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Rockingham Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Rockingham.
In the historic county of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough.
Modern Authority of Northamptonshire.
1974 county of Northamptonshire.
Medieval County of Northamptonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP86689133
Latitude 52.51207° Longitude -0.72380°

Rockingham 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*.


Rockingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman invasion, and remained an important royal castle used by successive kings throughout the medieval period. By the 13th century the castle was one of the seven main royal residences in the country. Extensive documentary records also show that Rockingham was a major administrative centre during this time. Successive phases of building at the site are well documented throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, and remains of a substantial village settlement are also seen around the castle. The site has a diversity of very well preserved and well maintained earthworks including those of the motte and baileys of the castle, warrens, moats, and the associated settlement. These features combine to present an exceptional and largely undisturbed medieval landscape of important historical value and with considerable archaeological potential.
The monument consists of the motte and bailey castle, with a moat and warrens, and of the earthworks of the shrunken medieval village with its associated enclosures. It is divided into two constraint areas which lie to the north east and south west of the Rockingham Road. Rockingham Castle is sited on an escarpment which overlooks the Welland Valley. The castle consists of a motte which lies between two baileys, one to the north and one to the south. The motte and the south bailey were altered in post-medieval times, but the motte still survives as a mound up to 3m high. Originally a stone keep stood on the summit of the mound, but the present castle stands in the north bailey. The south bailey shows traces of ridge and furrow cultivation. Both north and south baileys are surrounded by ditched outer banks. The original castle was constructed on the summit of the motte in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and was last in use as a royal residence by Henry V in 1422. The motte castle may have been refortified in 1664 at the time of the Civil War. However, in 1544 Edward Watson began to convert the castle remains in the north bailey into the present Tudor residence and this is now a Grade I listed building. Part of the curtain wall and gatehouse are dated to the 13th century and are listed Grade 2star. About 450m to the south east of the castle site, and to the north east of the present driveway, lies the remains of a moat known as the Bottom moat; this consists of a small rectangular moat with four complete and waterfilled arms. To the south west, part of the Top Moat survives as a long ditch which widens to form a pond at the north eastern end. In early maps the two moats were joined together. The moats are considered to be medieval and associated with the original castle. Approximately 300m to the south east of the castle, in the south east of the park grounds, are several mounds which are the remains of medieval rabbit warrens. Three rectangular mounds about 25 to 30 metres long run from east to west and another rectangular mound further north was also part of the warren. To the north again, and running at right angles, are two mounds over l00m long which sit on top of the adjoining hill; these too are identified as rabbit warrens of medieval origin but also known to have been in use in the 17th century. To the north and north east of the castle, around the church, lies the earthwork remains of the shrunken medieval village of Rockingham; a map of 1615 shows houses still standing around the church. The church of St Leonard is a Grade 2 star listed building and is dated to the 13/14th centuries, with later additions. A distinctive hollow way runs north eastwards through the settlement earthworks from the area of the castle. On each side of the hollow way lie the banks and ditches of building platforms, and small enclosures which formed the settlement. To the north of the present main road there are also clear earthwork remains of the village. A further hollow way runs eastwards from the castle and is surrounded by banks of ditches of small rectangular enclosures. It is considered that these are the earthwork remains of medieval enclosures and terraces. The small size of these enclosures could indicate that they are derived from the much earlier fields of Prehistoric or Roman date, usually known as Celtic fields. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, now country house. C11 castle founded by William the Conqueror. Parts of gatehouse may be of this date but mainly of 1275-80, also section of wall to south and structure of great hall. Range to east of great hall 1535 and datestone 1553, range to west of great hall C16 remodelled 1660 and mid C19, by A. Salvin. Laundry to south and Walkers house to north of gatehouse 1650. Limestone ashlar and squared coursed limestone and ironstone with Collyweston slate roof. Originally motte and bailey with shell keep now an irregular H-shape layout with outer bailey to the north and a courtyard to the south. Mainly 2 storeys with attics. Gatehouse to east of outer building is squared coursed ironstone with pair of semicircular limestone ashlar towers with 2-centred arch between cross slits in towers, chamfered plinth, string courses and castellated parapets. C13 curtain wall attached to left has C17 gable to right and square turret to left with blocked 4-centred arch to first floor. Rear of Walker house attached to right is blank. Elevation of great hall, through gateway to left. Squared coursed limestone and ironstone. 5-window range of 4-, 3- and 2-light stone mullion and transom windows, with small gables over. C13 arch-head door opening to left is to screens passage and has coats of arms above. Large lateral stack to centre and C19 staircase projection by Salvin to right. Range attached to left breaks forward as three gables of ashlar and squared coursed limestone and ironstone. 4-light stone mullion and transom windows and similar 2-light attic windows. Ashlar gable parapets with finials throughout, and stone stacks with octagonal flues at ridge and eaves. Rear of gatehouse and Walkers house are attached at right angles to left. Walkers house is single storey with attic and undercroft. 3-window range of stone mullion and transom windows with door opening combined in centre window. Ashlar parapets and hipped roof with 2 hipped roof dormers. West range attached at right angles to right of great hall is 4-window range of 3-light stone mullion and transom windows to first floor and similar 3-light windows to ground floor. 2 door openings with 4-centred heads and central lateral stack. Garden front to rear of west range is 11-window range of stone mullion windows, 5 to right have pediments over. Central gable is end of great hall range and has 6-light first floor and 4-light ground floor stone mullion and transom windows. Range to left has long central canted bay of 1838 by Salvin taken up as 3-storey tower with corner turret and castellated parapet. Gable to far right is also by Salvin and has steps attached, flanked by cannon balls. Rear of Great Hall is similar to front with C13 door to right. C18 gabled stair turret to right (to courtyard) has 2 sash windows. C17 four-window range to right of courtyard and similar range to left with C19 passage projection. C19 Bachelors wing in C17 style is attached to end of this range. The Street to right of the courtyard is a narrow yard with C17 two-storey range to left, part now a brewhouse, and C17 and C18 lean-to buildings abutting the C13 curtain wall to right. The laundry is attached to end of curtain wall by a square tower. 5-window range of 2-light stone mullion windows, some with transoms. Square head door with moulded stone surround to right. Moulded string courses, ashlar gable parapets and bellcote to left. First floor arch-head opening in tower to left of laundry. Interior: Great hall now subdivided has reset screens passage, reset C17 panelling and large fireplace with moulded stone surround. Inscriptions on ceiling beams. Kitchen with C19 range to left of Great Hall. C19 staircase to rear right. Panel room to right of Great Hall is also formed out of the original hall, has late C17 style panelling. Library to south of west range remodelled early C20 in C18 style. Staircase to long gallery by Salvin. Long gallery to first floor, north end of west range, has fireplace dated 1634, but mainly C19 decoration. C17 staircase in Walkers house is probably reset. Rockingham was a Royal Castle from 1066 until 1619 when James I sold to Sir Lewis Watston whose family are the present owners. Attacked during the Civil War after which the remains of the Keep were demolished. (Listed Building Report)

