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Wigmore Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Wigemore; Wygemore

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SO40786929
Latitude 52.31843° Longitude -2.86961°

Wigmore Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

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*.


Multi-phase stone-built castle. Probable mid-C11 origins built by William Fitzosborn, Earl of Hereford and held by Ralph de Mortimer at the time of the Domesday Book Survey (1086). Some of the masonry is C12 and C13 but the structure was otherwise rebuilt during the early C14, probably by Roger Mortimer. It was repaired during the mid- to late C16 by Sir Henry Sydney and used as a prison. In 1643 it is said to have been dismantled by the Harley family who had bought it in 1601. Sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. Present ruins consists of parts of the walls of a shell-keep on a mound to the north-west of the site, portions of the enclosing walls of the bailey to the south-east including three towers, a gatehouse and a single fragment of wall near the middle of the enclosure. Keep: roughly oval and entered from east side with a stretch of wall on the north side with a flat buttress and terminating in a second buttress. The upper part of this wall and the rest of the surviving walling of the keep is C14. There was also a south tower, of which the south wall remains with the embrasure of a single-light window, and a west tower, which must have been at least three storeys high and contained a spiral staircase. The main curtain wall carried up to the keep mound at the east end and the south side. North tower: C14. It retains its outward side and plinth and two of the faces have the remains of window embrasures. East tower: probably C13. Circular outward face with plinth survives with large window embrasure and grade-robe shaft. Gatehouse: C14. Only the central portion remains with a four-centred archway (half-choked with debris) of two orders; the outer moulded and the inner order chamfered, and between them is a portcullis groove. East of the archway is the remains of a small room with a west doorway, a right-angled passage and a rubble vault. The wall west of the archway has the remains of a window and door and adjoins a fairly well- preserved section of curtain wall. South tower: C14. Rectangular plan and of at least three storeys with a basement and a moulded plinth; the basement under the east half is approached by a square-headed doorway in the north-west angle down a flight of steps. The ground floor has four windows and a fireplace (the two south windows have cusped pointed heads) and there are four first floor windows. The curtain wall to the west is quite well preserved and adjoins the south-west tower: this was of similar date, plan and height to the south tower. The south wall has a plinth and second and third storey window. The adjoining curtain wall to the north has traces of a window, a chimney flue and an ogee-arched doorway. There are also the remains of a rectangular inner enclosure south-east of the keep mound. An engraving by Buck of 1732 shows little more of the building than presently survives. It was one of the largest castles built along the Welsh border and appears to have been a structure of the first importance. (Listed Building Report)

Wigmore Castle lies on the Welsh border and is one of the largest of its type. The original motte and bailey castle was built by William FitzOsbern, one of William the Conqueror's captains at the Battle of Hastings, in the mid 11th century. It soon came into the ownership of the powerful Mortimer family, and became their chief fortress from which they controlled large parts of central Wales. There is some 13th and 14th century masonry but the castle was rebuilt in the early 14th century by Roger Mortimer, who virtually ruled England after Edwards II's deposition and murder in 1327. Roger was subsequently executed by Edward III in 1330. The castle passed from the Mortimer family to the Duke of York in 1424, and ultimately to Edward IV, although it was rarely used and became partly ruinous. It was repaired in the late 16th century and used as a prison after Elizabeth I sold it to the Harleys of Brampton Bryan. The castle was partially dismantled in 1643 to prevent Royalist forces using it, and has been ruinous ever since. The castle was taken into guardianship in 1995 and repairs were completed in 1999, although much of the castle still remains buried up to first-floor level. Only earthworks of the outer bailey remain, and the gatehouse is half buried in its own fallen masonry. The early 14th century curtain wall extends from either side of the gatehouse, and includes three surviving residential towers. There are earthwork and stone remains of a huge rectangular hall, and a chamber block once lay at the far end. A half-octagonal tower completed this range. The inner bailey is situated on top of the motte; at the far west end is a keep, with only its stair turret visible above ground. The great ditch incorporates part of a natural feature and separates the castle from the ridge beyond. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage. (PastScape)

After being taken in care in the mid 1980s was conserved and maintained as a 'romantic ruin' and nature reserve by English Heritage in the late 1990s when some archaeological investigation was undertaken. Because the stone is of such poor quality the castle has undergone either states of fairly constant repair, while it was inhabited, or period of neglect and ruin, and much of the fabric of the castle is buried under a considerable depth of rubble (6m deep in some places). This is most notable at the gatehouse where consolidated rubble fills the gate passage to a few feet below the passage arch. The archaeological potential of the site is considerable but the thick layers of rubble would make such archaeology vastly difficult and expensive (although they do protect the site).
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated before 1 February 2016

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