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Newnham on Severn Castle House

In the civil parish of Newnham.
In the historic county of Gloucestershire.
Modern Authority of Gloucestershire.
1974 county of Gloucestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO68951151
Latitude 51.80137° Longitude -2.45168°

Newnham on Severn Castle House has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

Description

A castle was built at Newnham soon after the Norman conquest, and it has been suggested that it was the first castle built beyond the Severn against the Welsh (Elrington 1976, 30). It is thought to have played a role in the invasion of Ireland in 1171, when Henry II mustered his troops at Newnham prior to embarkation. In the twelfth century land in Newnham was described as lying by the ditch of the old castle, and similar descriptions were made c.1240 and 1418, while in the early thirteenth century land in the town was identified as being by the chapel of the old castle. In 1327 a ‘William atte Wall’ was recorded in the Lay Subsidy, suggesting that he may have lived near the castle (Elrington 1976, 30). The castle was situated on the high ground at the southern end of the settlement, where the earthworks of a motte and bailey survive. Excavations on the site were undertaken in the nineteenth century, although nothing is known about any discoveries. More recently, masonry fragments are reported to have been found beneath the turf of the Round Green, which runs north from the castle site forming a terraced walk. However, this earthwork is thought to be the landscaped remains of defensive works thrown up by royalist forces in 1647 (Elrington 1976, 33), and the masonry may thus relate to this later embankment. (Extensive Urban Survey)

The medieval earthwork at Newnham is a castle-ring rather than a motte. The enclosure has a maximum length of 190 feet, and traces of the bank survive on the NW and S sides. The bank on the east has probably been thrown down to fill its own ditch, and on the westward side the earthworks have been superseded by a raised walk of modern date. The most favourable position for a bailey, if such ever existed, would be to the east on the site occupied by the church since c 1380.
Excavations during the latter part of the 19th century of which nothing more is known resulted in the owner of an adjoining property changing its name to "Castle House", and more recently there has been evidence of possible masonry beneath the turf of the Round Green".
A small roughly oval ring-motte (ringwork). It is situated near the edge of a spur overlooking a bend of the River Severn. There are no obvious Civil War earthworks in the vicinity (F1 ANK 28-MAY-70).
Newnham Castle, allegedly the first castle built beyond the Severn against the Welsh, was presumably in existence by 1086. It was referred to as the "old castle" in the 12th century, and similarly in c 1240 and 1418. Land in Newnham was described in the early 13th century, as being by the chapel of the old castle. There is therefore no good reason for doubting that the three-sided earthwork with ramparts and a ditch on the high ground at the south end of the town was, as it appears to be, a Norman castle rather than part of the defences thrown up in 1643. It was presumably the hollow green recorded in 1594 (VCH). (PastScape)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • English Heritage (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s) 111772.
  • County Historic Environment Record (or Sites and Monuments Record) number(s) 5177.
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 24
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 182
      Roger Leech, 1981, Historic towns in Gloucestershire: archaeology and planning (Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon, Gloucestershire and Somerset surveys 3) p. 64
      Elrington, C.R. and Herbert, N.M. (eds), 1972, VCH Gloucestershire Vol. 10 p. 30 online transcription
      Woods, M.K., 1912, Newnham-on-Severn, a Retrospective (Gloucester) p. 31-6
  • Periodical Articles
    • Rawes, B., 1977, 'A Check List of Castles and other Fortified Sites of Medieval Date in Gloucestershire' Glevensis Vol. 11 p. 39-41 online copy
      King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Matthew Tilley, Tim Grubb, 2008, Extensive Urban Survey - Gloucestershire Download copy
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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