence to 'crenelate' his house. He held many offices, being in favour with the king and he appears to have served in the French Wars. The family were Royalists and Roman Catholic in the Civil War, and the castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians in 1645, falling after two days when the north side of the castle was severely damaged by gunfire. It was 'slighted' thereafter, although the walls were left intact, the north wall only finally collapsing in 1910. (Scheduling Report)

a praty castle at the weste end of the paroche churche, havynge at eche end by northe and southe 2 praty rownd towres gatheryd by cumpace to joyne into one. The waulls be very stronge and thykke, and the stayres narrow; the lodgynge within somewhat darke. It standith on the lefte ripe of the ryver devidethe it from the churcheyarde. The castell is motyd about, and this mote is servid by water conveyed into it owte of the ryver. There is a stronge waulle withe owte the mote rounde about, saving at the est parte of the castell where it is defendyd by the brooke. (Leland)

Gatehouse Comments

Much of the damage to Nunney castle has nothing to do with the Civil War but is from systematic demolition designed to remove the valuable large structural floor and roof timbers. This can be seen in the removal of window of mullions on lower floors so that timbers can be passed out through the window - mullions survive on the upper floor since roof timbers can more readily be removed over the wall top and there is no need to use the windows (cf. Sheriff Hutton Castle where the careful work of Ed Dennison and Shaun Richardson showed demolition practices in detail).

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST736457
Latitude51.2101593017578
Longitude-2.3782799243927
Eastings373660
Northings145720
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Duncan Steward. All rights reserved
Creative Commons License
Castle Photographs by D J Steward 2012 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Creative Commons License
Castle Photographs by D J Steward 2012 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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.

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 263, 265
  • Gomme, Andor and Maguire, Alison, 2008, Design and Plan in the Country House: From Castle Donjons to Palladian Boxes (Yale University Press) p. 14-16 Google preview
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 604-7
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 80-2
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 223
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 63-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 444
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 269-70
  • McGarvie, 1977 (3rd edn), Nunney and Trudoxhill (The Nunney Silver Jubilee Committee)
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (London, Penguin) p. 238-9
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 222
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 64-6
  • Burrow, Edward J., 1924, Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset (Cheltenham and London) p. 128
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 521
  • 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. 65-7 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 417 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1853, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 296 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 261

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. 428
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 97 online copy

Journals

  • Guy, N. et al., 2010-11, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of West Wessex'' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 4-146 esp 48-56
  • Hislop, M., 2010, ‘A missing link: a reappraisal of the date, architectural context and significance of the great tower of Dudley Castle’ Antiquaries Journal Vol. 90 p. 211-33 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1986 'Nunney Castle' 133rd annual meeting: Avon, 1986, Rhaglen/Programme, CAA p. 35–6
  • Morley, B.M., 1977, 'Nunney Castle, Somerset' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 134 p. 353-4
  • Hussey, C., 1943 Jan/Feb, Country Life Vol. 93 p. 218-21, 264-7
  • 1930, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 87 p. 488-9 (plan but slight) online copy
  • Green, E., 1876, Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 22 p. 69-105
  • Giles, 1851, Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 1 p. 123-6 (of little value)

Guide Books

  • Rigold, S.E., 1956, Nunney Castle, Somerset (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1914, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1370-74) Vol. 15 p. 367 online copy