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Axminster

In the civil parish of Axminster.
In the historic county of Devonshire.
Modern Authority of Devon.
1974 county of Devon.
Medieval County of Devon.

OS Map Grid Reference: SY29689860
Latitude 50.78270° Longitude -2.99882°

Axminster has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are no visible remains.

Description

Alleged site of a castle and/or hillfort. Conclusion based on sections of flint wall found in buildings and trenches near the alleged site in C19, and reported observations of a ditch. (PastScape)

"Axminster Castle, now entirely destroyed", is included in a list of prehistoric earthworks (Kirwen 1871).
(SY 29689860): 'The Castle' within the town is an open space occupied by the market place. It is topographically suitable for a prehistoric defensive work and there are distinct traces of a ditch. A castle was later erected on the site and though no vestige of this building remains associated relics may be the thick walls of the Bell Hotel cellars and the ancient arched well. In 1824 trench digging in the garden of Castle Hill House revealed flint walls 10 ft. thick which could be part of the castle. (Pulman 1875).
Sir William Pole (circa 1600) says he has seen records which prove there was a castle at Axminster probably a seat of the lords Brewer (Lysons 1822).
The Yonges had a residence at Axminster (besides The Great House, Colyton) called 'The Castle' and lived there in the time of Henry VII. This afterwards became a public house and a warehouse (Polwhele).
The area alleged by Pullman to be the site of Axminster Castle is now completely built-up, but the names Castle Hill and Castle Street are still applied to this locality. Traces of a ditch, or other defensive structures, were not located during field investigations, and local enquiry proved negative. The building formerly known as the Bell Hotel is of probable 18th century date. Road construction works recently undertaken in the immediate area (SY 29719868) of what was once Castle Hill House gardens, did not reveal any features of archaeological interest. (PastScape)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1200 June 6 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Comments

Would be a typical location for a medieval castle in important town, on major crossroad and by river crossing. William Brewer was granted a licence to crenellate in 1200 'In whichever Devon property he wishes' Higham suggests this was at Axminster. This could have the location of an Iron Age hill fort, reused as a Norman Castle (it also has a strong tradition of being the site of an Anglo-Saxon royal palace) but the lack of remains might suggest only slight masonry buildings and early abandonment.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated before 1 February 2016

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