Mere Castle Hill

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameMere Castle Hill
Alternative NamesMeer
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishMere

Mere Castle (ME011), built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in 1253. This is recorded as a rectangular stone-built structure with six towers, incorporating a hall, an inner and outer gate, a deep well and a chapel. Records exist for extensive repairs to the structure in 1300, indicating the original build to have been sub-standard, although the motive for this renovation may have been a potential rebellion by a faction of the Barons. After this date little is known of the castle's history, although it was evidently abandoned by 1398, when Richard II ordered lead to be stripped from its roofs for his castle at Portchester, Hampshire (Colvin 1963). When Aubrey visited the town in 1660 he was shown Castle Hill and told 'here anciently stood a castle' (Mere Editing Committee 1958), indicating there to be no above-ground masonry surviving at that time. An 18th century visitor was shown the castle ruins and remarked upon the partially exposed plastered wall visible where rubblestone had been robbed by the townsfolk (much of Mere's built heritage is constructed of stone robbed from the castle) (Cassell 1994). (Mcmahon)

Mere Castle is a prominent feature in the landscape, overlooking the town of Mere. Limited excavations have provided information about the nature of the castle and the surviving remains will contain archaeological deposits providing information about its use and economy. The Castle is open to the public.

The monument includes the remains of Mere Castle, an enclosure castle, the mound of which was formed by alteration of the eastern end of a chalk ridge known as Long Hill. The top of this part of the hill was levelled to create a building platform and a deep ditch, approximately 5m deep, was dug to separate the castle from the western part of the ridge. The ditch includes a 2m wide causeway linking the castle to the western part of the ridge

In addition, the ditch, which in part forms a natural amphitheatre known as the Bull Ring, has a broad bank on its western side. A further ditch, 1.5m deep, is located on the eastern slope of the hill. Although the castle now survives as an earthwork, limited excavations carried out in 1887 by T H Baker and the Rev E G Wyld revealed a rectangular structure approximately 118m by 31m on the summit of the hill, which had two circular towers on each side and rectangular corner towers. Mere Castle was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in 1253. It originally included six towers, a hall, inner and outer gates, a well and a chapel. It was repaired in 1300 after which it fell into decay and was finally demolished between 1780 and 1790, the materials from the castle being sold for building purposes. (Scheduling Report)

License to build a castle at Mere was granted to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in 1253. The castle included six towers, a hall, inner and outer gates, a deep well and a Chapel. It was repaired in 1300 and probably thereafter fell into decay. It is said to have disappeared 'long before 1660' but Lovibond states that it was not finally demolished until 1780-90. There is a c1700 reference to walls and arches being visible in digging on the hill and in 1887 partial excavations were made by T H Baker and the Rev E G Wyld. The building revealed was rectangular, c 390 by 102 feet with two circular towers on each side and a rectangular tower at each end.

APS show the castle site to be separated from the spur by a large ditch at the west end. The ditch is known as the Bull Ring and was a recognised playground for local youth and had been used for bull-baiting. MOW records refer to stone foundations being visible on top of the motte in 1955 when a war memorial and flag-pole were erected. The hill below the mound is terraced. Finds in gardens at the foot of the hill include a 15th-16thc stoneware figure, in Salisbury Museum and a 15thc alabaster panel, in Mere church which have been associated with the castle (Baker 1896; Lovibond 1937; WAHNM 1937-8; SDNQ 1899; Stevens 1940-2; WAHMW 1935-7).

Castle Hill is a natural ridge which has been levelled at its top to form a building platform and steeper slopes. It is isolated from the rest of Long Hill by a 4.9 metre deep ditch, now known as the Bull Ring. A second ditch 1.5 metres deep is located on the east slope.

Access to the castle appears to have been gained by a 2.0 metre wide causeway on the SW side of the hill. The top of the hill has been quarried and no foundations are visible (F1 MJF 17-JUN-70). (PastScape)

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 ReferenceST809325
Latitude51.0919418334961
Longitude-2.27315998077393
Eastings380950
Northings132540
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

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.

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Books

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2015, 'Castle, Landscape and Townscape in Thirteenth-Century England: Wallingford, Oxfordshire and the 'Princely Building Strategies' of Richard, Earl of Cornwall' in Jörg Peltzer (ed), Rank and Order: The Formation of Aristocratic Elites in Western and Central Europe, 500–1500 (Ostfildern: Thorbecke Jan Verlag) p. 309-341
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 188-9
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, Index and Amendments to Mike Salter's English Castles Books (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 11
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 96
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 278 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 499-500
  • Pevsner, N. (Revised by Cherry, Bridget), 1975, Buildings of England: Wiltshire (London, Penguin) p. 34-8
  • 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)
  • Johnson and others, 1958, The Story of Mere (Gillingham) p. 31-2 and plate 3
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 230 online copy
  • Hoare, Richard Colt, 1822, The History of Modern Wiltshire: Mere p. 210, 220-1, 226

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Guy, N. et al., 2010-11, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of West Wessex'' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 4-146 esp 18-20
  • Stevens, F., 1940-2, 'A German Stoneware Figure Discovered at Mere' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 49 p. 157-9 online copy
  • Lovibond, F.E., 1937-8, 'Some Notes on Castle Hill, Mere, Wilts, and Richard, Earl of Cornwall' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 48 p. 432 online copy
  • 1935-7, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 47 p. 540-1 online copy
  • 1899, Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries Vol. 6 p. 128 online copy
  • Baker, T.H., 1896, 'Notes on the History of Mere' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 29 p. 229 (history only) online copy

Guide Books

  • Cassell, S., 1994, Mere Castle (Friends of Mere Museum. Mere Museum monographs – No. 1)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1908, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1247-58) Vol. 4 p. 208
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 466-7

Other

  • Mcmahon, Phil, 2004, The Archaeology of Wiltshire's Towns An Extensive Urban Survey Mere (Wiltshire County Archaeology Service) online copy
  • Wessex Archaeology, 2004, Geophysical Survey Report, Castle Hill, Mere (GSB Prospection Ltd)
  • Downman, E.A., 1908-9, Measured plan of Mere Castle Hill (Wiltshire) (reproduced in Guy et al, 2010-11)