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Whittington Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle of Roger de Powis; White Tower; Witinton

In the civil parish of Whittington.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ32563109
Latitude 52.87347° Longitude -3.00299°

Whittington Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Whittington Castle is a well preserved example of an enclosure castle which evolved from its origins as a motte and bailey castle into a compact fortified stronghold. Buried structural and artefactual evidence relating to the original castle will contain valuable information on the less well documented early history and occupation of the site, whilst partial excavation has recovered evidence for the later phases in the castle's development during the 13th century. The importance of water as a medieval defensive feature is clearly seen within the marshland, in particular, contributing to the fortification of the castle. In addition, the accumulated silts within the ditches and the moat provide conditions suitable for the preservation of environmental evidence and artefacts relating to the castle's occupation and the landscape in which it was set. The buried remains of the late 18th century ornamental garden centred on the castle ruins will provide unusual information reflecting the contemporary preoccupation with archaeological sites and antiquity. As a site open to the public, Whittington Castle is a valuable educational resource and public amenity.
The monument is situated within the village of Whittington and includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of Whittington Castle, a motte and bailey and an enclosure castle, and the earthwork remains of its associated water control features. The standing remains of the castle are a Listed Building Grade I. The original castle at Whittington was a motte and bailey which was replaced by a fortified keep in the early 13th century. The castle defences were strengthened by a series of banks and ditches to the west and south, a moat to the east and an area of marshland to the north. The southern defences originally continued eastwards but this area has been affected by modern development and is not therefore included in the scheduling. Documentary sources indicate that the castle was fortified against Stephen in 1138 and that Henry II granted aid to Roger de Powys for the castle's repair in 1173. Fulke Fitz Warine was confirmed in possession of Whittington Castle by King John in 1204 and granted a licence to crenellate in 1221. Two years later it was unsuccessfully besieged by Llewellyn the Great, suggesting that the castle was fully defensible by this time. The castle was decayed, but nearly entire, when surveyed in 1545; it was later granted to the Earl of Arundel, but subsequently fell into ruin and was robbed for its materials. In the late 18th century the castle site was laid out as a garden with pebble-laid pathways and brick structures and the outer gatehouse was repaired. The buried features of this garden provide interesting evidence for the 18th century reuse of the site and are included in the scheduling. The oval flat-topped mound in the central part of the site is believed to represent the remains of the original motte castle, with a triangular-shaped bailey immediately to the north and west. The buildings of the late 11th or early 12th century castle are thought to have been timber structures which were subsequently replaced by stone built ones. The inner court is located to the east of the motte and consists of a rectangular raised platform, enclosed by a curtain wall with the remains of semi-circular towers at each corner and an additional tower at the north west angle, which formed part of the inner gatehouse. The foundations of several buildings have been located during excavations within the inner court, including those of a central rectangular keep and a hall building to the east. To the north west of the inner court is a small outer court which occupies the south eastern corner of the original bailey. A small mound at the southern end of the latter is thought to have supported the northern end of the bridge which originally provided access into inner court. The outer court was partly defended by a curtain wall, a short length of which survives along the north east side of the court together with the ruins of two semi-circular towers, and by a moat to the east and south east, which remains waterfilled. It would have originally been occupied by additional buildings, including stables and ancillary buildings, the buried remains of which will survive beneath the ground surface. At the eastern end of the outer court is the outer gatehouse, built of regularly coursed and dressed grey limestone, which has been restored several times since the 1800s. It consists of two D-shaped towers that flank the arched entranceway and is approached by a coursed limestone rubble bridge. A timber-framed cottage, thought to date from the 16th century but with later alterations, has been built behind the north tower. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, remains of. Begun c.1221 by Fulke Fitz Warine on site of late C11 or C12 motte and bailey castle. Regularly coursed and dressed grey limestone blocks with ashlar dressings; towers of outer gatehouse now with slate roofs. Original castle of motte and bailey type with bailey to north-west, replaced by rectangular plan with projecting semi-circular towers to inner and outer baileys, protected by elaborate water defences. Principal survival is outer gatehouse: 2 D-shaped towers flanking broad pointed single-chamfered arch with roll moulding. 2 levels with plain corbel table and embattled parapet. Restored pointed windows with C19 cast-iron casements to upper level and cross- shaped arrow-loops to lower level; stepped plinth. Arch has double nail- studded plank doors with restored panelling to inner face; small armorial shield above looks C19. Projecting corbelled fireplaces to left and right in angle with curtain wall, which has cross-shaped arrow-loops plus 2 semi- circular bastions to right side. Gatehouse approached by short roughly coursed limestone rubble late medieval bridge with segmental pointed arch. Left return wall of left tower has 2-light trefoil-headed window with square label on upper level. Inner wall has segmental-headed chamfered doorway in angle with gateway. Right curtain wall has late C17 cottage, now offices, behind. Timber framed with narrow red brick infill, rendered to front and left gable end; slate roof. One storey and attic; apparently of 2 framed bays. Framing: square panels, 3 from chamfered plinth to wall-plate, much altered to front; collar and tie beam truss exposed to left gable end. 2 late C20 casements to ground floor and 3 contemporary raking eaves dormers. Entrance to right through late C20 panelled door under contemporary lean-to porch. Stepped external end stack to left has top rebuilt in late C19 yellow brick; similar red brick stack to back wall also with top rebuilt in C19 yellow brick. Extensive ruins of rectangular raised platform to south of moat to south of outer gatehouse. Facing largely robbed but rubble core survives. Semi- circular bastion at north-west angle has narrow C13 four-centred arch on first level to east side, probably originally approached by external steps; remains of mutilated window opening above and narrow arrow-loop to west. Remains of another small bastion behind, formerly forming part of gatehouse, and of larger bastions to north-east, south-east and south-west corners. Foundations of several buildings on platform uncovered by excavation, including those of central rectangular tower (possibly the keep) with a forebuilding to east and a circular tower. Several fireplaces and a well. Extensive earthworks in fields to south and west and probably also formerly to east, but now truncated in latter direction by road, include an oval-shaped flat-topped mound to west, which may be the original motte. Water played an important part in the castle's defences and the surrounding moats are best preserved to the north, south and east of the outer gatehouse. Much destruction occurred in the mid-to late C18, the eastern tower collapsing in 1760 with one of the northern towers and part of the west wall being demolished shortly afterwards to provide material for repairs to the Whittington-Halston road. (Listed Building Report)

