Taunton Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameTaunton Castle
Alternative NamesTantona; Tantune
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishTaunton

A motte and bailey castle probably built by Bishop William Gifford between 1107-1129, replaced in the early 13th century by a shell keep castle. From the later 13th century the castle was the primary adminstrative centre for the manor of Taunton Dene, it was also used to hold Assizes from 1280. The castle defences were improved in 1575 in preparation of an anticipated Spanish invasion, and in 1645 by the parliamentarians Sir Robert Pye and General Blake. An order to destroy the fortifications of Taunton in 1662 lead to the infilling of the moat and demolition of the Keep. A prison was in use at the castle until the late 17th century and the Great Hall was used for public meetings during the 18th and 19th century. In 1873 the Great Hall was bought by the Somerset Natural History and Archaeology Society and it houses the County Museum and local History Society. The castle comprised a keep, inner ward and outer bailey enclosed by an outer moat 12 metres wide and 3 metres deep.which has been identified from excavations. The main castle buildings, situated within the inner ward, included the keep and extant buildings such as the Great Hall, Camera and Constable's Tower. The outer bailey, which contained auxillary buildings accessed by an eastern garden, has been extensively built over. (PastScape)

A motte and bailey castle replaced by a shell keep castle during the 13th century. The Winchester Pipe Rolls of 1207 state the castle was enlarged and strengthened as part of a wider programme of fortification of castles in Somerset and Dorset by Peter de Roches. The programme involved the construction of a moat and enclosure around the castle and town and construction of a palisade. From the later 13th century the castle was the primary administrative centre for the manor of Taunton Dene. It was also use to hold Assizes from 1280. The castle was besieged by Yorkists in 1451. In 1575 the defences were improved in preparation of an anticipated Spanish invasion

In 1644 the castle and town were captured by the parliamentarians under Sir Robert Pye and General Blake in 1644. Blake improved both the town and castle's defences in 1645. An order to destroy the fortifications of Taunton lead to the infilling of the moat and demolition of the Keep. A prison was in use at the castle until the late 17th century and the Great Hall was used for public meetings during the 18th and 19th century. In 1873 the Great Hall was bought by the Somerset Natural History and Archaeology Society and houses the county museum and local history society. Much of the castle dates from the 13th century and comprised an inner ward and outer bailey enclosed by an outer moat, identified from excavations as being 12 metres wide and 3 metres deep. The inner ward measured 104 metres east-west and 68 metres north-south and contained the main castle buildings which include The Keep and the Bishop's Great Chamber. Excavations have shown that the Bishop's Great Chamber, which measured 16 metres by 13 metres, was constructed in the early 12th century. Modifications during the 13th century reduced the building to 9 metres in width and extended it to 21.5 metres in length. The Keep or the Great Tower, which dates from the 13th century was situated within the northeast area of the castle site. The foundations survive to a maximum height of 2.85 metres and include 17 visible stone courses. Documentary sources refer to the tower as having five towers, a hall and soldiers' chambers. It was refurbished in 1364-5 and included the use of one of the towers as a goal. Other structures documented within the inner ward include a pantry, kitchen, tower, bridge, garden and the Chapel of St Nicholas which was situated next to the inner gate. The outer bailey which measured 140 metres east-west by 120 metres north-south contained auxillary buildings and was accessed by an eastern gate house. Most of the outer bailey has been extensively built over. (PastScape–ref. Scheduling notification)

Gatehouse Comments

The excavation of the keep was not of the highest standard and the interpretation of the remains is difficult. It may be the masonry great tower was a revetment of the motte built to look like a classic square tower but without the substantial walls. It seems very likely there was a Saxon settlement of some status on the site.

- 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 ReferenceST226246
Latitude51.0157508850098
Longitude-3.10457992553711
Eastings322600
Northings124640
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
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 104, 115
  • Purton, P.F., 2010, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 298
  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 68-109
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 430-34
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 84-6
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 91, 94-5, 121, 123, 186
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 224
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 47-51 (plan)
  • Bush, R., 1988, Taunton Castle (Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society)
  • Leach, Peter (ed), 1984, The Archaeology of Taunton: excavations and fieldwork to 1980 (Bristol: Western Archaeological Trust excavation monographs 8) p. 11-58
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 444-5
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 305
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 319, 320
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: South and west Somerset p. 319-20
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 57-9
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Alford, 1906, Taunton Castle Notes on its Construction and History (Taunton) (poor history)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 69-73 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 488-92 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 547-8 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Guy, N. et al., 2010-11, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of West Wessex'' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 4-146 esp 4-15
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 272–3 download copy
  • Dennison, E. (ed), 1987, 'Somerset Archaeology 1987' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History 131 p. 221, 223
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 316
  • 1981, Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 125 p. 99
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1979, 'Medieval Britain in 1978' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 23 p. 268-9 download copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 177 download copy
  • Aston, M. (ed), 1978, 'Somerset Archaeology 1977' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 122 p. 130
  • Aston, M. (ed), 1977, 'Somerset Archaeology 1976' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 121 p. 121
  • Taylor, R., 1974, 'Castle House, Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 118 p. 25-7
  • Hunt, T.J., 1971, 'Some 13C building accounts for Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 115 p. 39-44
  • Hallam, A.D., 1965, 'Excavations at Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 109 p. 98-103
  • 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)
  • Radford, C.A.R. and Hallman, A.D., 1953, 'History of Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 98 p. 55-96
  • Seaby, W.A., 1950, 'Taunton Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 107 p. 98 online copy
  • Gray, H.St.G., 1941, 'Corbel, etc., found at Taunton Castle' The Antiquaries Journal Vol. 21.1 p. 67-8
  • Vivien-Neal, A.W. and Gray, H.St.G., 1940 'Materials for a history of Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 86 p. 45-78
  • Gray, H.St.G., 1930, 'A Medieval Spoon found at Taunton Castle' The Antiquaries Journal Vol. 10.2 p. 156-8
  • Spencer, J.H., 1911, 'Structural notes on Taunton Castle' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 56 p. 38-49 (structural notes)
  • Gould, I.C., 1901, 'Early Defensive Earthworks' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 7 p. 15-38 esp. 29 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
  • Clark, G.T., 1872, Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 18 p. 60-76 (reprinted/adridged in MMA)
  • Warre, F., 1853, 'Taunton Castle' Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Vol. 4 p. 18-32 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Luard, H.R (ed), 1865, 'Annales de Wintonia' in Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 2 p. 51 online copy
  • Winchester Pipe Rolls Hantsweb information
  • 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. 423 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. 429

Other

  • Webster, C.J., 2007, Taunton Castle Archaeological Assessment (Somerset County Council)
  • 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. 135 Download via EThOS
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)