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Stafford Castle–Kings Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Broadeye; Estafort

In the civil parish of Stafford.
In the historic county of Staffordshire.
Modern Authority of Staffordshire.
1974 county of Staffordshire.
Medieval County of Staffordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ91832325
Latitude 52.80678° Longitude -2.12283°

Stafford Castle–Kings Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are no visible remains.

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


The castle at Stafford, originally founded by William the Conqueror, was mentioned in 1086 in Domesday Book as being destroyed. It had, however, been rebuilt before 1102 as it was then garrisoned on Henry I's behalf. It became known as both gaol and castle down to the reign of Henry VIII.
Mazzinghi states that the castle must have once occupied a considerable space. The north gate of the town (SJ 92 SW 85) was probably 'at the right extremity of a fortress, which trended thence in the direction of the windmill...probably in some measure upon land on which Saxon defences had stood so early as the time of Edward the Elder.' Sir Simon Degge (1612-1702) says: 'There was a castle within the towne neere the Broad eye and a bancke called the Castle Banck in my tyme.' (Note to Plot's 'Staffordshire' in the Univ Liby, Cambridge) A map in the Office of the Clerk of the Crown, Stafford, corroborates Speed (Map of Stafford, 1608), with the addition that the slight elevation where now stands a mill near the new bridge marks the spot where once stood the castle of Edward the Elder. (de Mazzinghi)
The most likely site of the successive Norman castles is Chell Road and Bull Hill in the vicinity of the Rectory. At no 1, Bull Hill, in 1925, a well was discovered 21ft deep...but was bricked up...One wall which had been cut through was 4ft thick and a cellar had been reported with a groined roof in stone.' (Dale)
It has been suggested that the mound in Dr Bulmer's garden in Mount Street is the motte of this castle. The name Bull may be derived from bailey. (Cope)
The Conqueror's castle was near the north gate of the town, and close to the new bridge over the Sow and the King's Pool (SJ 92 SW 27). The fortress probably extended towards the windmill (Mackenzie's account closely follows that of Mazzinghi) and here existed an old inscription: 'The old castle built by Edward I (the Elder) and in memorie fortified with reel walls'. In the 12th century it became a royal prison, and seems to have remained so to the end. (Mackenzie)
(Centred at SJ 9190 2326) 'The old castle built by Edward the Elder and in memorie fortified with reel walls' (Sketch plan of Stafford c 1593-1611 (copy in Wm Salt Library, Stafford - original lost)). This is the prime authority for the site of William's castle. No trace of this castle survives and its site is not certainly known.
There was a tradition in Elizabethan times that the mound then known as Castle Hill and standing south-east of Broadeye bridge was Elder, brother of Ethelfleda. The tradition is improbable. A castle was built in the town by William the Conqueror in 1070, after the rebellion of 1069. The site belonged to the manor of Chebsey, of which Henry de Ferrers was lord in 1086, and it has been suggested that Henry had some duty in connexion with the castle. It had been destroyed (destructum) by 1086, presumably with the coming of more peaceful times.
Orderic Vitalis declared that Henry I entrusted 'custodiam Stephordi castri' to William Pantulf in 1102. If the phrase does indeed refer to a castle in Stafford town as has often been supposed, and not to the Stafford family's castle at Castle Church west of the town (SJ 92 SW 2), the Conqueror's castle must have been rebuilt. It seems most reasonable to suppose that Pantulf's castle was at Castle Church. In many counties the sheriff occupied a castle and exercised his authority from it. In Staffordshire he did not need to do so, for until 1344 he was also sheriff of Shropshire, and Shropshire possessed two castles which were at his disposal - one of them, Bridgnorth castle, only just over the Staffordshire border. It is possible that, on the rare occasions when 'Stafford castle' is mentioned in the earlier 14th century, Bridgnorth is intended. The castle probably stood at Broadeye (SJ 919 233). There is a reference c 1200 to the old castle by the river. Castle Hill or Old Castle Hill at Broadeye can be traced from 1397, and it was stated c 1600 to have been 'in memory fortified with real walls'. It has been alternatively suggested that the castle stood at Bull Hill to the north-east (Bull Hill named at SJ 920 235 on OS 6" 1954), and that the name, which occurs by 1631, may derive from the bailey. It is more probable that the land took its name from a messuage called the Bull which stood in the area in the 16th century. (VCH)
SJ 9195 2356. Excavations at the Voluntary Services, Chell Road showed natural sand sloping rapidly down in a SE direction at a depth of 1.4m. This runs counter to the modern ground surface, which rises steeply NE. The slope of the sand may possibly be due to construction of a motte at Bull Hill. SJ 9196 2337. A section cut through the mound ascended by Old Bull Hill, in the car park, Chell Road, showed it to consist of 3.4m of 18th-19th century make-up rising to 78.6m OD. (Carver)
Morgan thinks that the reference to Pantulf being appointed as 'custodiam Stephordi castri' refers to the royal castle in the town, which had been rebuilt, not the Stafford family's honorial castle to the west. However, the royal castle attracted little or no subsequent expenditure, and by 1200 was in use as the county gaol. Its site is that marked on John Speed's 1610 map of Stafford as Castle Hill in Broadeye. This is shown by a number of references in medieval documents. In about 1200 Hervey Bagot and his wife confirmed a lease for Stafford Mill originally made between 1088-1135, which included covert and herbage of the fishponds from the old castle as far as the mill. A charter of Ranton Priory records a tenement in Mill Street said to lie next to the lane which led towards the old castle. In 1397 the borough court established a public tip at Castle Hill. In 1438 a piece of land was described as extending from the motte called Old Castle Hill to the end of the town ditch. (Marsh and Morgan) (PastScape)

There is a wealth of historical evidence and some archaeological evidence that places the C11 post-Conquest royal castle in the SW corner of Stafford, bounded by the River Sow, although the size and extent of this castle has not been fully determined. It fairly soon lost its county administrative status (Staffordshire was administered in combination with Shropshire from Shrewsbury Castle) and became a local prison. At some point the prison (and possibly the castle name) mover to the large North Gate of the town.
King (1983) rejected the existence of the Royal castle in the town citing Armitage (1912) who presumed it to be on same site as Stafford 2. However, it is now general accepted that it did exist separately from Castlechurch. A late C18 stone built windmill stands on the site of the castle and is, sometimes, said to standing on the foundations of the castle keep. It seems unlikely this windmill does stand on foundations of the castle (which probably never had stone buildings). It should be noted the existence of motte at this castle, while widely presumed, is not certain.
The post-Conquest castle may well have been a continued use of a pre-Conquest burhgeat enclosure.
This site is sometimes also confused with the large north gate of Stafford Town Walls which was used as the county jail for a period.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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