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Horsley Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Horston; Horeston; Horsford Horsley; Harestan; Harstan; Hareston vel Horsley

In the civil parish of Horsley.
In the historic county of Derbyshire.
Modern Authority of Derbyshire.
1974 county of Derbyshire.
Medieval County of Derbyshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SK376431
Latitude 52.98480° Longitude -1.44167°

Horsley 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.


A castle is first mentioned here in the reign of Stephen. Today it consists of the remains of a keep and bailey on a natural outcrop of rock with a moat round the west end, partly natural and partly excavated. The keep is at the west end; the east end has been damaged by quarrying. The keep is in poor condition, the core about 10 feet high in places with some stone facing. (Heathcote) The remains comprise part of the keep north wall and buttress, (a retaining wall rather than free standing) and a cellar. Further disconnected remains of foundations are also evident. A stretch of the north bailey wall with an original entrance can be traced from SK 3755 4320 - 37634320. Extensive quarrying over the whole area has obliterated the rest of the site. Explorations in 1852 by Kerry on the site produced few finds. Subsequent investigation involved the removal of a sloping bank form the face of the masonry. The present ruin formed a portion of the keep, which appears to have been multi-angular and apparently constructed on an outcrop of the rock above the rest of the castle buildings (Kerry). Some of the earthworks seem to have been original parts of a deep moat round the centre of the castle. (Derbyshire HER)

Horsley Castle is a reasonably well-documented example of a tower keep castle built overlooking the strategically important Derwent valley. In addition to the partially upstanding tower keep, the undisturbed remains of related features survive, including part of the defensive earthworks.
The monument includes part of the remains of the 12th century tower keep castle known variously from documents as Horsley Castle and Horeston Castle. These remains include the keep, the defensive ditch which extends round the north and east sides of the outcrop on which the keep is situated, and the counterscarp bank which flanks the outer edge of the ditch. A bailey or outer enclosure containing various service buildings relating to the castle would formerly have occupied part of the area surrounding the keep but this has not been included in the scheduling as its original extent and location are unclear and it is likely to have been at least partially destroyed by 19th century quarrying. Also excluded is the park and warren associated with the castle which may also date from the medieval period. Although features relating to these will survive, their extent and state of preservation are not sufficiently understood for them to be included in the scheduling. In addition to its buried foundations, the remains of the keep comprise upstanding sections of the north and west walls which display evidence of square corner towers and the remains of two water spouts. The north wall survives to a maximum of c.5m and retains a substantial portion of its ashlar plinth. Elsewhere, the wall core of mortared rubble can be seen. The defensive ditch to the north and east is c.15m wide and up to 5m deep and is flanked by a counterscarp bank which measures c.10m wide and 5m high. The basement storey of the keep was partially excavated by Charles Kerry in the mid-19th century when parts of the walls were unearthed and fragments of wooden beams exposed. Kerry was also responsible for uncovering a variety of records documenting the castle from the late 12th century onwards. From these it is known that the site was part of the barony of de Buron from 1086 until 1514, when the castle and manor of Horsley were granted by Henry VIII to the Duke of Norfolk as part of his reward for services rendered at the Battle of Flodden Field. In 1568 Thomas Stanhope held the castle. From him it descended to the Earls of Chesterfield, one of whom sold the manor and estate, including the castle, to the Sitwell family in c.1817. (Scheduling Report)

Early forms of the name are Har(e)stane(e), Harestain, Har(e)ston(e), Hor(e)stan, Hor(e)stone(e). The change to Horsley Castle is late but note Castell de Horsel, 1373. (Cameron)

The site is accessible from public footpaths but is a long walk and very difficult to interpret. Although the site overlooks a major route, now the A38, clearly always a hunting lodge rather than anything else.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:47

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