Tamworth Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameTamworth Castle
Alternative Namescastellum de Tameword
Historic CountryStaffordshire
Modern AuthorityStaffordshire
1974 AuthorityStaffordshire
Civil ParishTamworth

Tamworth Castle. According to the Anglo-Saxon Charter Lady Ethelfreda in 913 constructed a castle at Tamworth. The Marmions, during the 12th century converted Tamworth Castle into a Normal stronghold of the motte and bailey type. The mound, carrying some Norman masonry and works of later dates, is 37 yds in diameter and has a base of 80 yds diameter. The shell keep is roughly octagonal on plan, with walls 30 to 40ft high and, in parts, 9 feet thick. Nearly the whole of it was rebuilt in the times of Henry VIII (the Great Hall), James I and George III. The dry ditch around the castle is still easily traced. There is some evidence that there were further features between the mound and the rivers. Since Leland's time (16th century) every trace of the main buildings which stood in what is now the Castle Gardens has disappeared. The ancient entrance to the castle precincts is approached by a narrow by-way from Market Street - very little of the original masonry of the former gatehouse now remains, but what does, is undoubtedly medieval. The curtain wall, of herring-bone masonry, probably of Norman construction leads up to the keep from Market Street. The Holy Well: near the river on the east side of the grounds is the holy well of St Ruffianus, which has existed since Saxon days. (PastScape–ref. VCH; Mitchell)

Tamworth Castle consists of a large motte surmounted by the remains of a 12th century shell keep which was considerably altered or added to mainly in the 16th century. Vestiges of a moat are visible around the eastern perimeter of the mound; but of the bailey, which almost certainly accompanies the motte, there is no trace. A small portion of the curtain wall is visible extending from SK 2065 0393 - SK 2067 0393. The ?Saxon Holy Well is now represented by a modern brick cistern situated at SK 2075 0388. The castle is now in use as a Museum. (Field Investigators Comments–F1 AC 08-DEC-53) C11 motte. Late C11 herring-bone masonry in curtain-wall

Keep comprises multangular shell with C12 tower to east. Internal apartments, mainly C15-17, in good preservation (listing record). Report on excavations in 1977 of the Norman bailey defences. The tradition that Aethelflaes built the castle can be discounted as a confusion between the burh defences and the castle bailey rampart (Meeson, 1978). Re-considertion of the hall at Tamworth Castle suggested it was built in the second quarter of the fifteenth century or earlier. (Meeson, 1983) Tree-ring dating of timbers in the hall at Tamworth Castle suggested selling dates of c.1440 and c.1650 A.D. (Vernacular Architecture, 1987). (PastScape)

Castle, now museum. Late C11 motte and bailey castle; rebuilt C12,early C13 repairs or reconstruction; C12-C13 north wing, probably with 1st floor hall; early C15 hall range; C16 warder's lodge; early C17 south wing; c1800 alterations. Stone rubble with ashlar and brick with ashlar dressings; tile and flat lead roofs. Shell keep with north-east tower with warden's lodge to south, and later ranges forming H-plan house. Curtain walls have embattled parapets. Tower has battered base, flat buttresses and rounded turrets; C14 two-light traceried window and top window with label mould over 3 round-headed lights with transom. Warder's house to left has C14 pointed entrance in canted bay under gable; late C16 double-chamfered-mullioned windows of 3 and 4 lights. South wing has c1800 facade; ashlar; ground floor windows of 3 pointed lights; 5- and 7-light 1st floor windows with transoms, similar 3-light windows to 2nd floor. North range has 2 square projections forming bases of bay windows demolished c1800; 3-light transomed windows in splayed surrounds with brattishing; 6-light and 3-light windows above; similar windows to right, with French window, and to left, over corbelled base to oriel. Inner court has warder's lodge to south east: 2 storeys with attic; renewed double-chamfered-mullioned windows with leaded glazing; coped gable with kneelers. South range: brick with ashlar dressings; 2 storeys; 2-window range; quoins, plinth, platt bands and C19 embattled parapet; entrance to right in doorcase with 4-centred head, remains of paired pilasters to entablature with cresting and armorial panel; ground floor has 3-light windows with pegged casements; 1st floor 4-light transomed ovolo-mullioned windows; 2nd floor has 3-light double-chamfered-mullioned windows. Hall has brick plinth, exposed wall post and large C17 wood-mullioned and transomed windows with leaded glazing, forming glazed wall; stair turret to right has 2-light hollow-chamfered-mullioned windows; east end of north range mostly brick; blocked 1st floor door to west end. INTERIOR: hall has tie beam and double collar trusses with struts and wind braces, ovolo-mouldings with fillets to posts and soffits of trusses; enriched doorcases and fireplace with Mannerist detail, moved from house in Kent, c1822. Tudor-headed main entrance with studded door. Closed-well stair to north wing, which has 3 rooms with fireplace and doorcases from house in Kent. South wing has two 1st floor rooms with C17 panelling and contemporary fireplaces with pilasters and entablatures and enriched overmantels, one with flanking figures and relief carving of biblical scenes; armorial panels, c1800. Warder's house has similar 1st floor room with panelling and fireplace overmantel. Tower has stair with strapwork panels and top splat balusters; room with panelling and Tudor-arched fireplace. The castle has been inhabited since the Norman conquest, with a break in the mid C19, when it was used in connection with the nearby mills (dem); it was bought by the local council in 1897 and opened to the public. James I stayed at the castle; Sir Walter Scott referred to it in his poem Marmion. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Note: Medieval Tamworth town had the Staffordshire-Warwickshire boundary running through the middle of it. It is thought that this was because the Saxon burh when founded was intended to be supported by its own hinterland of Tamworthshire but that as there were insufficient resources to do so so it was divided between Staffordshire and Warwickshire. Tamworth castle was only put in Staffordshire in 1888, following boundary changes, although even in 1859 Parker was locating it in Staffordshire and the Warwickshire VCH was still locating it it Warwickshire in 1904. (see GENUKI).

