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South Cerney Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cerne; Cernei

In the civil parish of South Cerney.
In the historic county of Gloucestershire.
Modern Authority of Gloucestershire.
1974 county of Gloucestershire.
Medieval County of Gloucestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU047976
Latitude 51.67744° Longitude -1.93351°

South Cerney Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Site of a Norman or C12 castle. Excavations in 1935-6 revealed a square well, masonry, roofing and glazed tiles and C16-C17 pottery. Medieval pottery, mainly C12 in date, was also found. The castle may have been built by Milo Fitzwalter and captured by King Stephen in 1139 although the earthworks at Ashton Keynes or a lost castle at Calne have also been suggested for this event. It should be noted the excavation of 1935-6 has never been published and seems to have been an amateur affair. Presumably the found masonry is of C16-C17 date and that the C12 castle was of timber. King warns "Frequently muddled with Cerne, Dorset and Calne, Wilts. (Derived from PastScape)

The writer of the Gesta Stephani noted that during the campaign of 1145 the king's men 'had built a very large number od castles in Gloucestershire', and two years later he recorded that 'the new castles could be seen rising that Earl Robert built in haste'. Some of these new foundations of these years can be identified. Miles of Gloucester built a little castle (quandam munitiunculam) at South Cerney 'to excite rebellion against the king', and Stephen attacked and took this fortification in 1139. (Walker 1991)

et castellum de Cernei, quod ad seditionem in eum concitandam Milo construxerat, adhibitâ captum violentiâ obtinuit (Sewell edition of Gesta Stephani - and the castle of Cernei, that Miles built to stir up rebellion, was stormed with force)

Ipse vero rex, antequam Malmesbiriam venisset, quandam munitiunculam Milonis supernominati, Cernei nomine, occupaverat, ibique milites suos posuerat. (Hardy edition of Historiae novella - But the king himself, before coming to Malmesbury, had taken over a fortress of the above named Miles called Cernei and placed his own soldiers there.)

Regarding the castellum de Cernei mentioned in 1139 this castle was stormed, rather than besieged, so this may suggest a small castle although still significant enough to be mentioned. South Cerney is most generally accepted as the site of this munitiunculam of Miles of Gloucester. The other places mentioned in this paragraph of the Gesta Stephani are Trowbridge and Malmesbury which might suggest this was a campaign against urban centres in Wiltshire, which makes Calne a weak possibility. South Cerney was a holding of Miles of Gloucester and is, therefore, probably the correct identification. However, it should be noted the identification of this site as a Norman castle is based on an unpublished and amateur excavation.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:10

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