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Redcastle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Red Castle; Rubree; Radeclif; Redcliffe; Redde; Castle Rous; Hawkstone

In the civil parish of Weston Under Redcastle.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ57172946
Latitude 52.86094° Longitude -2.63845°

Redcastle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Red Castle is a good example of this class of monument. The adaption of a somewhat unusual location for a medieval castle provides a valuable insight into the development of military architecture in this region in the 13th century. The upstanding remains of individual buildings, including those cut into the rock, contain important architectural features. This evidence, together with the well-preserved remains of buried timber and stone structures, and the associated deposits containing artefacts and organic remains, will provide significant information about the activities and lifestyles of those who inhabited the castle. In addition, organic remains associated with the occupation of the site will provide important information about the contemporary environment, including use of the surrounding land. Documentary sources provide valuable evidence about the establishment of the castle and its inhabitants. During the 18th and 19th centuries the castle assumed a new importance as a visitor attraction within the pleasure grounds of Hawkstone Park.
The monument includes the standing structural, earthwork and buried remains of Red Castle, an enclosure castle, situated within Hawkstone Park. The castle is a Listed Building Grade II, and Hawkstone Park is a Registered Park and Garden Grade I.
In 1227 Henry de Audley, Sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, obtained land and was granted a licence to construct a castle at Radeclif (Redcliff). Red Castle, as it became known, was held by the Audley family until the early 16th century and was initially used as their main Shropshire stronghold. A documentary source indicates that repairs to the castle were undertaken in 1283. The castle is known to have been in use in 1322, but documentary evidence suggests that by around 1400 the castle was no longer occupied. When Leland visited the castle in about 1540 he described it as ruinous.
Between 1737 and 1756 Sir Rowland Hill purchased lands, including Red Castle, in order to extend the pleasure grounds around Hawkstone Hall. During the late 18th century, Sir Richard Hill, son of Sir Rowland, enlarged the park further and added considerably to the number of attractions within the grounds. Red Castle became a principal destination for those who visited the park, and walks within and immediately around the castle were probably laid out at this time. A tall medieval well tower, known as the 'Giant's Well', together with a rock-cut recess known as the 'Lion's Den', at the eastern end of the main internal defensive ditch, were both recorded in 1784. The Lion's Den is a Listed Building Grade II, and is included in the scheduling. The lion's statue, which formerly stood in the Den has been removed.
Red Castle occupies two parallel, steep-sided, narrow sandstone ridges and the lower ground between them, which rises gradually from south to north. From the northern ends of the sandstone ridges there are commanding views of the north Shropshire plain and the hills of the Welsh borderland beyond. Red Castle is situated 820m to the north east of a motte castle, known as The Mount, which is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The overall extent of Red Castle is approximately 1.9ha. Its rectangular plan largely reflects the area defined by the sandstone ridges to the east and west. These prominent land forms, with their cliffs and precipitous slopes, would have acted as formidable defensive barriers, and led to creation of four defended areas, or wards. The largest ward is to the south and is separated from the three wards to the north by a deep east-west rock-cut ditch, up to 12m wide. The small north western and north eastern wards occupy the high ground of the two ridges. Access into the castle was from the lower ground to south. The approach is defined by the discontinuous southerly extent of the two ridges. This area is not included in the scheduling, with the exception of part of the western ridge where the bedrock has been cut to form a building platform, which probably formed an outer element of the castle's defence.
Entrance into the castle was via a causeway, 4m wide, defined on either side by a rock-cut ditch, partly revetted with sandstone block walling. The western part of the ditch may have been enlarged by later quarrying, while the eastern portion now survives as a partially buried feature. Above and overlooking the eastern part of the ditch are a series of building platforms, for probable guard chambers, defined by vertical rock-cut faces. The eastern side of the southern ward is defined by a curtain wall consisting of sandstone blocks built on top of bedrock, which has been vertically cut. The exposed sections of walling, including the rock-cut face, stand up to 2.2m high. Little is now visible of the curtain wall which defined the western and south western sides of the southern ward, although it will survive as a buried feature. A rubble-built wall around parts of the perimeter would appear to have been constructed when the castle became a feature within Hawkstone Park. Projecting from the south eastern corner of the southern ward is a roughly square rock-cut platform, about 9m across, which is believed to have served as a base for a lookout platform or tower.
