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Benington Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bennington; The Lordship; Benyngton; Beningtuna; Turrim de Beninton'

In the civil parish of Benington.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL296236
Latitude 51.89620° Longitude -0.11667°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

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

Description

Benington Castle is a well-documented example of a Norman motte and bailey castle with a tower keep. Its historical records date back to the 11th century. Despite landscaping to the west of the monument the castle survives in good condition and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the development of the monument, the landscape in which it was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants.
Benington Castle is situated on a south-west facing slope immediately north of the parish church. It includes a large square mound, or motte, which measures 45m across and c.6m in height. The remains of a rectangular tower keep, of flint rubble construction, stand on the east side of the motte. The keep, a listed building Grade I, measures 13.5m by 12.5m externally with walls about 2.2m thick and up to 2.5m high. The south wall is reduced to its footings. Also situated on the motte is Benington Lordship, a Grade II star listed Georgian house, the summerhouse, Grade II listed, and the curtain wall and gatehouse both of which were built in about 1832 and are also listed Grade II. Surrounding the motte is a ditch c.6m deep and nearly 19m wide in some places. The bailey forms a semicircle to the north-east of the motte and was surrounded by a curtain wall, fragments of which have been found. A second bailey surrounds the church and churchyard which are situated to the south of the motte. This area is not included in the scheduling as both church and churchyard remain in use by the parish. A third bailey is believed to have existed to the west of the motte. The stream marks the western extent of this bailey. This area has, however, been subject to land improvement including the construction of garden terraces and ponds. It is therefore not considered well enough preserved to be included in the scheduling. The earthworks are considered to have been built by Peter de Valognes who was sheriff of the county in 1086. His son Roger erected the masonry castle in 1136. In 1176-7 one hundred picks were purchased for the demolition of the castle but it appears that this was never carried out as the castle was still strongly garrisoned in 1193. It was passed on shortly afterwards to Robert Fitzwalker on his marriage and was destroyed in 1212 on his outlawry. (Scheduling Report)

Ruined keep of medieval ringwork castle. 1130's for the de Valognes family, slighted in 1176/7 by Henry II, garrisoned again in 1192/3, destroyed 1212 after Robert Fitz Walter was outlawed. Flint rubble walls 7 - 8 ft thick with some herringbone-coursed flint facing and oolitic limestone quoins and plinth offset of dressed stone with diagonal tooling, exposed on exterior N wall. A small square stone tower about 44 feet x 41 feet with pilaster buttresses at the middle and ends of each face. A small square NE annexe may be original. Demolition involved removal of one side entirely. S wall is reduced to footings and W wall ends at a door jamb. Other walls stand to some 9 foot. A fallen mass of masonry lies on the NE annexe and an imitation Norman doorway was inserted c1842. Of unusual interest. (Listed Building Report)

The history of Benington Castle is obscure, but the earthworks may have been thrown up by Peter de Valognes, who was sherriff of the county in 1086. His son, Roger, probably erected the masonry castle in about 1136. One hundred picks were purchased in 1176-7 for the demolition of the castle, but it appears that they were never used as the castle was still strongly garrisoned in 1193. Shortly afterwards it passed to Robert Fitz-Walker on his marriage and was destroyed on his outlawry in 1212.
The remains consist of a large square mound with a semi-circular bailey bank to the NE. The bailey was surrounded by a curtain wall, fragments of which have been found. The remains of a rectangular keep, of flint rubble set in yellow, sandy mortar, stand on the E side of the motte. The keep measures about 44 ft by 41 ft externally with walls 7-8 ft thick and up to 2 ft 6 ins high. The S wall is reduced to its footings and the W wall ends at a door jamb. A large panel of masonry has fallen across a small NE annexe, which may or may not have been part of the original keep. An imitation gatehouse and curtain wall of 1832 run from the Georgian house (Lordship : TL 29652366) on the N side of the mound to the remains of the keep.
On the W is a deep valley in which are two great ponds and traces of a dam, suggesting that this side may have been converted into a lake (VCH; RCHME; Listing report; Renn 1961; Renn 1971; Renn 1973).
The motte and bailey earthworks are in good condition on the E and S sides, but to the N and W they have been destroyed by modern landscaping gardening. See annotated 1:2500 survey. The remains of the keep are overgrown but otherwise in fair condition and the masonry attains a maximum height of 2.5m. There are substantial pieces of fallen masonry at the NE corner of the keep (F1 JB 27-NOV-70).
The castle is set within a landscape park, in part laid out over furlongs of ridge and furrow. To the W the valley has been dammed to form two small ornamental ponds. Along the W side of the valley a hollow-way may be traced leading off the lane northwards; the line of the feature is later continued as a terrace. It was not possible to trace the feature beyond the ponds but its line is perpetuated by a hedge line to the N. A fine avenue of oak trees lead away westwards from the castle aligned on the W side of the Georgian house. The area to the W of the castle was used as a private golf course in the late 19th century by the present owner's grandfather; no earthworks were seen relating to this activity. Along the E. side of the valley are the earthwork remains of the former approach to the house leaving the lane at TL 29662348.
This drive cuts through the remains of a small post-medieval property to the SW of the church TL 29682352 represented by a series of level platforms and a large hollow set against the lane. Buildings are shown in this area on a late 17th century estate map (F2 WDC 02-AUG-90 RCHME Field investigation). (PastScape)

Eodem anno destructa sunt castra Roberti Filii-Walteri de Lundonia et de Beningtuna, et nemora ejusdem in Essexia. (Annales Prioratus de Dunstaplia for 1211)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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*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 on Saturday, September 20, 2014

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