Stogursey Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameStogursey Castle
Alternative NamesStoke Courcy; castrum de Stoke' Curcy'
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishStogursey

No mention of a castle in 1086 despite the village being in existence. Must have existed before 1216 and because of its type - a motte with two main baileys - it is likely to be of Norman foundation. Probably built in the late C11 or early C12. It was held for King John in 1215 and then ordered to be destroyed, the Prior of the priory being given the task. This was not carried out as there is a further order in 1228. This also seems to have been ignored as in the time of Henry III, Iawkes de Breaute held the castle through his wife, the daughter of Alice de Courcy. In the reign of Edward I the castle passed to the possession of Sir Robert Fitzpane who was a local landowner Finally burnt down by Lord Bouville in 1459 during the wars of the Roses and has laid in ruins since then. A print of 1733 by Buck shows substantial stone towers and walls remaining (Aston, n.d.) The site comprises a motte with a broad front top c60m across. Rises c2m from the surrounding ditch from which it is separated by a flat berm up to 15m wide. The stone curtain wall rises c6m from the top of the motte, substantial remaining portions being linked by modern garden walling. The curtain is of coursed limestone rubble. The embrasure for one arrowslit and the W jamb of a second survive on the S curtain wall and large openings, possibly for windows, survive on the N and NW (possible) hall range). A semi-circular bastion remains on the W. Holes indicate that buildings stood against the inside of the curtain walls. On the E side the remains of a twin segmental-towered gatehouse are overlain by an L-shaped stone building with a C17 mullioned window on the E side. The S wall and other parts seem to have been rebuilt in the C19. The motte ditch is still wet, fed by a leat from the stream The middle bailey is very uneven with two large depressions which may be building sites. A deeply incised farm track crosses the bailey from the NE corner

This could be the original access but a holloway crossing the outer bailey E to W, heading to the gate house, may indicate otherwise. The present track does not give access to this outer bailey (not examined in detail) Mill pool on N side of the middle bailey separated from the motte ditch by a stone wall with a gap. Dammed at the E end with L-shaped stone and brick wall from which a covered leat runs N. Overflow from pool runs E and S down the middle bailey ditch. A post medieval stable and hayloft lies on the W side of the outer bailey just NE of the dam. A roughly rectangular area bounded on the S by the Mill pool, on the E side by the leat and holloway, on the N by a hedge with a scarp down towards the N of c0.5m and on the W by a wide shallow ditch may be the north bailey referred to by the VCH, c50mx80m. Lias pantiled cattle shed with manger lies in SW corner of the castle area. Water system is confused and the view that the water for the motte ditch is fed from the SW needs confirmation (Burrow). Pevsner dates the castle to C13 or C14 (Pevsner). Inner bailey is notably higher than surrounding land, with steep drop to outer ditch, now mainly dry. Outer bailey at lower level, defined by bank and scarp with a stream at its foot. Outer bailey is divided by hollow way of which no sign in the higher inner bailey, and the latter may have been raised over it. Extent of outer bailey on N is unclear. It continues up to the mill as shown by the change in ground level, but has been clipped by the later road and track so that the bank no longer survives. It may have continued around to the N of the inner bailey, as suggested by a gully leading to a curved and scarped section of field boundary. The water from the moat system is fed from a leat leaving Stogursey Brook c.1km to the SE. The leat is 1-2m wide at the base, and up to 2m deep (Preece, 1993). Gatehouse repaired and renovated in 1981-2 by Landmark Trust. (Somerset HER)

Stogursey Castle is a fine example of a motte and bailey castle for which there are many historical references recording a continual occupation from its probable Norman foundation in the 11th or early 12th century until its demise in 1459 when it fell victim to the ravages of the Wars of the Roses.

Partial excavation has shown that below ground remains of stone and timber structures are likely to be well-preserved and despite being renovated, the moat is likely to contain waterlogged deposits. The monument will contain archaeological information relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.

