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Tewkesbury Holme Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Holm Hill; Holmes; The Vineyards

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SO89353205
Latitude 51.98814° Longitude -2.16250°

Tewkesbury Holme Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Holme Castle, a Saxon and Medieval manor, is supposed to have been destroyed in the early 13th Century. The site was probably on Holme Hill, above the Vineyards where masonry and foundations were visible in 1836. Traces of a ditch are still visible. Scheduled.
The ditched feature published by the OS is described as the remains of Md Fishponds, probably belonging to the Abbey of Tewkesbury by Rigold. Bennett says that the Vineyard was probably a quarry for building material (OS map annotation: Bennett).
The ditched feature shown, and variously described as 'Holme Castle (site of) and 'Fish Ponds', by the OS is on low lying ground and has been almost completely overlaid by a large refuse heap. The present remains are insufficient to determine whether the feature was a moated site as suggested by earlier OS plans, or Fish Ponds as stated by Rigold.
A stone erected in 1932 on higher ground to the south west (at SO 89163208) is said to mark the site of Holme Castle. It bears an inscription stating that the castle was burnt down in 1140, afterwards rebuilt, and finally destroyed in the early 14th c. It is possible that 'The Vineyards' is yet another reference to the ditched enclosure. There seems to be no other feature to which the OS name can be applied although Tewkesbury Abbey has a vineyard. In the Abbey's Records there is a reference to one tun of wine from Tewkesbury vineyard being sold to the king in 1238 (F1 ANK 12-MAY-66).
Tewkesbury was one of the principal residences of the Earls of Gloucester, and passed to King John after his marriage to Isabella, Countess of Gloucester, until her remarriage in 1214. He stayed there on many occasions during his reign and it was frequently repaired on his orders. Holm Castle was certainly fortified, as brattices are mentioned in connection with it. The site was levelled and backfilled in 1826 by a 'utilitarian banker'. It was probably a few hundred yards SE of the Abbey church, possibly referring to the position shown as "Fish Ponds" on the OS plan (HKW).
Leland describes the castle ruins as standing on Holm Hill, by the bank of the River Swilgate at its junction with the Avon and SW of the abbey; Col Blyth suggests that the only place fitting Leland's description is the top of Holm Hill to the west of Holm hospital. He also mentions a 14th century kitchener's account for work done on the weir across the Swilgate, which supplied water for the fish ponds (Blyth).
SO 887321. Excavations at Holm (Windmill) Hill (see plans) in 1974 and 1975, prior to Council development, revealed the plan of a 13th century stone built hall underlying which was a 12th century stone hall and beneath this the pits and post-holes of a possibly late Saxon or early Norman timber hall. Scraping exposed and destroyed the foundations of numerous stone buildings associated with the 12th and 13th century halls including what were judged to be a chapel, dovecote, gatehouse, guest apartments, together with an area of barns, stables, furnaces and refuse dumps. These halls probably represent the site of 'Holme Castle' the manor of the Earls of Gloucester. Within the area were revealed a Bronze Age penannular enclosure 11.5m in diameter and a linear ditch 42.0m long, with an entrance 3.0m wide at its mid-point. In association with the linear feature was a pit containing fragments of a vessel of very shelly fabric and with a rim of Beaker affinities, together with a small animal interment. Flints including a barbed and tanged arrowhead were found in the plough soil (Hannan 1975 and 1976).
The Medieval fishponds or moated site noted above, are visible as earthworks on historic aerial photographs but subsequently have been levelled. They extend over an area that is centred at SO 8936 3216 and comprise a linear drainage channel that forms an incomplete rectilinear circuit around two parallel rectilinear ponds that are orientated north/south. A further roughly rectilinear pond with two circular islands is situated immediately to the west. The pattern of inter-connected ponds corresponds more closely with a system of fishponds rather than a moated site. (PastScape)

The castle was sited between the town and a large deer park, which was later the site of the battle of Tewkesbury (1471). Blyth argued the ruins of the castle were used in 1471 by the Lancastrian forces as a strongpoint, although this is contested. (see English Heritage Battlefield Report: Tewkesbury 1471. The original siting of the castle on a hill top probably had more to do with giving views to and from the park and town than any 'defensive' consideration and this castle, as is true of many castles, was a domestic high status house with pleasure pursuits as a principle rasion d'être. However, such a primary use does not exclude fortification and garrisoning in times of insecurity.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Books
    • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 35
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 356
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 184
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 321
      Elrington, C.R. (ed), 1968, VCH Gloucestershire Vol. 8 p. 122- online transcription
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 1005
      1908 (4edn) A handbook and guide to places of special interest in the town of Tewkesbury and the surrounding neighbourhood (Tewkesbury: W.North) online transcription
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 375 online copy
      Moore, F., n.d. (late C19), 'Holme Castle' in Spurrier et al, Descriptive Particulars of Old Houses of Tewkesbury (Tewkesbury) p. 37-58
      Bennett, 1830, History of Tewkesbury (Tewkesbury) p. 19
      Dyde, 1798, History and Antiquities of Tewkesbury (Tewkesbury) p. 37-8
  • Periodical Articles
    • Hannan, Alan, 1997, 'Tewkesbury and the Earls of Gloucester: Excavations at Holm Hill, 1974-5' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 115 p. 79-231
      Kilminster, Guy, 1996, 'Gloucestershire Unpublished Excavations List' Glevensis Vol. 29 p. 37 online copy
      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
      Hannan, A., 1976, 'Holm Castle, Tewkesbury Excavations during 1975' Glevensis Vol. 10 p. 10-11 online copy
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1976, 'Medieval Britain in 1975' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 20 p. 184 download copy
      Hannan, A., 1975, 'Holm Castle, Tewkesbury Excavations during 1974' Glevensis Vol. 9 p. 9-10 online copy
      1975, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 19 p. 239 download copy
      Blyth, J.D., 1961, 'The battle of Tewkesbury' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 8 p. 99-120 online copy
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 192, 193
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 137 online copy
  • 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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