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Odiham Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
King Johns Castle; Hodiham

In the civil parish of Odiham.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Hampshire.
1974 county of Hampshire.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU72555187
Latitude 51.26142° Longitude -0.96162°

Odiham Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


The 13th century royal castle at Odiham survives well, most of the site having remained largely undisturbed since the castle fell out of use, probably in the 16th century. Partial excavation has indicated that the site contains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction, use and abandonment of the castle; it also gives an insight into the economy and way of life of its occupants.
The monument, which falls into two areas, includes the 13th century royal castle at Odiham. The castle, built by King John, is situated on low-lying ground within a bend of the River Whitewater, about 1.5km north west of the town of Odiham. The castle includes a ruined keep (Listed Grade I) standing in one of two contiguous moated enclosures with a third enclosure to the south east. The south western corners of the moat, southern moated enclosure and outer earthworks were damaged during the construction of the Basingstoke Canal in the 18th century. South of the canal, only the south western corner of the moat is visible, surviving as a small pond; the remainder survives as a buried feature. The moat encompasses and divides a sub-rectangular area measuring c.120m by 104m into two enclosures, the northern one being the larger. The moat is a single broad ditch up to 15m wide but, from the canal around the north west corner of the castle and along part of its northern side, two outer banks and an intermediate ditch supplement it, giving an overall width to the defences of c.30m. A ruined, buttressed, octagonal keep, three storeys high and c.17m in external diameter, stands slightly west of the centre of the northern moated enclosure. For the most part only the mortared flint core of the keep remains; ashlar facing is preserved at the internal base of the wall, however, and a dressed stone window arch and chimney with part of a tile- arched fireplace survive at higher levels. Recesses for timbers are visible on both interior and exterior faces of the keep wall. The undulating ground level outside the keep is 2m-3m higher than that of the interior, but no other structural remains are visible. The southern enclosure is a level platform containing no upstanding structural remains. There is a third similarly orientated and slightly undulating enclosure, measuring approximately 100m by 50m, in the adjoining field to the south east. The northern side of this enclosure is marked by a ditch extending north eastwards from the southern moat and the other sides by low banks, not more than 0.3m high and c.3m wide. Except for the south west corner of the moat, there are no earthworks associated with the castle in the wet and low-lying field south of the canal, which shows signs of having been used as water meadows, nor in the area north east of the castle, also formerly part of a water meadow and more recently remodelled to accommodate a lake. The castle was built some distance from the town of Odiham, the site of a royal residence since the early 12th century, by King John. Documentary sources indicate that the first castle was built between 1207 and 1212. Shortly after, in 1216, the castle was besieged by the French and may have been so badly damaged as to need rebuilding, possibly with the octagonal keep, since partial excavation in the 1880's has indicated that this was not the first structure on the site. The castle remained in royal hands, undergoing various documented piecemeal improvements and repairs, until at least 1483, after which there are no such further references; it appears to have fallen into decay by the 16th century. (Scheduling Report)

Odiham Castle, standing on an inner bend of the Whitewater, has two baileys, divided and defended all round by a moat. The buttressed, octagonal keep dating from c.1160, is in a ruinous condition but is still some 40 ft. high. The entrance has been destroyed but appears to have been at the second storey; both the second and third storeys have fireplaces and were well lighted (Toy 1953).
The moat seems originally to have been triple but this arrangement now only survives at the S.W. side and angle. The principal (inner) moat is 30-40' wide, water-filled and intact except where cut through by the Basingstoke Canal. "The ditches were not only defensive; they were used as fish-stews ...
To the N.E. or the smaller court are traces of an enclosure bounded by a deep ditch (William-Freeman).
The keep of this castle is as described by Toy: it is set slightly west of the centre of a rectangular raised area. On the east of this area is uneven ground containing flints and tile fragments probably marking the sites of buildings.
The raised area of the keep and buildings is bounded by a dry moat. On the S and part of the E. side this moat has been dug, but on the remaining sides it is formed by a bank averaging 6.0m. wide and 1.4 m. high. In the W. and at the N.W. corner is a similar, outer bank, presumably a further defence.
To the S.E. of the raised area is a rectangular bailey formed by a ditch, which has been incorporated into a modern hedgerow and drainage-ditch. The S.W. corner has been cut through by the Basingstoke Canal and on the S. side of the canal the corner of the ditch remains. On this side too, the additional banks of the W. side appear to be continued but are now too spread and mutilated to be surveyable.
On the N.E. side of the castle are shallow ditches which apparently form a third enclosure. That described by Dr. Williams-Freeman - as 'deep' is now mainly visible by weeds growing along its course. The area enclosed is not raised at all and forms part of a water-meadow. It seems probable that these ditches are for drainage of the area and not associated with the defensive earthworks (F1 WW 23-JUN-56).
Odiham Castle dated from 1207-14 and superceded an earlier royal residence at Odiham (on a different site) (HKW; MacGregor; King).
Excavations during 1981-1985 located an inner moat, and uncovered remains of buildings beneath the castle keep. The buildings were identified as part of King John's original castle and the octagonal keep provisionally assigned a 14th century date (cf. Toy). This date was later revised to 1225-6 when substantial reconstruction may have been necessary after the siege of 1216. The early 13th century monument appears to have consisted of a moated enclosure with at least two buildings, one of which may have been the 'domus Regii' referred to in documentary evidence. The subsequent excavated sequence appears to follow the known historical sequence. The present keep would seem to be early 13th century, probably built in response to the siege of 1216, and was built in conjunction with the digging of an inner moat around it. At a later date a palisade was constructed around the inner moat (Hampshire County Council Archaeology in Hampshire, annual reports 1981-1984/5).
By the 15th century the site had lost its defensive significance and was being used as a hunting lodge, surrounded by a garden (cf. also SU 75 SW 8) (Post Med. Arch. 1984).
A contour survey of the field immediately to the east of the castle site in 1986 identified what was thought to be the original castle approach and possible house platforms of a large extramural settlement. (SU75SW73) (Hampshire County Council Archaeology in Hampshire, annual report 1986)
Odiham had been a royal residence in teh 12th century, but the present castle, built by King John from 1207 onwards, was built on a new site to the north-West of the town. According to a contemporary chronicler it was built for the King to enjoy hunting. Although usually in the King's hands, it was granted as a dowry to several Queen's until 1483, after which no mention of repairs are made (HKW). (PastScape)
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:48

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