Guildford Castle and Palace

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

There are major building remains

NameGuildford Castle and Palace
Alternative NamesGeldeford'; Goseforde, Guildeford
Historic CountrySurrey
Modern AuthoritySurrey
1974 AuthoritySurrey
Civil ParishGuildford

An earthen mound (motte) with its moat and surrounding courtyard (bailey), the upstanding remains of two different keep buildings, the curtain wall, gateway and the ruined residence within the bailey area. The earliest castle on the site was a motte and bailey type, with buildings and defensive palisade of wood. The motte was large, rising 7m above the surrounding land, and was surrounded by a deep defensive ditch. Around AD1100 the timber defences were at least partly replaced with stone. Parts of the near-circular shell keep which encircled the top of the motte survive, the highest standing to 6m. The shell keep was short-lived, for by 1173 it had been replaced by the tower keep building. This keep measures some 14m square and still stands 19m high. Its fireplaces and ornately carved stonework shows that it was used as a residence. It was partly rebuilt in the mid-13th century and in the early 17th century the keep was modified, largely using brick. The ruins of a number of buildings survive in the bailey area, including some masonry walls 7m high, which belong to apartments built in 1242 for the Sheriffs of Surrey. A royal palace was built within the castle grounds and was much used by Henry III. It is considered likely that the arched gateway and curtain wall date from this phase of building at the castle. Guildford is a particularly unusual survival, having been converted to both a shell keep and a tower keep, and with elements from each of its constructional phases extant. The tower keep survives particularly well, retaining a number of architectural details from its original and rebuilt phases. As such it provides an important opportunity to study changing ideas in castle construction from the Conquest onwards. The site is well documented historically and its significance is enhanced by its well-attested royal associations

(Scheduling Report)

Not documented before the reign of Henry II, the original shell keep was replaced by the rectangular keep. After the death of Henry III, the castle passed to his widow, Gueen eleanor in dower, and remained a possession of successive queens until its demise in the late 14th century. During this period, the queen would have lived in the adjacent palace rather than the castle, and the castle was principally used as the county gaol. In 1391, 14 prisoners escaped for want of repair. It is evident from a description of the castle in 1332 that the royal residence at Guildford was in the castle outer bailey, being separated from the castle by a ditch and palisade. During the 14th century it was regarded as a palace. The palace largely went out of use after the reign of Richard II. (PastScape ref. HKW)

Gatehouse Comments

See also Goseforde.

- 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 ReferenceSU997492
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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.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Guide Books

  • Alexander, Mary, 1999, Guildford Castle Offical Guide (Guildford Borough Council)
  • Alexander, Matthew, 1985, Guildford Castle Guide (Guildford Borough Council)
  • Liggett, 1965, Guildford Castle (London)

Primary Sources

  • 1896, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twentieth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1173-1174 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 21) p. 3 online copy
  • Bain, J., 1877, 'Original Document' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 34 p. 297 (record of castle as prison tempus Edward I) 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. 444
  • E101/492/28 (Survey of 6 Edward III) The National Archives reference
  • E317 Surrey/30 (Survey of Commonwealth) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference


  • 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
  • Surrey County Council, 2006, Extensive Urban Survey - Surrey (English Heritage) Download copy
  • Alexander, Mary Elizabeth, 2004, Aspects of the early history of Guildford and its castle (PhD thesis University of Reading) (available via EThOS)