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Caus Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cause; Caurs; Chaus; Caws; Caurse; Alretone; Auretone; Averetone

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ337078
Latitude 52.66399° Longitude -2.98113°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The small multivallate hillfort at Caus is a good example of this class of monument, which has been used and partially adapted in the medieval period to form a motte and bailey castle, and a market town. It is one of a group of broadly contemporary hillforts constructed along the hills overlooking the Rea Brook valley. Within the hillfort at Caus, sealed beneath later occupation deposits, a range of structural features, and artefactual and organic remains are expected to survive, which have the potential to illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The defences will retain evidence of their construction and their partial modification in the medieval period. Organic remains surviving in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts and within the ditches will also provide important information about the local environment and the use of the land before and after the hillfort was constructed. The reuse of the hillfort in the medieval period demonstates the continuing importance of this site as a military focus and as a market centre. In addition to the earthwork and upstanding remains of the motte and bailey castle and the medieval borough, both will contain substantial buried deposits and structural features, artefactual and organic remains. Together these remains, and the numerous documentary references, will provide a detailed picture of everyday life of the inhabitants of the site, allowing distinctions and comparisons to be made between the residents of the castle and those living in the town. Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte and bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Although only a small proportion of the population of medieval England lived in towns, urban centres exerted a considerable influence on the social and economic life of the country throughout the Middle Ages. They were centres of government, of industry and commerce, acting as market centres for the surrounding rural areas, and their demands for agricultural products provided a stimulus to the production potential of their hinterlands. In order to stimulate the economy new 'planned' towns began to be established following the Norman Conquest. Some 47 new towns were founded in England between 1066 and 1140. This process continued throughout the 12th and early 13th centuries. The majority of these towns were attached to, and in many cases intimately connected with, a royal or baronial castle. This was especially so in the Welsh Marches, where the creation of towns was closely related to the westward expansion of the territories of the Marcher lords. In relation to successful towns, those that became deserted in the medieval period are comparatively rare. As a consequence of their abandonment such towns are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small multivallate hillfort within which are the earthwork, buried and upstanding structural remains of a motte and bailey castle, and a small medieval market town or borough. The hillfort is situated on a prominent hill at the south eastern end of the Long Mountain. From this location there are extensive views over the Rea Brook valley to the south and east, and the undulating lowlands to the north. The hillfort is roughly rectangular in plan, with overall dimensions of 200m north west to south east by 565m south west to north east. The defensive circuit defines an area of about 4.7ha. Its size would suggest it was the settlement of a large community, where certain centralised economic and social activities were practiced. The earthwork defences of the hillfort closely follow the contours of the hill, which increase their defensive strength. Along the south eastern side the earthwork defences consist of two ramparts, the outer faces of which survive as steep scarps, separated by a ditch, visible as a distinct depression to the north and a broad sloping terrace to the south. The southern half of the defensive circuit along this side of the hill has been redefined and strengthened where it coincides with the defences of the inner bailey of the medieval castle. The south western end of the hillfort is defined by two ramparts separated by a deep ditch. Further south, running in a straight line and defining the base of the hill, is an outer rampart bounded on its northern side by a ditch, now visible as a shallow depression. These earthworks define the southern side of an original entranceway into the hillfort, which also served as one of principal gateways into the medieval town. This entranceway, which was partially altered in the medieval period, is defined on its northern side by the rampart running along the top of north western side of the hill. The outer face of this rampart survives as a steep scarp and is bounded by an external ditch, now visible as a broad terrace. From about its mid point, running north eastwards, this ditch is defined by an external rampart, the outer face of which