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 

Brampton Bryan Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Brampton Brian

In the civil parish of Brampton Bryan.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Herefordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO370725
Latitude 52.34767° Longitude -2.92582°

Brampton Bryan Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

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 monument includes the ruined, earthwork and buried remains of the quadrangular castle at Brampton Bryan, situated on floodplain south of the River Teme, 50m north of the church. The medieval layout of the castle appears to have been four ranges built around a courtyard, with a gatehouse contained within the southern curtain wall, to which a large outer gatehouse was later added. The whole monument was constructed on a mound or motte, and surrounded by a moat. The north range contained the hall and service bay, both at first floor level, with the kitchen to the east. Private accomodation was contained in the other ranges, with further chambers above the gate passage of the inner gatehouse, and on the first floor of the outer gatehouse. The castle originally stood on an earthen motte, part of which can be seen around the inner gatehouse and hall range. This in turn was surrounded by a moat, with the approach to the castle being from the south across a bridge to the gatehouse. Subsequent landscaping for the later house and gardens has obscured the full extent of the castle accommodation and the moat at the surface, however evidence for these features will survive below ground. The steep slope to the north of the hall range wall, which now continues eastwards along the edge of the garden, probably represents the original northern extent of the motte. The standing remains are built of local sandstone rubble and ashlar, and are Listed Grade I. They represent several phases of construction, and include the outer gatehouse, part of the inner gatehouse, and part of the south wall of the hall and kitchen range. The earliest documentary references tell us that Bryan de Brampton had a 'tower with curtilage' on the site in 1295. It is generally considered that the earliest phase of the present structure is represented by the great hall and inner gatehouse, which were either de Brampton's work or were built shortly after 1309, when the castle passed to Robert Harley by his marriage to Bryan's daughter Margaret. The inner gatehouse projected inwards from the southern curtain wall, which still stands to its east and west, and its north and south wall stand almost to their full original height. The entrance is formed by two arches through the wall, with an opening for a portcullis between them; an early example of ball-flower ornament can still be seen over the inner arch. There is a single arch at the northern exit of the gateway passage, to the east of which is a contemporary doorway, and to the west the shell of a 16th century stair-turret. The first floor would have housed the portcullis, and contains a single chamber, with a garderobe or latrine closet. A fireplace in the north wall is flanked by single windows, both with seats in their embrasures. With the construction of the outer gatehouse, two doorways were inserted into the south wall of the inner gatehouse, giving access to the upper staircases and walkway along the top of the outer gatehouse walls. At second floor level the single chamber in the inner gatehouse also has a fireplace and garderobe. There is a window with seat to the north, west of which a foliate capital of 13th century date has been reused in the wall. The outer gatehouse was added some time later in the 14th century. The gateway in its south wall consists of two arches enclosing a portcullis groove, above which a moulded string with ball-flower decoration is set below a further arch. This entrance is flanked by two round towers, each of c.5m external diameter and with two storeys remaining. On the ground floor the east tower houses a polygonal chamber, containing a fireplace in the south west quarter with a single window to the west, and garderobe to the north of the gate- passage doorway. The first floor chamber is open to a portcullis room over the gate arch, and has two windows and a garderobe above the one on the ground floor. The portcullis room itself has a fireplace in the north wall, which is carried by an arch over the entrance passage. Its octagonal chimney stack is a 16th century addition and has a crenelated top. The west tower houses a circular chamber at ground floor level, with a well at its centre now infilled. An opening to the south west is roofed with a series of arches stepped down towards the well. The chamber above has two windows, one with ball-flower ornament, and was entered via a mural stairway opening off the west side of the gatehouse passage. The remains of the hall and kitchen range are c.12m north of the inner gatehouse; the courtyard which separated them was cut through within the last century to provide access between the later hall to the west and the tennis courts to the east. All that remains of the hall block is part of the original 14th century south wall, and the three-storeyed 16th century staircase bay, or porch, enclosing the original hall doorway. To either side of this doorway are small windows which would have lit the basement. Above the eastern one is a similar window with a window-seat; the remains of others to the east would have lit the service bay. The hall would have been lit by similar windows overlooking the courtyard; both hall and service bay were at first floor level while the kitchen, to the east, was at basement level and rose through two floors. There was a chamber over the service bay and kitchen, from which access was later made into a small room on the upper floor of the porch. With the construction of the porch a fireplace was inserted above the door. Lit on all three sides by large windows, the porch was entered through a door in its east wall; the stairs to the hall doorway have been removed. (Scheduling Report)

The twin-towered outer gatehouse and small barbican forward of the earlier gateway is the principal defensive survival. One of the battlemented entry towers has a single upper window with ball-flower decoration and cinquefoil cusping, the latter another early example as at Acton Burnell Castle, and totally unweathered ball-flower label above the outer arch. The ogee-headed entrance doorway and trefoil cusped windows are more indicative that the outer gatehouse and barbican were secondary rather than much late work. The question is why such a defence should have been added in the mid-fourteenth century when there was no obvious need for it, though a similar towered gatehouse/barbican was added at this time in front of the earlier gateway at Dudley Castle. It may have been for reasons status, but they comfortable if ill-lit first floor accommodation may have been intended to provide constable lodgings while the Hartleys were absent fighting in France. (Emery 2000)

The surviving remains mainly consists of the outer gatehouse, probably of early C14 date. This looks much like a gatehouse of the Edwardian castle of Wales in miniature. The earlier C13 house was fortified although it was arguably too small to be considered a castle (and was of gentry status the de Brampton's holding the manor for the military serve of castle guard at Wigmore.). The general impression is of a relatively modest fortified house dressed up with a gatehouse drawing its reference and kudos from the great castles of Edward I.
In the grounds of a private house (the home of the Harley family - the house is one of a small number has been ownership in the same family, having never been sold, since Domesday). It is not visible from the road but is sometimes open on special occasions.
The English Civil War history of the house is outside the scope of Gatehouse but websites and texts dealing with this history may contain information of value to the student of the medieval castle.
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 09:21:32

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