Worcester Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWorcester Castle
Alternative NamesWigorn'; Wygornia; Wirecestre
Historic CountryWorcestershire
Modern AuthorityWorcestershire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishWorcester

Norman motte and bailey castle of the immediate post-Conquest period, later partially rebuilt in stone.

When built, its ditch cut through the monks' cemetery, for which the county Sheriff was cursed by Archbishop Aldred of York (d. Sept.1069). Besieged in 1088. In 1113 it was destroyed by fire along with the rest of the city, and rebuilt, but suffered further fires in 1189 and 1202. In the 1130s it played an active role in the Civil War, changing hands several times, and held out against Matilda's forces in 1139. Besieged again by Stephen in 1152. Refortified by Hugh Mortimer in 1155 against Henry II. Besieged again in 1216, when royalist forces entered Worcester through the castle 'not faithfully watched everywhere'.

In 1217 the northern half of the castle was given back to the Cathedral Priory. The remaining half of the castle housed a royal prison by 1221 (WCM 96019). In the Barons' Wars of the 1260s Worcester was again entered via the old castle. By 1316 the motte (WCM 96018) was let for grazing.

In 1459 citizens of Worcester were allowed to take stone from the old castle for the repair of their walls, bridges and gates. Leland, writing c.1540, described it as 'clean down' and overgrown (Beardsmore).

Sheriffs' accounts in the reigns of Henry II and Richard I (1154-89/99) record expenditure on the Tower (probably wooden), motte, gate, bridge, the palisade round the castle, the king's hall, chamber, and the cellars of the king's houses. The motte was repaired in 1198-99 and the gate rebuilt in stone in 1204 {2}. The castle chapel (St Peter the Less, WCM 96020) was first recorded in 12th century. At the partition of the castle site in 1217, the king kept the motte (entrusted to Walter Beauchamp) while the bailey, 'up to the motte tower' was given back to the priory

The division ran through the Great Gate (= Priory Gate?, WCM 96351) then in ruins, and across to 'the causeway leading to the postern gate on the Severn'.

In the Civil War (1646-7) the castle formed part of the city defences. In 1613 a visitation by the Bishop of Worcester reported on the state of the county (former royal) gaol and a tower-like building with a dungeon in it (see WCM 96019); a bridewell was added to the gaol in 1633. The gaol was replaced by a new County Gaol in 1808-14; in 1820-3 the site was sold to the Dean and Chapter, and the gaol buildings were demolished in 1826 {3}. The castle earthworks were bought and levelled by Thomas Eaton, a bookseller and antiquary in 1826-46; for a summary of the process see WCM 100025 and WCM 96018. A round stone tower (WCM 96025), not certainly located, was discovered and drawn when the gaol buildings were demolished in 1826 (Florence 1828).

Field remains.

The curve of Severn Street (former Frog Lane) reflects the course of the southern perimeter of the castle and possibly preceding town fortifications (WCM 96599). The south ditch (WCM 96021) has been the subject of several superficial interventions and one substantial sample: WCM 100348, that proved the ditch to 5.94m, probably nearing the bottom. The ditch was said by Richardson to have been traceable as far as the rear of No.2 Severn Street 'where it ended abruptly deep down against the high retaining wall of a garden adjoining Castle Place. The castle rampart followed the path from Castle Place to the site of the bridge across the ditch (Richardson 1957). The waters of the Frog Brook were diverted into the ditch, where they drove the medieval and post-medieval Frog Mill (WCM 96024).

Over the north side of the former ditch (WCM 96021) are walls (mainly brick but part sandstone wall; WCM 96022 and 96023) retaining a substantial (c.2m) difference in ground level from the King's School site down to Severn Street, in part composed of 19th-century dumped material to level up the school site for building (see WCM 100378). These appear to be consistently late 18th or more probably early 19th century in date and are not part of the castle.

The site of the motte is completely levelled, now gardens, but is represented by a substantial (c.2.5m) terraced drop in ground level from north to south, down to the adjoining garden of 10 College Green. The motte is well recorded in plan and section in 18th and early 19th-century sources ((Mainley 1822): note reproduced in Carver 1980, p347 plate 1) (Young 1784; Beardsmore 1980) {note Beardsmore has incorrect references here}) and in various perspective views etc (Buck and Buck 1732). The existence of a motte ditch has not been established.

