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Banbury Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Banbury.
In the historic county of Oxfordshire.
Modern Authority of Oxfordshire.
1974 county of Oxfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP45704079
Latitude 52.06336° Longitude -1.33460°

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

There are no visible remains.


Site of a castle, demolished in 1648 and now built over. Founded by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln. Excavation in 1973-74 uncovered three phases. Firstly a castle, built circa 1125-36, of rectangular plan; remodelled to a concentric plan in the late C13 and early C14. After the siege of 1644 bastions were added. Finds included Medieval pottery, silver pennies and a cannon. Some Iron Age and Roman pottery was found along with worked flints. (PastScape)

•Built by Alexander Bishop of Lincoln, who died in 1148. It stood on the north side of the Market Place and was destroyed after the Civil War in the C17th. It was surrounded by an inner and an outer moat, nothing of which remains today although the castle mound is still apparent (mound found to be later than castle date) (OS record card; Potts, 1958)
•Site partially excavated by P Fasham for a period of one month in April 1972. A quantity of medieval pottery (C12th calcite gritted ware) and coins were retrieved
•A watching brief on the castle site during building operations (SW corner of outer defences) did not reveal any further medieval finds (Chambers, 1983)
•Excavation in 1972 on the site of the inner bailey revealed a sequence of features starting in the C11th and continuing until the C17th. The castle was completely rebuilt and re-designed in the C13th after which six periods of building activity were identified (Fasham, 1983; Rodwell, 1976)
•Excavations in 1973-4 north of the Market Place revealed 3 main periods of the castle's development. A buried soil survived across almost the entire site under the earliest phases. Finds did not suggest pre-castle occupation on the site (Rodwell, 1976)
•No evidence of buildings in trench from Bridge Street to Castle Street. Entrance to wharf 20 yards from Factory Street found a black layer with skeleton on top. Near Bridge Street there were pits containing cow bones - possible slaughter house
•P Fasham of OCCM excavated at several sites: (a) between Castle Street and Castle Gardens car park (SP 5475 4079). Late Saxon material was found. C12th stone buildings in Central Ward were demolished and buried by gravel c.1300. Above this were 5 phases of stone and timber buildings (b) Factory Street (SP 4572 4069) part of a C12th earthen bank (?the barbican) was found and (c) Castle Street (SP 4565 4077) 3 large ditches, varying from 8-15m in width and all at least 4m deep were observed
•OAU excavated SW 1/3 of castle; 2 main periods of development revealed. Castle was built on land in open country in C12th; it was of stone, rectangular and well-preserved with garderobe within. Parts of 2 defensive ditches, curtain wall and main gate were excavated
Revealed in sewer trench in Castle Street in 1972 were three large ditches, varying in width between 8m and 15m and all at least 4m deep from present ground surface, belonging to the W defences of the castle. The nature of the machine excavations did not allow for their satisfactory recording (CBA nl. 3, 1973)
•Structures within the outer bailey were examined in 1973 and both inner and outer defensive ditches were located, both of which were about 17m wide and conformed to the concentric plan suggested by the street pattern and an estate map of 1685. The site did not appear to have been intensively occupied before construction of the castle. A buried soil containing sporadic RB sherds and worked flints was the earliest layer encountered. In the outer bailey a rectangular stone building 6m wide and 4m long was discovered but no dating evidence (CBA nl. 4, 1974) (Oxfordshire HER)

Rodwell's 1976 paper probably gives the best overview of the castle's history and form although Fasham's 1983 paper adds some detail.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • English Heritage (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s) 337195.
  • County Historic Environment Record (or Sites and Monuments Record) number(s) 1816.
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 103
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 64-5
      Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 270-1
      Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 178
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 206 (slight)
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 387
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 183
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 100
      Crossley, Alan (ed), 1972, VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 10 p. 39-42 online transcription
      Harvey, P.D.A., 1969, 'Banbury' in Lobel, M.D. (ed), Historic Towns: Maps and Plans of Towns and Cities in the British Isles, with Historical Commentaries, from Earliest Times to 1800 Vol. 1 (London: Lovell Johns-Cook, Hammond and Kell Organization) online copy
      Potts, W., 1958, History of Banbury (Banbury Guardian) p. 18
      Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 28
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Potts, W., 1907, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Oxfordshire Vol. 2 p. 322 online transcription
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 150-2 online copy
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 421-5 online copy
      Beesley, A., 1841, The History of Banbury (London: Nichols and son) p. 63-9, 88-9 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • 2005, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 35 p. 64 (saxon period) online copy
      Litherland, S.J. and Nichol, K., 1999, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 29 p. 40-2 online copy
      Chambers, R.A., 1983, 'Banbury: the castle' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 13 p. 103, 114-5 online copy
      Fasham, P.J., 1983, 'Excavations in Banbury, 1972: second and final report' Oxoniensia Vol. 48 p. 71–118 online copy
      Chambers, R.A., 1983, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 13 p. 115
      Rodwell, K.A., 1976, 'Excavations on the Site of Banbury Castle, 1973-4' Oxoniensia Vol. 41 p. 90-147 online copy
      1975, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 19 p. 239 download copy
      Rodwell, K., 1975, 'Banbury Castle' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 5 p. 34, 42-3 online copy
      Rodwell, K.A., 1974, Cake and Cockhorse Vol. 5 p. 177-81 (excavation report) online copy
      1974, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 18 p. 196 download copy
      Rodwell, K., 1974, 'Banbury Castle' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 4 p. 21 online copy
      Summer 1973, Cake and Cockhorse p. 109-116 online copy
      1973, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 163 download copy
      Fasham, P.J., 1973, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 3 p. 28 online copy
      Fasham, P.J., 1973, 'Excavations in Banbury, 1972: First Report' Oxoniensia Vol. 38 p. 312-38 online copy
      1972, Oxford City and County Museum: Archaeological and historical newsletter Vol. 9 p. 2
      Fearon, J.H., 1964, 'Recent Activity' Cake and Cockhorse Vol. 2.10 p. 176 online copy
      Gilkes, R.K., 1960, 'Banbury Castle' Cake and Cockhorse Vol. 1.5 p. 52-7 online copy
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Jope, E.M., 1948, 'Recent medieval finds in the Oxford region' Oxoniensia Vol. 13 p. 69-70 (pottery) online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 433 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. 383
  • 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. 370
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 39 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)
      Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, 1999, Banbury Town Centre Redevelopment Project - Post-ex assessment
      Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, 1995, Banbury Town Centre Redevelopment Scheme: An Archaeological Watching Brief
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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