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Bridgnorth Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bridgenorth; Brug; Bruges; Brugge; Burgh; Bridgemouth

In the civil parish of Bridgnorth.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO71659278
Latitude 52.53159° Longitude -2.41894°

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


The castle was probably built by Robert de Belleme c1101-1102 on the abandonment of Quatford, and was placed, according to Florence of Worcester on the site of a Saxon burh, built by Ethelflaeda in 912 AD. Belleme surrendered the castle to Henry I in 1102. It then fell into the hands of Hugh de Mortimer during Stephen's reign but was surrendered to Henry II in 1155. By Henry VIII's reign the castle was in ruins, the keep surviving until 1646 when it was slighted by the Parliamentarians. The original church of St Mary Magdalene stood within the castle. The shattered walls of the tower keep built between 1105 and 1113, and a fragment of the curtain wall extending from the south wall remain. A portion of a wall around the summit of Castle Hill is said to be extant in the yard of the White Lion in 3 West Castle St (SA 372), while remains of the wall of the Ward form the eastern boundary of gardens to modern properties on the east side of East Castle St.
The only remains now visible of the King's House, within which was the castle hall, are some fragments of well built masonry which stand close to the west side of the tower. It apparently extended from where the Tower House (sic) now is to the southern extremity of the Castle Hill, all along the western side of the inner bailey.
Bridgnorth Castle was situated on a steep sided promontory overlooking the River Severn. The remains are fragmentary and unconnected and most of the site has been built over, but the area enclosed by the bailey wall appears to have measured 360m N/S and 160m W/E at its widest point.
SO71659278: Three sides of the Keep, 18 to 20m in height remain, leaning spectacularly to the east. There is a fragment of another building (?the King's House) on its SW side . Ten metres to the SE is a large slab of fallen masonry, probably from the keep.
SO71729285 to SO71729302: An old stone wall 163m in length, much rebuilt, follows a sinuous course on the east of East Castle St. (Ordnance Survey Record Card 1979).
Only the Keep, a massive ruinous tower of circa 1200 remains with a fragment of the curtain wall extending from the south wall. The keep leans at an angle of 15deg from vertical (Listed Building Report).
The Castle was very large, the total length of the inner and outer baileys being 380m N/S. The outer bailey may always have been designed to accommodate a small borough, as at Quatford. The line of the defences is only certain at SO71599301, where a fragment (SA372) survives and at the site of the postern gate. (SA373). On the east side it is probable that Castle Walk and Bank St mark the line of the defences on this side. On the west the line is obscure between SA 372 and SO7161 9278, where the modern path along the top of the slope marks the line once more. The division between the inner and outer baileys is likewise unclear, but the church of St Mary was probably in the inner bailey, and the inner bailey defence may have run from c SO70629282 to SO71729250. The major surviving structure is the Keep, which is typologically of the early C12. The North side has angle buttresses of the Norman type. (detailed description see card). Other buildings mentioned are a Hall with chimney and glass windows, kitchen, pantry, buttery and stables, turrets, tilt yard, barbican containing constable's house with dungeons and well. A turret or mural tower was extant by 1226 when it was ordered to be repaired (Summary by I Burrow, 1976).
The new castle at Bridgnorth included the institutions of the old site at Quatford, including the Collegiate Church of St Mary (SA 05631) and apparently the Borough and its burgesses. From exchequer accounts of the 12th to 13th century it is clear that there was a great hall with chimney and glass windows, a King's Chamber, a Queen's Chamber with an oriel at the door, a royal kitchen, pantry and butlery, all of stone, and royal stables. From other sources - a great tower with a dungeon (Ethelfleda's Tower), turrets on outer walls, a tilt yard, a barbican in which was the Constable's house and a prison, stables, a drawbridge and a well. In 1261 the Sheriff is commanded to have the houses in the castle roofed and repaired where needful (p257). By 1281, the castle was in a bad state of repair (p258-259) (Eyton 1854).
The castle was according to Florence of Worcester built in 1100 and was a rebuild of the fortress of Ethelfleda. Some antiquaries consider that the Saxon fort was not here but at the mound known as Panpudding Hill. Watkins-Pitchford disagrees and thinks the Saxon fortress was under the present castle.
After being siezed by Parliamentary troops in 1646, the buildings were stripped and they and the walls were systematically mined and blown up (Watkins-Pitchford 1932).
In 1991 an evaluation trench was dug in the grounds of St Mary's Rectory, at c SO71679288. Evidence for an east-west ditch was found, which might represent a defensive feature separating the inner and outer baileys of the C12 castle (Thompson A & Walker W S. 1991).
It has been suggested that the Saxon burh must have been abandoned by the mid 11th century or it is hard to explain why the First Earl of Shrewsbury did not develop the Bridgnorth site instead of Quatford (Mason and Barker 1961)
The layout of the original castle is not known. Documentary evidence suggests that work on the present keep was carried out between 1166 and 1174 (Croom 1992).
Although the fortifications of the castle included an outer bailey, this area was by 1242 legally part of the town (Pounds 1990).
The royal palace or "King's House" in the inner bailey was nominally maintained as a royal residence down to the 17th century (Watkins-Pitchford 1947).
Described by Leland between 1536 and 1542: "The Walles of it be of great height. There were 2 or 3 stronge wardes in the castle, that now goe totally to ruine. I count the castle to be more in compasse than a third part of the town. There is one mighty gate by north in it, now stopped up, and a little posterne made of force thereby through the wall to enter into the castle. The castle ground and especially the base court, hath now many dwellinge houses of tymbre in it newly erected"
A watching brief was undertaken at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, during excavations for drainage works. Only two features were recorded, these being a brick tomb and an isolated block of solid, random sandstone rubble masonry in lime mortar. This did not appear to be a tomb and seemed too slight to be associated with the castle. It is thought that it may have been a temporary structure relating to the construction of the church (Cook M. 2007). (Shropshire HER)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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