P. J. Brown has completed a research programme for English Heritage at this Marcher castle, which was sited on low-lying ground, using the natural springs and marshy ground for defence. It was defended on its S. and W. sides by a sequence of either two or three ditches. Aerial photography and geophysics have revealed that the W. ditches continue northwards beyond the castle, where they are no longer visible as earthworks. The evidence suggests that the site originated as a curved, ditched enclosure in the later prehistoric period, and that the castle builders re-used a section of these defences for their own work. Fragmentary archaeological and documentary evidence suggests that the site was also occupied in the pre-Conquest period.
The first documentary reference to the castle is in 1138, when it was fortified for Matilda, and the tower keep, excavated in 1970 (Medieval Archaeol., 15 (1971), 148), may date from this period. In 1223 the Welsh sacked the castle and soon after this it was rebuilt on a more substantial scale, with a barbican at the entry that survives with later alterations. The most interesting element of this work was the remodelling of the inner bailey in stone. The motte, which was then surmounted by the tower keep, was encapsulated within a circuit wall with a twin-towered gateway and three corner towers. The structure was then infilled, to create a small raised platform within a formidable defensive circuit that was surrounded by water. (Med. Arch. 2004)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1221 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Comments

A licence to crenellate was granted to Fulk Fitz Warine in 1221, but castle quite able to withstand siege by welsh in 1223, suggesting stonework completed by that date and the castle had been a strong earthwork and timber fortress before then. A licence for a market was also issued in 1221 shortly before licence to crenellate. The tenurial history immediately before this had been complex and the licence to crenellate, although probably mainly a royal blessing of new building work, may have also been sought to help confirm Warine's claim to the castle.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 30/11/2016 10:10:06

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