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Beeston Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle of the Rock; Castle de Rupe

In the civil parish of Beeston.
In the historic county of Cheshire.
Modern Authority of Cheshire.
1974 county of Cheshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ53805922
Latitude 53.12870° Longitude -2.69354°

Beeston Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Urban Defence although is doubtful that it was such.

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*.


Built by Ranulf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester c1220 altered late C13/early C14. Crudely coursed red sandstone. Roughly rectangular enclosure of which approximately half is now demolished. Entrance front: central gateway with D-shaped towers with lateral arrow slits and central pointed gate-arch with rebate. The left-hand turret has the voussoirs of a blocked pointed arch to the lower wall. To the left is curtain walling with the lower courses of a further D-shaped tower. To the right is a similar stretch of walling roughly repaired with rubble at its centre with a D-shaped tower slightly to the left of the right hand corner. The right hand (eastern) wall has a similar D-shaped tower to the centre of the wall. On the death of Ranulf de Blundeville's nephew the castle passed to the Crown. In the late C13 and early C14 Edward I carried out modernising alterations including raising the height of the inner bailey walls and crenellating them. By the late C16 Leland described the castle as "shattered and ruinous". In 1643 it was partially repaired and occupied by parliamentary troops and taken by Royalist forces in the same year. It was partially demolished in 1646 to prevent its repeated use as a stronghold. Archaeological evidence of Bronze and Iron age settlements on the site has been found. King suggests the large outer ward may have been a town enclosure, presumably for an abortive borough, but this suggestion has not been taken up by other authors. (Derived from PastScape and others)