Motte (SP 86729122; Fig. 113), at the S. end of the standing remains of Rockingham Castle, near the end of a broad, flat-topped spur which projects N.W. from the main limestone escarpment, overlooking the Welland valley at 112 m. above OD.
The motte and its associated baileys were constructed by William I, probably for strategic control of the main river-crossing of the Welland. It seems to have consisted of a central motte with a bailey on each side. The N. bailey was the main one and it is this part of the castle which still survives as a standing structure. A description of these buildings falls outside the scope of this inventory. The motte and the S. bailey remain as earthworks.
The motte has been mutilated and partly destroyed, largely as a result of post-medieval alterations. It survives as a large, curved, terraced bank some 3 m. high on the N. and E. but only as a slight rise on the S. and W. In earlier times it appears to have had a stone keep on its summit. It was refortified in 1644 when a Parliamentary garrison held it. The S. bailey lies S.W. of the motte and has also been badly damaged by later activities. On the E. and W. it is bounded by the steep natural scarps of the spur and on the S. across the neck of the spur by a bank and ditch, which have been reduced to very slight relief. The ditch is some 12 m. wide and 1 m. deep and the bank is less than 1 m. high. Slight traces of ridge-and-furrow survive within this bailey ( Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 68–9, for all refs.). (RCHME)

Could be called the William's Windsor of the midlands both in function (a residential palace) and in form (a motte between two square baileys). It may be that when originally laid out the south bailey, which occupies slightly higher land than the north bailey, was intended to be the site of the royal residence with the north bailey being the more functional part of the castle having the offices and accommodation for the officers of the castle and forest. When the castle failed to become a significant royal residence the south bailey would have lost much of its function but the north bailey and its buildings would have continued to be important and would have been replaced and renewed as required.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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