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Elmley Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Almelege; Emly; Elmsley

In the civil parish of Elmley Castle.
In the historic county of Worcestershire.
Modern Authority of Worcestershire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Worcestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO979402
Latitude 52.06042° Longitude -2.03146°

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

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The Norman Castle of Elmley is supposed to have been erected by Robert le Despenser, and until 1396 was the chief seat of the Beauchamp family. It seems to have been habitable until 1528, but in 1544 was roofless and in a state of decay (Trans. Bristol and Glouc. Arch. Soc. 1928).
The deer-park in which the castle stands was possibly made c.1234 (VCH 1913).
The castle's situation (at 600ft. O.D.) is at a greater height than was usual, but there are no signs that it had a motte. Two well defined entrances of the E. and W. belong probably to the original work. The complex plan represents more than one period of fortification.(VCH 1924)
Although only a castle is recorded, the work in fact appears to be composite, comprising a Norman mound and bailey superimposed on the central and southern parts of an Iron Age contour fort. The siting, on an isolated hill, is typically Iron Age, and both on the ground and on air-photographs the sharp-cut central and southern works contrast clearly with the more eroded rampart on the north and east; this suggests that the whole of the southern rampart may be Norman recutting of original Iron Age work, while the outer northern rampart was left in its original form as serving no purposes in the Norman plan. Centred at SO 9795 4026 some minor excavations have revealed part of the castle building, probably the keep; and there is scattered building debris within the motte area and remains of building foundations within the bailey.
Field work suggests that Elmley Castle is a complex of two successive Iron Age hillforts, the outer one with an inturned entrance; a Norman ring-work, probably added by Robert Despencer about 1080; and a bailey to the SW added about 1130-1140, being an adaptation of the Iron Age earthwork. Foundations of a stone keep within the ring-work remain, and south of the bailey is a single small square fishpond.
A Medieval college or large chantry was founded in the castle at Elmley Castle by Guy de Beauchamp, in 1308 for eight chaplains and four clerks. It may have later become a small chantry at the parish church as the castle became ruinous in the early 16th century. It was dissolved in 1545 (Scheduled Monument Notification). (PastScape)

Elmley Castle, which stood on the summit of a hill in the deer park to the south of the village, is supposed to have been built by Robert le Despenser, brother of Urse the Sheriff. After the castle at Worcester fell into decay Elmley was for a time the chief seat of the Beauchamps, and it followed the same descent as the manor of Elmley Castle until the death of Thomas Byrche Savage in 1776.
In 1216 the king committed the custody of Elmley Castle to Walter de Lacy, Hugh de Mortimer and Walter de Clifford to keep while Walter de Beauchamp went to the Papal Legate to obtain absolution for his lapse from fidelity to the king. In 1298 the castle was found to be in need of much repair, and after the death of Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick in 1315 it was in such a bad state as to be valued at only 6s. 8d., evidently a nominal valuation, as in another survey taken at the same time it was said to be worth nothing. The castle was granted by the king to the executors of Guy's will in 1315–16 on condition that they should not grant it to any other without the king's licence. The custody of the castle was, however, taken from them and granted to Hugh le Despenser the elder about 1317. In November of that year Hugh was ordered to fortify it, and to put in twenty fencible footmen to be retained at the king's wages until further orders. Hugh le Despenser having been banished in 1321 the Sheriff of Worcester was ordered to take the castle into the king's hands, and to cause it to be safely guarded and to make an inventory of the arms and victuals and other goods contained in it. Later in the same year Elmley Castle was taken by the rebel barons under Humphrey de Bohun Earl of Hereford, and suffered considerable damage. It is not known whether it underwent a siege, but the gates and some of the houses were burned and many of the defenders slain. Peace having been restored, order was given in 1322 to the keeper of the castle to disband the extra menat-arms placed there during the war.
Some slight repairs were made in the castle in 1413 and 1425, and again in 1480 and 1492. William Adams was appointed keeper and Thomas Brugge steward in 1478, the castle being then in the hands of the king on account of the minority of Edward Earl of Warwick. Sir John Savage, the younger, received a grant of the constableship in 1488. In 1528 the castle seems to have been still habitable, for Walter Walshe was then appointed constable and keeper, and ten years later Urian Brereton succeeded to the office. In 1544, however, prior to the grant to Sir William Herbert and Christopher Savage, a survey was made of the manor and castle of Elmley, and it was found that the castle, strongly situated upon a hill surrounded by a ditch and wall, was completely uncovered and in decay. Leland writing at about this time says, 'Ther stondithe now but one Tower, and that partly broken. As I went by I saw Carts carienge Stone thens to amend Persore Bridge about ii miles of. It is set on the Tope of a Hill full of Wood, and a Townelet hard by.'
Of the fabric of the ancient castle, which stood on the summit of the hill about half a mile to the south of the existing building, only a very small amount of masonry, probably forming part of the keep wall, remains. The outer and inner ditch and the site of the barbican can be distinctly traced. (VCH 1913)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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