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Richmont Castle, East Harptree

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Estharpetre; Harpestre; Arpetream; Harpetreu

In the civil parish of East Harptree.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Bath and North East Somerset.
1974 county of Avon.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST562558
Latitude 51.29963° Longitude -2.63062°

Richmont Castle, East Harptree 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.


Medieval castle mentioned in the reign of Stephen and destroyed during the reign of King Henry VIII. Parts of the curtain wall survives for a length of 30m and in places it is 3m thick and 2.2m high. (PastScape)

The castle earthworks cover an area of 1.58ha and are marked by the fragmentary remains of three banks and two external ditches. These earthworks define a great tower and an inner and outer bailey. At the northern end, the principal residential area, there are the stone remains of a circular tower and part of the rubble core of the curtain wall as well as the earthworks of at least two buildings. Elsewhere the castle is largely devoid of stonework since it has been thoroughly dismantled and robbed for its building material; however, stretches of the course of the curtain wall can still be traced as rubble walling and as an earthwork. Scarring much of the two baileys, the western side of the spur, and the area to the south of the castle, are the pits and rakes of a phase of industrial mining which tends to obscure the form of the castle. (Brown, 2008)
It is not entirely clear when Richmont Castle was constructed but it was probably sometime in the late 11th century, soon after the Norman Conquest. It was certainly in existence in 1138 during the period of the Anarchy between king Stephen and the Empress Matilda (1135-1154). In 1138 it was held by Sir William de Harptree who supported Matilda; following the siege of Bristol, Stephen advanced on Richmont and burnt the gates and secured the castle. The subsequent history of the castle is unknown but it probably remained the residence of the de Harptree family (later known as de Gourney) for much of the later medieval period. (Brown, 2008)

Post mortum inquisition of Thomas de Gourney in 1343 records 'he held nothing of the King in chief, etc., but rendered 6s. 8d. yearly to the King for licence to crenellate (karnellandi) the castle of Estharpetre' Coulson writes "writ of Certiorari produced a new inquisition which omitted this detail (the yearly fee) (August 1347). There is no enrolment as calendared, so the licence was probably cancelled for non-payment. It was probably a Hanaper fee, due to be collected by the sheriff, wrongly entered as annual." The speculation being that the death of Thomas was the reason for the none payment and that 'yearly' is an error for 'to be paid this year'. The castle may well have been purchased by Thomas de Gourney, a member of a neighbouring family, from the de Harptrees in 1329/30 and the licence applied for to confirm this change of ownership when new building was started or was about to be finished. Some of the standing remains may date from that time.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 68-109
      Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 695 (Where date is given as 1343)
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 77
      Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 45
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 225 (slight)
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 443
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 200
      Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth) p. 188
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 67-8 online copy
      Collinson, J., 1791, The History of Somersetshire (Bath: Cruttwell) Vol. 3 p. 589 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Speight, Sarah, 2004, ''Religion in the Bailey: Charters, Chapels and the Clergy' Château Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 271-80
      Coulson, C., 1994, 'Freedom to Crenellate by Licence - An Historiographical Revision' Nottingham Medieval Studies Vol. 38 p. 121
      Russell, J.R., 1984, 'East Harptree, Richmont Castle' in Iles, R., 'Avon Archaeology 1983' Bristol and Avon Archaeology Vol. 3 p. 61-2
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1913, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward III Vol. 8 p. 287 No. 434 online copy
      British Library MS Add. Ch. 6528, dated 15 Aug 1329 (Grant by Thomas ap Adam to Thomas de Gournay son of Hugh de Gournay, of ‘all my site of my castle in East Harptree’ … and all the lands, tenements, services etc. belonging to it.)
      Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 43-6 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 see online transcription)
      Potter, K.R. (ed), 1955, The Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury (Nelson's Medieval Texts) p. 42 (A revised edition by Edmund King (Oxford University Press, 1999) should also be consulted)
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 428
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 427, 430
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 85, 107 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 16 online copy
      Brown, G, 2008, Richmont Castle, East Harptree: An Analytical Earthwork Survey (English Heritage Research Department Report No. 73) online copy
      Prior, Stuart, 2004, _"Winning Strategies" An Archaeological Study of Norman Castles in the Landscapes of Somerset, Monmouthshire and County Meath, 1066-1186 (PhD thesis; University of Bristol) Vol. 2 p. 147 Download via EThOS
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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