is also marked by a steep scarp. Downslope, an outer ditch and counterscarp bank provide additional lines of defence, which continue around the north eastern end of the hillfort. Sections of these defences have been modified by the later quarrying for stone, by the construction of post-medieval and modern farm buildings and associated access roads, and by landscape gardening. At the northern and north eastern corners of the fort are two further original entranceways, both of which also served as gateways into the medieval town. The motte and bailey castle was probably constructed by Roger Fitz Corbet, a marcher lord, in the late 11th or early 12th century, as the 'caput' (the principal residence, military base and administrative centre) of his barony. Caus takes its name from the Pays de Caux area of Normandy, the ancestral home of Roger Fitz Corbet. Placename evidence suggests that Caus Castle superseded a ringwork, a medieval defended enclosure, known as Hawcocks Mount, 1.2km to the east, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. The motte and bailey castle was constructed in the south eastern sector of the prehistoric hillfort and provided an extensive view of the valley route between Shrewsbury and Montgomery. The surrounding area within the hillfort was regarded as the outer bailey of the castle, and it was here that the borough of Caus was established, probably in the 12th century. The first documentary reference to the castle at Caus is in 1140. In 1198 Robert Corbert was permitted to carry out work to the castle by the Crown. It is considered that this building programme probably represents the transition from timber buildings to those constructed in stone. In 1200 the neighbouring borough was granted a charter for a weekly market and in 1248 permission was granted for a fair. The borough, which was established primarily to serve the castle, appears to have prospered in the 13th century and in the first half of the 14th century. Records indicate that the number of burgages (properties within the borough) increased from 28 in 1274, to 34 in 1300 and to 58 in about 1349. By 1300 it is known that the borough had been enclosed by a wall. Passage into and out of the town was controlled by gates situated alongside the original entrance causeways into the hillfort. Two gates are recorded in 1371; Wallop Gate to the south west and East Gate, which occupied one of the entrance causeways to the north east. Within the town there was a chapel dedicated to St Margaret, which was founded by Thomas Corbet and his wife Isabel in 1272. Streets known as St Margaret Street and Castle Street are recorded in 1447. In the latter half of 14th century the town went into decline. This was partly caused by the Black Death, but was also the result of changing political and economic conditions in this region. In 1444 eight burgages were burnt during the rebellion of Sir Griffith Vaughan. In 1581 the borough contained four cottages, three of which were ruinous. The castle was apparently occupied continuously by the Corbet family until the death of Beatrice Corbet in 1347, after which date it passed to Ralph, Earl of Stafford and it ceased to be permanently inhabited. It was garrisoned during Owen Glendower's uprising in 1399 and during the rebellion of Sir Griffith Vaughan in 1444. Throughout much of the 15th century the castle was principally used as an administrative centre and as a prison. There are numerous medieval documentary references to the castle buildings. It is recorded that the castle had inner and outer gates, one of which was called the Great Gate in 1458. Apparently located opposite the inner gate was a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, which was probably founded by 1200. The outer gate, in which there was a prison, was separated from the castle ditch by a barbican (a structure defending the entrance to a castle). Extensive building work was carried out between 1367 and 1379. A 'new' tower was recorded in 1379 and Grymbald's Tower was repaired in 1395. A postern (a side or rear entranceway) called Wolvesgate, recorded in 1379, probably gave access to the borough. Inner and outer baileys are mentioned in 1400, when the latter is said to contain kennels and stables. During the 15th century the castle was apparently kept in moderate repair, but in 1521 it was said to be 'in great ruin and decay'. By 1541 an extensive rebuilding programme was underway. The outer gate was then remodelled and a court-house constructed over the barbican. A new fashionable residence was also created at this time. A brick building below the castle, known as 'the walk' was erected in 1556. In 1581 the castle was said to contain a hall, a great chamber, kitchens, larders, butteries, cellars, a pantry, and other houses of office, together with an inner gatehouse and a chapel. Lord Stafford sold the castle to Sir Rowland Hayward in 1573. After a protracted dispute with Hayward's son-in-law, John Thynne, Stafford relinquished possession in 1590. Between 1630 and about 1640 extensive alterations were carried out to the castle, involving the complete rebuilding of the domestic quarters. In 1645 the castle was garrisoned for the king, but it was surrendered after a short siege and was