- 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 ReferenceSK205038
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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

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  • Higham, Robert, 2015, Shell-keeps re-visited: the bailey on the motte? (Castle Studies Group - online publication) online copy
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 220, 476
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 50-4
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 230
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 74-7
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 292-4
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 211-2
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 451, lxvii (Staffordshire)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 304
  • Pevsner, N., 1974, Buildings of England: Staffordshire (London, Penguin) p. 277-8
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 319, 320
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 51-3
  • Mitchell, H.C., 1936, Tamworth Tower and Town (Tamworth) esp p. 29-50 (largely reprinted in guidebook)
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 218-9 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Lynam, Charles, 1908, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm. (ed), VCH Staffordshire Vol. 1 p. 355-6 (plan) online copy
  • Andrews, 1908, in Dryden, Memories of Old Warwickshire (London) p. 240
  • Willoughby Gardner, 1904, 'Ancient Defensive Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.A. and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Warwickshire Vol. 1 p. 397-99 online copy
  • Norris, H., 1899, Tamworth Castle: its foundation, its history, and its lords (of little value)
  • Timmins, S., 1889, Popular County Histories: A history of Warwickshire (London: Elliot Stock) p. 71, 83, 234-5 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 402-4 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 20 online copy; Vol. 2 p. 481-8 [online copy > http://hdl.handle.net/2027/pst.000005352807?urlappend=%3Bseq=585]
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 531-4 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 235 online copy
  • Palmer, C.F., 1845, The History of the Town and Castle of Tamworth
  • Shaw, Stebbing, 1798, The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire (J.Nichols abd Son) (Republished 1976 by EP Publishing) Vol. 1 p. 40, 415-20
  • 1784, The Antiquarian Repertory (London) Vol. 4 p. 283-4 and plate
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 304


  • Dugdale, Wm., 1656, The Antiquities of Warwickshire (Thomas Warren) p. 818-23 online copy
  • 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. 441, 443
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 105 online copy


  • 2010, 'Tamworth Castle secures HLF grant' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 23 p. 132-3 (news report)
  • 2003-4, 'Tamworth Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 16-19
  • McNeill, T.E., 1987-8, 'Excavations at Tamworth Castle, 1972 and 1974' Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 29 p. 1-54
  • 1987, Vernacular Architecture Vol. 18 p. 53 (Dendrochronology)
  • Meeson, R.A., 1983, 'The timber frame of the hall at Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire, and its context' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 140 p. 329–40
  • Meeson, R.A., 1978-9, 'Tenth Tamworth excavation report, 1977: the Norman bailey defences of the castle' Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 20 p. 15-28
  • (McNeill), 1973, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 163 download copy
  • Sheridan, 1972-3, Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 14 p. 38-44
  • McNeill, T., 1972, CBA Group 8 Vol. 15 p. 27-8
  • Palliser, D.M., 1972, 'Staffordshire Castles: A Provisional List' Staffordshire Archaeology Vol. 1 p. 5-8
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • Cantor, Leonard, 1966, 'The Medieval Castles of Staffordshire' North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies Vol. 6
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1963 'Tamworth Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 120 p. 296-7 (slight) online copy
  • (Wainwright), 1961, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 5 p. 319 (slight) download copy
  • 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)
  • 1933, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 90 p. 372-4 online copy
  • Palmer, 1878, Birmingham and Midland Institute Archaeology Section p. 54-65
  • Clark, G.T., 1867, The Builder Vol. 25 p. 405-6 (reprinted in MMA)
  • 1813, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 1 p. 592-3 online copy

Guide Books

  • Ballard, Esme, 1987, Tamworth Castle Museum (Tamworth: Tamworth Borough Council)
  • Wood, Henry, 1954, Guide to Tamworth Castle Museum (Tamworth Corporation)
  • Mitchell, H.C., 1944, Notes on the History of Tamworth Castle
  • Mitchell, H.C., 1937, A Short History of Tamworth Castle (Tamworth)
  • Morton, W., Guide to Tamworth Castle

Primary Sources

  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 434-5


  • 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