The dramatic location, on the cliff top of an isolated hill, is usually described as defensive, although such a position actually makes the castle very vulnerable to being besieged by a small force. The castle would be visible from Chester and obvious to anyone travelling to that important city and port. The castle was built after Ranulf had returned from Crusading in Egypt and the similarities between Beeston and some Crusader castles has often been made. Ranulf was powerful Earl, had been much involved in government and had numerous powerful enemies. Was this castle built by the elderly soldier mainly as a retreat in times of trouble or fundamentally as a powerful and dramatic symbol of his noble and Crusader status? Whatever the symbolic value of the castle the large outer enclosure was use as a place to muster and accommodate some of Edward I troops before this wars in Wales, although this should not be taken as evidence that the castle was built for this function.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
OS getamap   Streetmap   Old-Maps   Where's the path   NLS maps  
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Grimsditch, Brian, Nevell, Michael and Nevell, Richard, 2012, Buckton Castle and the Castles of the North West England (University of Salford Archaeological Monograph 2) p. 101-2
      Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 33, 180, 181, 182, 215
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 332
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Lancashire and Cheshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 10-12
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 13-14
      Ellis. P. (ed), 1992, Beeston Castle, Cheshire: Excavations by Laurence Keen and Peter Hough, 1968-85 (London: English Heritage Archaeological reports Vol. 23) Download via ADS
      Cullen, P.W. and Hordern, R., 1986, Castles of Cheshire (Crossbow Books) p. 18-21,24-6
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 66-7
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 186
      Hough, P.R., 1977, 'Beeston Castle' in Archaeological excavations 1976 (HMSO) p. 24
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 559-60
      Ridgway, Maurice Hill, 1958, 'Medieval Castles' in Sylvester, D. and Nulty, G. (eds), The Historical Atlas of Cheshire (Cheshire Community Council) p. 24-5
      Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 115-6
      Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply and Building Stones (London) p. 4-5
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Barber, 1910, in Barber and Ditchfield, Memories of Old Cheshire (London) p. 55-7 (slight)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 163-6 online copy
      Ormerod, G., 1882 (2edn), History of the County Palatine and city of Chester (London) Vol. 2 p. 273-5
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 117-9 online copy
      Ormerod, G., 1819, History of the County Palatine and city of Chester (London) Vol. 2 p. 144-48 online copy
      Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 15
      Grose, Francis, 1783 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 1 p. 27-32 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Swallow, Rachel, 2014, 'Gateways to Power: The Castles of Ranulf III of Chester and Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 171 p. 289-311
      Nevell, Richard, 2012-13, 'Castle gatehouses in North West England' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 258-81 online copy
      McGuicken, R., 2006 (published 2010), ‘Castle in context? Redefining the significance of Beeston Castle, Cheshire Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society Vol. 81 p 65-82
      McGuicken, R., 2006 (published 2010), ‘Castle in context? An analysis of heritage interpretation and presentation at Beeston Castle, Cheshire’ Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society Vol. 81 p. 83-91
      Coldstream, N., 2003 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
      Brown, R.Allen, 1984, ‘Castle gates and garden gates’ Architectural History Vol. 27 443-5 (slight)
      Hough, P.R., 1984, 'Beeston Castle' Current Archaeology Vol. 8.8 p. 245-9
      Hough, P.R., 1982, 'Beeston Castle: recent Archaeological research for the Department of the Environment' Cheshire Archaeological Bulletin Vol. 8 p. 22-30
      King, D.J.C., 1981, 'Beeston Castle' 128th Annual Meeting, Chester and North East Wales, 1981 CAA, 12
      Youngs, S.M. and Clark, J., 1981, 'Medieval Britain in 1980' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 200 download copy
      Hough, P.R., 1979-80, 'Beeston Castle' CBA Newsletter and Calendar Vol. 3 p. 127
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1979, 'Medieval Britain in 1978' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 23 p. 260 download copy
      Hough, P.R., 1978, 'Excavations at Beeston Castle 1975-77' Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society Vol. 61 p l-23
      Hough, P.R. and Davey, P.J., 1977, 'Beeston' Cheshire Archaeological Bulletin Vol. 5 p. 14-18
      Hough, P.R., 1977, 'Beeston Castle' CBA Calendar of Excavations, summaries 1976 p. 3
      Hough, P.R., 1976, 'Beeston Castle' Cheshire Archaeological Bulletin Vol. 4 p. 21
      Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
      Dove, R.N., 1965-6, Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 75-76 p. 103-122 (Civil War history)
      Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124 (Late–attributed to origin in C12 but regarded as later)
      Ridgeway, M.H. and King, D.J.C., 1959, 'Beeston Castle, Cheshire' Journal of the Chester and North Wales Architectural Archaeological and Historic Society Vol. 46 p. 1-23
      Ridgeway, M.H. 1957, Cheshire Historian Vol. 7 p. 35-8
      1937, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 94 p. 314-5 online copy
      1910, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 65 p. 171-5
      Ayrton, Wm., 1851, 'Beeston Castle' Journal of the Chester and North Wales Architectural Archaeological and Historic Society Vol. 1 p. 127-34 online copy
      1820, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 1 p. 201 online copy
  • Guidebooks
    • Liddiard, R. and McGuicken, R., 2007, Beeston Castle (London: English Heritage)
      1995, Beeston Castle (London: English Heritage)
      Weaver, J., 1987, Beeston Castle (London: English Heritage)
      Ridgeway, M.H. 1957, Beeston Castle (Cheshire) (reprint of Cheshire Historian article)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Lumby, J.R. (ed), 1866, Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden, Monachi Cestrensis; together with the English Translation of John of Trevisa and of an unknown writer in the 15th century (Rolls Series 41) Vol. 8 p. 198
      Christie, R.C. (ed), 1887, Annales Cestrienses: Chronicle of the Abbey of S. Werburg, at Chester p. 55, 95 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 133-4
      SC12/22/96 (Survey of 11 Edward III) The National Archives reference
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Ryder, Charles, 2011, The spiral stair or vice: Its origins, role and meaning in medieval stone castles (PhD Thesis University of Liverpool) p. 239-43 Download via
      Evans, C.M., The Medieval Borough of Beaumaris, 1200-1600 (MA Thesis; University Coolege of North Wales, Bangor)
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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, November 15, 2014

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