The existence of a distinct/individually defended inner bailey within the castle has not been established. The former north ditch of the castle, assumed filled-in 1217, probably made use of a natural indentation in the riverside gradient now occupied by the Priory Watergate (WCM 100349). Geophysical survey here (WCM 100923) confirmed the presence of a defile (WCM 96616). A subsequent (1999) geophysical survey (WCM 100555) on College Green reported a probable double linear feature crossing the green, probably the castle's northern perimeter earthworks. Phillip Barker drew attention to the sandstone substructure and terrace beneath 10 College Green (WCM 96620) as a possible castle feature (Barker and Guy), though these now appear more likely to be post-1217 Cathedral Priory structures.

Remains of a two-storey red sandstone building (WCM 96619) embedded in the west side of 6 College Green (Castle House) could have been built within the pre-1217 castle. Stone and other castle buildings are more certainly to be anticipated below-ground concentrated in the area of the old gaol and dungeon visited in the early 17th century (WCM 96019), now represented by the main yard of the King's School, though this area has also been disturbed by foundations of the gaol from the 17th century onwards. (Worcestershire and Worcester City HER)

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 ReferenceSO849543
Latitude52.1868286132813
Longitude-2.22182989120483
Eastings384930
Northings254310
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 60
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 85
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 280 (mention)
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 93
  • 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. 508
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles)
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 350
  • 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. 888-9
  • Page, Wm and Willis-Bund, J.W. (eds), 1924, VCH Worcestershire Vol. 4 p. 390-1, 426-7 online transcription
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 240-2 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 386-8 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 494-5 online copy
  • Allies, J., 1852, The Ancient British, Roman and Saxon Antiquities and Folklore of Worcestershire (London: J.H. Parker) p. 15-20 online copy
  • Ambrose Florence, 1828, The Stranger's Guide to the city and cathedral of Worcester (Worcester: Edwin Lees) p. 76-77
  • Green, 1796, History and Antiquities of Worcester (London) p. 246-53
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 52-5 online copy
  • Buck, S. and Buck, N., 1732, The south-west prospect of the City of Worcester

Antiquarian

  • 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. 511, 517
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 90 online copy

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Napthan, M., 2014, 'Worcester castle site: an update on the origins of Worcester' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 24 p. 1-48
  • 2002, 'Worcester Castle Site, the Precinct Wall and Castle House, 6 College Green' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 13
  • 2001, 'Worcester Cathedral and Castle c. 1250: Making the Model' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 12
  • 1992, ' Survey Work on the Edgar Tower' and 'The Edgar Tower, Worcester' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 2
  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Barker, P.A. and Guy, C., 1991, 'Worcester Castle' Worcester Cathedral Archaeological Symposium Report Vol. 1 p. 3-4
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 311
  • Beardsmore, C., 1980, 'Documentary evidence for the history of Worcester's city defences' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society (ser3) Vol. 7 p. 53-64 esp 55-58
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • Barker, P.A., 1969, 'Recent Archaeological Research in Worcester' Château Gaillard Vol. 4 p. 13-18
  • Wilson, M., 1968-9, ' The Topography of the Medieval City' Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society (Ser3) Vol. 2 p. 36-7
  • 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)
  • Richardson, L., 1954-65, 'The Ancient Walls and ditches of Worcester' Transactions of the Worcestershire Naturalists Club Vol. 11.2 p. 118-9
  • 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
  • Willis Bund, J.W., 1907-10, 'The ancient castle of Worcester' Transactions of the Worcestershire Naturalists Club Vol. 4 p. 225-40
  • Round, J.H., 1902, 'Castle Guard' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 59 p. 144-159 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. 214 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Hamilton, N.E.S.A. (ed), 1870, Willelmesbiriensis Monachi De gestis ponti ficum Anglorum libri quinque (London: Rolls series 52) p. 253 online copy
  • Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Laud Chronicle AD1088 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
  • Luard, H.R (ed),'Chronicon vulgo dictum Chronicon Thomae Wykes' in Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 4 p. 375 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1155 onwards (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1940 The Great Roll of the Pipe for the sixth year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas 1204 (Pipe Roll 50) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 56)
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 435 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. 474-5

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
  • Oxford Archaeology, 2007, Worcester's city walls - conservation management plan download copy
  • Mainley, S., 1822, A plan of the old castle premises (plan with profile of motte)