Around the perimeter of the southern ward there are three circular mural towers. The one at the south western corner of the ward stands to a height of 1.5m. It is built of sandstone blocks and is partly cut into bedrock. It is of similar constuction to the tower built close behind the curtain wall at the south eastern corner of the ward. This tower stands to a height of 2m. The rock-cut base of the third tower on the eastern side of the ward occupies a similar position close to the curtain wall, and lies adjacent to the remains of a rectangular rock-cut building. Further to the north, close to the rock-cut ditch which separates the wards, are the remains of other structures, including a probable gatehouse, which would have provided access, with a drawbridge, to the north eastern ward. An adjacent flight of steps leads down to a narrow causeway at the end of the rock-cut ditch which separates the wards. A tunnel cut through the causeway, which may have been enlarged in the 18th century in order create the Lion's Den, probably served as a postern (a minor entrance/exit passage) in the medieval period. From the narrow causeway a further flight of steps leads up to the north eastern ward. Adjacent to these steps is a small rectangular rock-cut chamber. At the northern end of the ward are the remains of two circular mural towers, both constructed of sandstone. One stands to a height of 1m. The other is about 6m high and contains a narrow window opening, or arrow loop, and lies near another rock-cut building. On the western side of the north western ward a flight of steps leads down to the middle of the three northern wards.
The main access into this central area from the south would have been by means of a bridge or causeway across the ditch that separates the wards. The middle section of the ditch is less deep, and there is a low bank, about 6m wide, to the north. Flights of stone steps, of 18th or 19th century date, continue to provide access between these areas. The northern extent of the northern central ward is defined by a ditch, up to 12m wide, with a deep rock-cut end to the east. The ditch is flanked by a low broad outer bank, between 12m and 15m wide. A stone wall and steps, constructed on the southern side of ditch, appear to be of 18th or 19th century date.
The most prominent feature of the castle is the Giant's Well tower. Built of sandstone, it is located next to the cliff which separates the north central and north western wards. It is circular in plan and is partly inset into the cliff, standing some 20m high in three storeys, with east facing arrow loops in the first and second floor rooms. Illustrations of the castle produced in the 18th and 19th centuries indicate that a fourth storey formally existed. Direct access to this upper storey would have been from the north western ward. Below the first storey there is a rock-cut well shaft, now dry, about 25m deep. Access to the first storey was originally through a low, narrow doorway next to the cliff face. In the late 18th century an adit (a horizontal entrance passage) was cut through the rock to enable visitors to the castle to inspect the remains of the well and the tower more easily.
Access to the north western ward from the southern area appears to have been strictly controlled and involved crossing bridges, which spanned parallel rock-cut ditches. The main internal ditch and a shorter east-west rock-cut ditch to the south both contain ledges, which provided support for timber bridges. Both these ditches are flanked by the remains of buildings, which are considered to have been gatehouses. An adjacent, external and artifically enhanced terrace, up to 6m wide, provided some additional protection here. The establishment of walkways around this area of the castle in the 18th century included the construction of a narrow tunnel at the western end of the main internal ditch.
The most strongly defended part of the castle was the north western ward. Around the top of this area are the remains of a curtain wall, now largely destroyed but standing up to 1m high. The sandstone footings of a circular mural tower to the north also survive. To the east, a substantial part of the cliff face has been consolidated by a sandstone retaining wall, of probable medieval date. Within the ward low earthworks and vertical rock-cut faces indicate the positions of rectangular buildings. At the northern end of the ward a narrow postern gateway, associated with a flight of steps, gave direct access to the lower part of the sandstone ridge to the north. Downslope, additional protection was provided by a rock-cut ditch, 8m wide, together with a counterscarp bank, also about 8m wide. (Scheduling Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1227 Aug 17 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Comments

Despite the description of the strength of the natural defences this castle was very much a country house of a baron in the centre of a park. A place for leisure, entertainment and politicking rather than defence.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 19/04/2017 07:49:29

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