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Guildford Castle and Palace

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Geldeford'; Goseforde, Guildeford

In the civil parish of Guildford.
In the historic county of Surrey.
Modern Authority of Surrey.
1974 county of Surrey.
Medieval County of Surrey.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU99754926
Latitude 51.23425° Longitude -0.57244°

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

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


An earthen mound (motte) with its moat and surrounding courtyard (bailey), the upstanding remains of two different keep buildings, the curtain wall, gateway and the ruined residence within the bailey area. The earliest castle on the site was a motte and bailey type, with buildings and defensive palisade of wood. The motte was large, rising 7m above the surrounding land, and was surrounded by a deep defensive ditch. Around AD1100 the timber defences were at least partly replaced with stone. Parts of the near-circular shell keep which encircled the top of the motte survive, the highest standing to 6m. The shell keep was short-lived, for by 1173 it had been replaced by the tower keep building. This keep measures some 14m square and still stands 19m high. Its fireplaces and ornately carved stonework shows that it was used as a residence. It was partly rebuilt in the mid-13th century and in the early 17th century the keep was modified, largely using brick. The ruins of a number of buildings survive in the bailey area, including some masonry walls 7m high, which belong to apartments built in 1242 for the Sheriffs of Surrey. A royal palace was built within the castle grounds and was much used by Henry III. It is considered likely that the arched gateway and curtain wall date from this phase of building at the castle. Guildford is a particularly unusual survival, having been converted to both a shell keep and a tower keep, and with elements from each of its constructional phases extant. The tower keep survives particularly well, retaining a number of architectural details from its original and rebuilt phases. As such it provides an important opportunity to study changing ideas in castle construction from the Conquest onwards. The site is well documented historically and its significance is enhanced by its well-attested royal associations. (Scheduling Report)

Not documented before the reign of Henry II, the original shell keep was replaced by the rectangular keep. After the death of Henry III, the castle passed to his widow, Gueen eleanor in dower, and remained a possession of successive queens until its demise in the late 14th century. During this period, the queen would have lived in the adjacent palace rather than the castle, and the castle was principally used as the county gaol. In 1391, 14 prisoners escaped for want of repair. It is evident from a description of the castle in 1332 that the royal residence at Guildford was in the castle outer bailey, being separated from the castle by a ditch and palisade. During the 14th century it was regarded as a palace. The palace largely went out of use after the reign of Richard II. (PastScape ref. HKW)

See also Goseforde.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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