demolished shortly afterwards. The ruins of the castle were used as a quarry for road-stone in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The motte and the inner bailey of the castle were constructed on the highest part of the hill top. The steep-sided roughly circular motte measures approximately 56m by 60m at its base and 14m across the top, and stands about 15m high from the base of the encircling rock-cut ditch. On top of the motte are the remains of an oval or D-shaped tower keep standing up to 2.1m high. It is built of limestone, roughly coursed, and incorporating the pieces of dressed red sandstone including a door or window jamb from an earlier building. The rectangular inner bailey is situated to the north east of the motte. A broad, deep, steep-sided ditch defines an internal area of approximately 0.35ha. On the south eastern side, this ditch, which reuses the line of the inner rampart and ditch of the hillfort, is bounded by a bank constructed over the outer rampart of the hillfort. On the north western side, the ditch defining the inner bailey is bounded by two ramparts separated by a deep, steep-sided ditch. These outer defences also enclose the western half of the motte. A narrow entrance passage, about 55m long, flanked on either side by the earthwork defences, controlled the approach to the inner bailey from the north east. A flat-topped D-shaped mound, about 7m by 14m across the top, located at the end of the entrance passage on its north western side, probably marks the site of a tower beside the outer gate. The inner gate, defined by the remains of two stone-built towers constructed from the locally derived shale, is situated at the north eastern end of the internal area of the bailey. Along the north western and south eastern sides of the bailey are remains of stone-built structures constructed around a central courtyard. Embanked and exposed sections of walling of these structures stand up to 1m high. At the western end of the courtyard, close to the base of the motte, is a limestone ashlar-lined well. The outer bailey of the castle, in which the medieval town was established, is defined by the defences of the hillfort. At the north eastern corner, the hillfort defences appear to have been modified in order to create a level building platform for a gate tower next to the north western side of the entrance passage. A well-defined terrace, marking the position of a former street, runs from this entrance passage to the outer gate of the inner bailey of the castle. Leading up to the south western entrance of the town, known as the Wallop Gate, is a hollow way formed by the continuous passage of traffic in and out of the town. On the north western side, below the hillfort rampart, is a level D-shaped platform, which appears to mark the position of a gate tower. A short section of the gate wall remains visible, built into the eastern side of the entrance passage at its northern end. This wall is constructed of roughly coursed limestone, is 3.2m wide and stands 3.6m high. Running north eastwards from this entrance passage, through the town/outer castle bailey, are a series of terraces which indicate the positions of former streets and which would have defined the burgage plots. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are: the farmhouse, associated outbuildings, the concrete bases of former outbuildings, sheds, a stable, paths, trackway and yard surfaces, all free-standing modern walls, fence and gate posts, the concrete water tower, the oil and diesel storage containers and the concrete blocks on which they stand, a concrete and brick-built drain inspection chamber, utility poles and ornamental garden features, however, the ground beneath all these features is included. (Scheduling Report)

Cause castle is not the Alretone in the Shropshire part of Domesday Book. This is Trewern just over the modern border in Wales. I wrote an article on this in The Montgomeryshire Collections 64 (1976). Alretone is from Old English alra-tun 'settlement where there are alder trees', a close translation of Welsh Trewern: tref 'settlement, farm' (later 'town') and gwern which is both a plural of gwernen noun feminine 'alder-tree' and a singular gwern noun feminine 'place where alder-trees grow' with the extended meaning 'a wet place'. Tref + gwern > Trewern by lenition (alias soft mutation). (Richard Morgan pers corr)

Probable that the outer earthworks of this site are those of an Iron Age fort, adapted in medieval times to form the outer bailey of this impressive castle. It consists of a high motte with a very small summit, crowned with the ruins of a small stone tower; and a massively defended inner bailey. The tower, keep and curtain wall were rebuilt in stone in 1198 and maintained in full order until destroyed in 1645. The bailey contained a borough. However, in 1521 the castle was described as being in great ruin and decay. The small tower on the motte may well be a late addition and be little more than a belvedere. The motte at Caus is very steep. The original Caus Castle was actually built nearby at Hawcock's Mount (Hawcock is a corruption of Old Caus).
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:34

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