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Spelsbury Court Close

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle Ditches

In the civil parish of Spelsbury.
In the historic county of Oxfordshire.
Modern Authority of Oxfordshire.
1974 county of Oxfordshire.
Medieval County of Oxfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP34862155
Latitude 51.89092° Longitude -1.49490°

Spelsbury Court Close has been described as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a certain Palace, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are no visible remains.

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


Re-examination of Allen AP from 1935 indicates that large rectangular platform to west of church is comprised or rubble, with small circular and linear dumps to the north. Abundance of rubble suggests a substantial stone building. Original interpretation of SMV is unsustainable. Court Close is identified as the site of the Wychwood residence of Bishops of Worcester, and later as that of a castle of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick. (Oxfordshire HER)

In 1842 Alfred Beesley, the author of the History of Banbury, was informed that there was 'until lately' a camp at Spelsbury. Lewis says:—'On an eminence near the village is an extensive triangular entrenchment called Castle Ditches, enclosing a space of about 24 acres.' It would appear to have been recently destroyed when Beesley received his information. (VCH 1907)

The site of a large medieval stone building, possibly a high status residence or Manor House. The site was originally interpreted as a Medieval Shrunken Village but investigations carried out in 1991 do not support this interpretation.
The site compromises of an area of earthworks under pasture just to the west of All Saint's Church. A rectangular feature or "platform" made up of a spread of rubble with smaller circular and linear dumps to the north has been identified. These remains suggest the presence of a substantial stone building and the associated banks indicate that the building complex occupied a substantial area of land.
The site was initially interpreted as a shrunken village, however the re-examination of the remains does not support this. Another interpretation put forward for the site is that it may have been a high status residence and even the Wychwood residence of the Bishops of Worcester which later became a castle of the Beauchamps, Plantagenet Earls of Worcester. This interpretation of the site as a high status residence may be supported by the finding in 1933 of a gilt bronze dish, possibly a late 7th or early 8th century hanging-bowl escutcheon. A Mercian royal charter of 840 (the earliest historical reference to the Spelsburg area) may also support this interpretation as it refers to King Berhtwulf granting to Bishop Heaberht of Worcester land for a residence at Wychwood. (PastScape)

On an eminence near the village is an extensive triangular intrenchment called Castle Ditches. (Lewis)
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 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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