Beaudesert Castle, Henley

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

There are earthwork remains

NameBeaudesert Castle, Henley
Alternative NamesThe Mount; Beldesert; castellum suum de Bellodeserto
Historic CountryWarwickshire
Modern AuthorityWarwickshire
1974 AuthorityWarwickshire
Civil ParishBeaudesert

The site of Beaudesert Castle survives well, contains a range of important archaeological features and represents a fine example of a motte with a double bailey and an associated fishpond and water-management complex.

Beaudesert Castle is situated in a prominent position on The Mount, above the town of Henley-in-Arden. The monument comprises a single area including a number of features: a motte and double bailey castle, two fishponds and ridge and furrow cultivation. The motte and bailey castle is set on a promontory of high ground running north-east to south-west. The motte is a flat-topped, artificial mound surrounded by a ditch. The ditch measures approximately 15m wide and has a near vertical outer bank. The motte is 85m in length and 55m wide at its widest point; an area of approximately 0.5ha. A raised bank of earth on the south west side of the motte forms a causeway across the ditch, allowing access from the bailey to the motte. The bailey is divided into inner and outer enclosures by a 10m wide ditch with a V-shaped profile. The two enclosures vary both in size and form. The inner contains an area of 0.5ha and is rectangular in plan while the outer is oval, enclosing approximately 0.3ha. Access to the motte and bailey was by a terraced way from the south leading into the inner courtyard through a defile. In 1840 a piece of 13th or 14th century moulded capital was found at the site. Other finds have included fragments of ceramic roof tiles. Two fishponds are located approximately 150m to the north of Beaudesert Castle. The dry upper pond has a rectangular plan and contains an area of approximately 0.4ha. The retaining banks measure up to 10m wide and 0.5m high. There is a break in the bank at the north-west corner of the pond and a dry, shallow channel is visible west of the upper pond. A raised island 20m in length, survives within the pond close to the north bank. There is evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation within the now dry pond

South west of the upper pond is a second, lower fishpond. The lower pond, which is waterlogged, measures 100m in length and 30m broad at its widest section. The retaining banks survive as earthworks and an outflow channel can be traced as a shallow, silted-up ditch which runs into a stream south-west of the lower fishpond. Several blocks of ridge and furrow cultivation are contained within the constraint area. These blocks of ridge and furrow all relate physically to the other features on the site, for example, the two fishponds, and provide interconnecting stratigraphic links between them, providing evidence for the development of the site through time. North-east of the motte and bailey castle are the earthworks of a small quarry which cut into the hillslope. There is a buried observation post located in the ditch between the inner and outer baileys. It is part of the historical development of the site and is included in the scheduling. There is little documentary evidence for the architectural history of Beaudesert Castle. The castle is thought to have been constructed by Thurstane de Monfort and was completed by approximately 1140. Beaudesert Castle is known to have been occupied by Peter de Monfort. The importance of the castle probably declined when the de Monfort estates passed to the Earl of Warwick in approximately 1369. An account roll of 1411 mentions repairs to the castle. Beaudesert Castle was probably abandoned by 1547. (Scheduling Report)

Remains of earthworks on a steep hill called 'The Mount', which forms a promontory. The site is by nature strong and commanding. The extant remains consist of a flat-topped oval artificial mound surrounded by a ditch covering about 0.83 ha; a raised bank of earth crossing the ditch to the SW connects this moated 'keep' with its accompanying courtyard. 82m from this entrance another ditch runs across the flat top of the hill and possibly divided an outer from an inner courtyard. The defences which formerly encircled these courts have gradually been demolished and the ditches filled. Hardly anything is known of its architectural history. It existed by c1140, but its importance probably declined when the de Montfort estates passed to the Earl of Warwick c1369. An account roll of 1411 mentions repairs to the castle, but there is no mention in 1547, by which time it is presumed to have fallen into ruin. It has been suggested that the earthworks have a prehistoric origin, but this is unlikely. At the E end of the enclosed area children have scrambled up and down the steep sides and some stones and a few fragments of roof tile have been exposed. From this it would appear that the top was surrounded by a stone wall set some 1.8 to 2.6m back from the present edge. In three places there are slight circular depressions about 3m across, possibly the sites of towers, and another larger depression well within the enclosure could be the site of an isolated tower or keep. It was probably erected by Thurstane de Montfort and was also occupied by Peter de Montfort. (Warwickshire HER)

Limited excavation in 2001 by the Time Team revealed part of the Great Hall and curtain wall. (PastScape–ref. English Heritage Excavation Index)

Gatehouse Comments

Sometimes said to have been licenced in 1306 (TimeTeam, for instance, broadcast this erroneous statement) and Gatehouse suspects some sources may give building dates based on this error, but that licence refered to Beaudesert Hall, Staffordshire (rather obviously so except to those wrongly wedded to the idea that licences to crenellate were royal permissions to build castles).

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP156661
Latitude52.2931594848633
Longitude-1.77266001701355
Eastings415600
Northings266130
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Paul Buckingham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Chris Gunns and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 343
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 255
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 30
  • Salter, Mike, 1992, Castles and Moated Mansions of Warwickshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 18
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 481
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 185
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker)
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wedgwood, Alexandra, 1966, Buildings of England: Warwickshire p. 89
  • Cooper W., 1946, Henley in Arden p. 77
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1945, VCH Warwickshire Vol. 3 p. 45-46 online transcription
  • Cooper, 1931, Records of Beaudesert (Leeds) p. xxii-xxiv
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Willoughby Gardner, 1904, 'Ancient Defensive Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.A. and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Warwickshire Vol. 1 p. 355-7 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 351 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Coulson, C., 1994, 'Freedom to Crenellate by Licence - An Historiographical Revision' Nottingham Medieval Studies Vol. 38 p. 130
  • Hooke, D., 1984, 'Henley in Arden (Warwickshire): Beaudesert part II' West Midlands Archaeology Vol. 27 p. 63–4
  • 1975, West Midlands Archaeology p. 18-9
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Chatwin, P.B., 1947-8, 'Castles in Warwickshire' Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society Vol. 67 p. 20-2

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. 452-3
  • Round, R.H., 1892, Geoffrey de Mandeville, a Study of the Anarchy (London: Longmans, Green, and co.) p. 64n2 (1141 Charter for a market in castle) [online copy > ]

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk West Midlands Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 49 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 48 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 47 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 58 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 57 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 57 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 65 online copy
  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2002 March 17 (1st broadcast), 'Beaudesert Warwickshire' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) View online