The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Old Wardour Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Tisbury.
In the historic county of Wiltshire.
Modern Authority of Wiltshire.
1974 county of Wiltshire.
Medieval County of Wiltshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST93862632
Latitude 51.03635° Longitude -2.08884°

Old Wardour Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

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


Old Wardour Castle was built under licence granted in 1393 for the fifth Lord Lovel and is argued by some to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects. It was clearly influenced by French designs and was built more with luxury and display in mind than defence. It was remodelled between 1570 and 1678 by Robert Smythson for Sir Matthew Arundell, including renovations to many of the private rooms. The castle consists of a two-floored hexagonal keep, open in the centre, with projecting gatehouse flanked by two towers, which contained the great hall on the first floor. This was set within a curtain wall which enclosed a spacious bailey. The approach to the main keep entrance was guarded by a ditch crossed by a drawbridge, although no remains survive due to 18th century landscaping. The keep contained all of the associated function rooms of the Lord's retinue, and included a private chapel. Following two sieges in the Civil War, during the second of which in March 1644 the south-west side of the keep was largely destroyed, the castle was abandoned. A new house was built immediately to the south of the castle in 1686, which was surrounded by formal gardens using the ruin of Old Wardour as a picturesque centrepiece. In 1754, the Baron Arundel (1717-56) consulted Lancelot Brown (1716-83), who produced a plan for alterations to the estate. Richard Woods (1716-93) was later employed to improve the gardens and park which included plans for a new mansion. This became known as (New) Wardour Castle and was built between 1770 and 1776 to the north-west of Old Wardour Castle. The curtain wall of the outer bailey survives at Old Wardour together with the remains of 17th century stables, an elaborate grotto, a miniature stone circle and a summerhouse (see associated records). In 1934, the sixteenth Baron Arundell started a new planting scheme and repairs to the Castle. In 1936, Old Wardour Castle was placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. (PastScape)

Old Wardour Castle is a fine example of a tower keep castle, constructed in the 14th century less for defence than for luxury and ostentation. Its form, unique in England, clearly takes inspiration from France. It is argued by some to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects. Despite the damage sustained during the Civil War, sufficient of the structure of the keep survives for the internal arrangements to be fully understood. The survival of a substantial enclosure wall defining the extensive bailey, ensures that the integrity of the overall castle layout can clearly be established. The bailey was subsequently landscaped in the picturesque manner, the ruined keep forming the focus of a scheme which includes a grotto and other ornamental features. The enclosure wall also forms the focus for stable buildings of 17th century date and a Gothick pavilion and privy of the 18th century. Sample excavations have shown the present curtain wall, which dates to the 16th century, to lie on the line of the original. Excavations within the bailey have provided evidence for the raising of soil levels in the 16th and later 17th centuries, providing effective protection for underlying medieval deposits.
The monument, which lies 4.8km from the village of Tisbury, includes a 14th century castle keep, altered in the 16th century and ruined in the Civil War, an associated bailey, later buildings, which abut the bailey on its southern side, and 18th century garden features to the north. The hexagonal shape of the keep is broadly reflected by that of the bailey within which it stands. The buildings, constructed after the Civil War, include late 17th century stables, Listed Grade II, now ruined, built against the curtain wall to the south of the bailey and an 18th century Gothick style pavilion and 'necessary house' on its south west wall. To the north east of the keep, on a low terrace, lie a grotto, a stone circle and other structures which form part of the late 18th century landscaping of the bailey. The keep, or tower house, is a hexagonal structure, approximately 40m in overall diameter. The symmetry of the overall plan is broken by the two towers, surviving almost to full height, which flank the entrance on the north east side. Within the keep is a central hexagonal courtyard, which is little more than a light well for the rooms which surround it. Despite the extensive damage caused to the south west side of the keep during the Civil War, the layout of rooms at both ground and first floor level can be appreciated, including focal elements such as the hall and possibly the chapel. Originally built by John, fifth Lord Lovel, who obtained license to build a castle in 1393, the keep was altered after 1570 by Sir Mathew Arundell. The refurbishment, which provided classically inspired fronts to the main entrance and also involved the replacement of many of the windows, may be attributed to Robert Smythson. After the Civil War damage, in 1643 and 1644, no attempts were made to put the castle back into a fit state for occupation and the ruined keep has consequently remained as a focus for a series of landscape schemes. The bailey, or outer courtyard, is very large, a maximum of 152m by 175m. The shape, in which the symmetry of the hexagon is broken by walls extending in a north east direction, reflects that of the keep and its towers. The thin enclosing curtain wall survives for most of the circuit, and retains the ground levels which have built up within the bailey. Soil levels within the bailey are known from part excavation to have been raised in the 16th and 17th centuries, thereby effectively sealing earlier medieval deposits beneath them. The wall belongs to the 16th century alterations but is known from partial excavation to be on the line of the original curtain wall. Two vaulted cellars, with a fine rusticated entrance and openings looking towards the castle, were also built in the 16th century within the curtain wall, on the south side of the bailey. The present entrance into the bailey is through an 18th century gateway, the ragged piers of which are probably the work of Josiah Lane, the builder of the grotto. South of the bailey, outside the curtain wall, lies the ruined shell of the stables built in 1686. The building has two gable walls, each standing to first floor ceiling height, linked on the southern side by a wall which incorporates a series of wide arched openings. The northern side of the building is formed by the curtain wall. On the west side of the bailey lies a late 18th century Gothick pavilion, rectangular in plan with canted ends. The pavilion may have been built on the remains of a gatehouse. On the south east angle of the curtain wall, close to the pavilion and sharing detail with it, is a privy, or 'necessary house'. In the early 18th century the castle ruins were surrounded by formal gardens. After the construction of New Wardour Castle between 1769 and 1776, the bailey was laid out in the 'picturesque' manner and the grounds about it were landscaped and planted. The most prominent feature of the landscaping within the bailey is a series of terraces, facing the entrance to the keep and running the full width of the bailey. The centrepiece of the lower terrace is an elaborate stone, brick and plaster grotto built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of Tisbury. To the north of the grotto, close to the most northerly point of the curtain wall, is a miniature 'Avebury' stone circle incorporating two rustic alcoves which reuse decorative details from the castle. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, now ruin. 1390s for John, fifth Lord Lovel, remodelled 1570s for Sir Matthew Arundell by Robert Smythson. Limestone ashlar. Hexagonal plan with projecting towers flanking north entrance, enclosed hexagonal courtyard. Two storeys, 6 windows to entrance. Central 1570s round-arched doorway with block rustication to pilasters, shell-headed niches either side, Latin inscription over records rebuilding date, hall above lit by two large C14 pointed windows with missing tracery, corbels for machicolation over, flanking towers have four symmetrically placed 2-light Tudor-arched windows and moulded string course with rosettes to former parapet. Other sides have groups of three Tudor-arched lights some being blind to complete the symmetry. The south west wall has been completely destroyed, together with parts of west and south walls. Interior of courtyard has fine classical doorway of 1570s to foot of stairs; round arch with fluted pilasters to Doric entablature, spandrels and plinths decorated with lions' heads. Main feature of interior is first floor hall over entrance with screens passage and services to south east end, vaulted undercrofts and entrance passage below, other apartments including the lord's chambers were in 3-storey ranges to west and south of the hall. Castle partly destroyed during Civil War sieges of 1643 and 1644, replaced by James Paine's Wardour Castle in 1776 when bailey laid out as pleasure gardens. (Listed Building Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1393 Feb 27 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact