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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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;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*.


Wigmore Castle, ruins and earthworks, m. W.N.W. of the church, occupies the end of a long spur running S.E. from Wigmore Rolls. The walls are of local sandstone rubble with dressings of the same material. According to Domesday Book the castle was built by William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, and was held at the time of the survey (1086) by Ralph de Mortimer. Part of the base of the N. wall of the shellkeep is of early, and perhaps 12th-century, character, and the rounded E. tower of the castle is probably of the 13th century, but the rest of the structure seemed to have been largely or entirely re-built early in the 14th century, probably by Roger Mortimer, the 8th lord. The castle passed to the Crown in the person of Edward IV. Bishop Lee, President of the council of the Marches (1534–43), found the castle "utterly decayed in lodging" and repaired it. It was also repaired by Sir Henry Sydney, a later president (1559–86), and used as a prison. It was bought by the Harley family in 1601, and is said to have been dismantled by them in 1643. Buck's view of 1732 shows that there was then but little more of the building standing than is at present the case.
Though very fragmentary the ruins are of interest as those of a castle, formerly of the first importance.
The existing ruins consists of parts of the walls of a shell-keep on a mound to the N.W. of the site, portions of the enclosing walls of the bailey to the S.E. including three towers and a gatehouse and a single fragment of ruin near the middle of the enclosure. The Keep (Plate 185) was of roughly oval form (about 125 ft. by 57 ft. internally) and was entered at the E. end. A stretch of wall survives on the N. side, with a flat buttress and terminating in the remains of a second buttress; the lower part of the wall is perhaps of earlier date than the rest and consists of courses of squared and much smaller stones; the upper walling with the buttresses appears to be of the 14th century, as is the rest of the surviving walling of the keep. A gap represents the entrance at the E. end, and to the S. of it are the remains of a tower with a plinth-course and with the embrasure of a single-light window or loop; higher up is part of the embrasure of a second window, to the floor above. Only fragments remain of the S. wall of the keep, but at the W. end is the lofty fragment of a tower, at least three storeys high; it contained a spiral staircase and retains the jambs of doorways and windows on its E. and S. sides. The keep no doubt had a series of buildings abutting against the inside of the enclosing wall and probably with a small open court in the middle. The main curtain-wall of the castle was carried up the keep-mound at the E. end and on the S. side. A portion of this wall adjoins the keep at the E. end and contains the remains of an embrasure and a shaft, probably from a former garde-robe. The N.E. Tower (Plate 185) retains only its outward side with four faces and a plinth; two of the faces have broken window-embrasures. On the inner face is a corbel of the former first floor, and higher up are remains of a window. The tower is of the 14th century. The curtain between this and the E. tower is largely destroyed except for a length adjoining the latter, which has a chamfered plinth. The E. Tower (Plate 185) is probably of the 13th century and has a rounded outer face with a plinth. There is a large broken window embrasure on the S. side and a garde-robe shaft at the junction with the S. curtain; the inner face of the tower has fallen. Some of the curtain between this tower and the gatehouse is standing and has a plinth. The Gatehouse (Plate 185) retains only its central portion, astride the line of the curtain, the outer and inner parts being destroyed. It is a 14th-century structure with a central gateway having a segmental-pointed outer arch formerly of two orders, the outer moulded and the inner chamfered; between them is the portcullis groove; towards the N. the arch is rebated for doors. The archway is choked with rubbish to about half its height. E. of the archway are remains of a small room at the first-floor level entered by a door on the W. side with a right-angled passage and a rubble vault. The W. wall, within the gateway, has a set-back of 4 ft. at the first-floor level with remains of a window on the W. and a doorway on the S. At the junction with the S. curtain is a garde-robe shaft. The adjoining length of curtain is fairly well preserved and contains a second garde-robe shaft. The 14th-century S. Tower (Plate 185) was a rectangular structure (38 ft. by 32 ft. externally), of which the N. wall has been destroyed. It was of at least three storeys and has a moulded plinth and a central cross-wall running N. and S. Under the E. half is a basement with a segmental stone vault and approached by a double square-headed doorway in the N.W. angle and a flight of steps. The ground floor has remains of four windows and fireplaces in the E. and W. walls; the S. windows retain their trefoiled heads. The first floor has similar windows in the S. and W. walls. There are considerable remains of the curtain between this and the S.W. tower. The S.W. Tower is a rectangular structure of the 14th century and appears to have been of three storeys; it is much destroyed on the S. side. In the lowest storey is an unlit room, now open on the E. side. The S. wall has a plinth with remains of a window in the second and third storey. The adjoining curtain on the N. has traces of a former window, a chimney flue and a doorway with an ogee head and a chamfered rib in the thickness of the wall; the outer face is broken away. An isolated fragment of curtain survives on the S. slope of the keep-mound. Within the bailey, to the S.E. of the keep-mound, are traces of a rectangular inner enclosure, with fragments of masonry exposed at certain points. Within this enclosure, a bank at the back of the N.E. tower may indicate the lines of a destroyed building.
The Earthworks of the main castle have been formed by cutting a ditch across the spur to the N.W. and steepening the natural scarp to form the motte and by cutting two ditches with a medial rampart on the S.E. of the spur to form the bailey; the ditches die out towards the N. into the steep natural scarp, and both ditches are partly lost on the S. A causeway across the inner ditch forms the approach to the gatehouse, and a second causeway runs N.W. from the keep to the top of the spur beyond the keep-ditch, where a slight mound has been formed. S.E. of the bailey is a further enclosure defended by the scarp of the spur on the N.E., a ditch on the S.W. and a rampart on the S.E. The ridge to the S.E. of this enclosure is cut by four short ditches. To the N.E. of the scarp on that side of the castle itself a large enclosure is formed by two banks with ditches on their outward sides, running in a north-easterly direction. Both these works die out in the low-lying ground on that side. (RCHME 1934)

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 (9m 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).
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:32

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