The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on low lying ground to the south of Stogursey village. The castle includes a motte with a stone shell keep, an inner bailey and an outer bailey. The raised motte is sub-circular in plan and is surrounded by a berm approximately 15m wide; both motte and berm are enclosed by a water-filled moat appoximately 30m wide which was crossed by a single drawbridge. A limestone curtain wall survives in places, rising to a maximum of 6m above the surface of the motte, with the remains of a semi-circular bastion on the west side. An embrasure for an arrow slit, and the remains of a second, survive on the south wall and openings, possibly windows, survive on the straight, north wall. Evidence for timber and stone structures within the curtain wall was revealed during partial excavations in 1981/1982. The remains of two drum towers protrude into the moat on the east side and these have been incorporated into the foundations of a 17th century cottage. The motte is connected to the inner bailey by a post-medieval stone bridge and by a modern reconstruction of the original wooden drawbridge. The causeway bridge and the remains of the curtain wall of the castle, part of which is incorporated into a cottage, are both Listed Grade 2star.

The inner bailey is located on the east side and is an irregular crescent shape, slightly higher than the surrounding ground. It is defined by a steep scarp on the east and south sides and on the north by a mill pond, which has been formed by a dam across the stream feeding the moat, to which it is connected by a stone wall with a gap. Earthworks of rectangular depressions and mounds may indicate the sites of buildings and other features possibly used in defending the castle entrance. The outer bailey is more substantial in size and is located at a lower level than, and to the east of, the inner bailey. It is sub-rectangular in plan and is defined on the east by a steep bank which drops away to a stream and by steep banks on the south side. The extent of the outer bailey to the north has been largely obscured by a garden and modern track. The interior of the outer bailey is comparatively even and is divided by a hollow way leading in from the east in the direction of the motte entrance.

The earliest known documentary reference to Stogursey Castle is from 1215 when it was recorded to have been held for King John, although its plan of a motte with two baileys suggest an earlier Norman date of the 11th or early 12th century. It remained in use until 1459 when it was burnt down during the Wars of the Roses while being used in support of the Lancastrian cause. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The castle site is clearly a slightly raised ringwork with bailey rather than a motte. It should be noted the water level, in the moat, is lower than in the medieval period. A survey of the waterworks and the medieval coastline and river ways might produced a better understanding of this castle site and it was suggested at the recent (2010) Castle Studies Group site visit that there may be a small dock preserved in the castle.

- 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 ReferenceST202425
Latitude51.1769218444824
Longitude-3.14177989959717
Eastings320280
Northings142590
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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

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

  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 68-109
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 83
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 45-47 (plan)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 223
  • Dunning, R.W. (ed), 1992, VCH Somerset Vol. 6 p. 136-7 online transcription
  • 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. 303
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker)
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: South and west Somerset p. 301
  • Burrow, Edward J., 1924, Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset (Cheltenham and London) p. 128
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 520
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 68-9 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 262

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 119-125
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 315
  • Aston, M. (ed), 1976, 'Somerset Archaeology 1974-75' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 120 p. 73
  • 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)
  • 1941, Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 87 p. 7
  • 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

Guide Books

  • Haslam, C., 1987 (and 2009), Stogursey Castle History Album (Landmark Trust)

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 239
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi Asservati (1201-16) (Record Commission) p. 190b view online copy (1216 order to demolish)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 428-9

Other

  • Prior, Stuart, 2004, "Winning Strategies" An Archaeological Study of Norman Castles in the Landscapes of Somerset, Monmouthshire and County Meath, 1066-1186 (PhD thesis; University of Bristol) Vol. 2 p. 132 Download via EThOS
  • Gathercole, C., 2003, An Archaeological Assessment of Stogursey (English Heritage Extensive Urban Survey) p. 8-9 online copy
  • Preece, A. 1993, Stogursey Castle unpublished Monuments Protection Programme fieldwork report for English Heritage.
  • Anon (Aston, M), Stogursey Castle (not dated) unpublished typescript. (HER files)
  • Burrow, I., 1979, Somerset County Council. Report (HER files)