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 The shell keep was short-lived, for by 1173 it had been replaced by the tower keep building.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
Latitude51.2342491149902
Longitude-0.572440028190613
Eastings499750
Northings149260
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.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright James Stringer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons 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.

Calculate Print

Books

  • 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. 102
  • Richardson, A., 2007, ''The King's Chief Delights': A Landscape Approach to the Royal Parks of Post-Conquest England' in Liddiard, R. (ed) The Medieval Park new perspectives (Windgather Press) p.27-48
  • Alexander, Mary, 2006, With Ramparts Crown'd - The Early History of Guildford Castle (Guildford Museum)
  • Poulton, Rob, 2005, A Medieval Royal Complex at Guildford: Excavations at the Castle and Palace (Guildford: Surrey Archaeological Society) (digital supplement available at online copy)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Surrey (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 16-19
  • Poulton, Rob, 1998, The Royal Castle and Palace at Guildford (Guildford: Surrey Archaeological Society)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 241-2
  • Poulton, Rob, 1992, Guildford Castle and Royal Palace : the excavations in 1992 and a review of the project 1990-2 (Surrey Archaeological Society)
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 172
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 11, 78, 84, 109-10
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 122-4
  • Furtado, Peter et al (eds), 1988, Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain (London) p. 54
  • 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. 465
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 238
  • Alexander, Matthew, 1978, Guildford as it was
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 197-9
  • Pevsner, N. and Nairn, Ian, 1971 (Revised Cherry, Bridget), Buildings of England: Surrey (London, Penguin) p. 275
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 658-9, 950-5
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 88-9
  • Malden, H.E. (ed), 1912, VCH Surrey Vol. 4 p. 396-7
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Malden, H.E. (ed), 1911, VCH Surrey Vol. 3 p. 554-60 online transcription
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 94-8 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 53-71 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 266-8 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 310 online copy
  • Walford, 1848 Brayley (ed), History of Surrey (London) Vol. 1 p. 118-28
  • Manning and Bray, 1804-14, The History and Antiquities of Surrey (London) Vol. 1 p. 13-15 (slight history)
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 229-45 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 280
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 5 p. 91-6

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • 2013 Sept, 'Guildford Castle Gatehouse' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 16 p. 2
  • Poulton, Rob, 2006, 'Tracing the royals at home, in Guildford Castle and palace' The Archaeologist Vol. 60 p. 22-3
  • 2003-4, 'Guildford Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 60-1 (news report)
  • Alexander, M., 2003, 'Conservation work at Guildford Castle Keep' Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin Vol. 371 p. 3-4
  • Thompson, M.W., 1992 Nov, 'A suggested dual origin for keeps'' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 15 p. 3-15
  • Holling, F., 1974, Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin Vol. 106 p. 2
  • 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)
  • Renn, 1957, 'The Decoration of Guildford Castle Keep' Surrey Archaeological Collections Vol. 40 p. 4-6 online copy
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • 1908, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal Vol. 14 p. 121-2
  • Malden, H.E., 1901, 'The Shell Keep at Guildford Castle' Surrey Archaeological Collections Vol. 16 p. 28-34 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. 212 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1872, 'Some account of Guildford Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 29 p. 1-25 (reprinted in MMA) online copy
  • King, E., 1777, 'Observations on antient castles' Archaeologia Vol. 4 p. 364-413 esp 409-11 (reprinted in Antient Castles) online copy

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

Other

  • 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)