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Malmesbury Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Malmesbir'; Malmesbiria

In the civil parish of Malmesbury.
In the historic county of Wiltshire.
Modern Authority of Wiltshire.
1974 county of Wiltshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST93228734
Latitude 51.58488° Longitude -2.09924°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

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

Description

The castle, probably a motte, built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1118 was recorded as being 'not a stone's throw away from the Abbey', although by 1977 its site had not yet been verified by excavation. Documentary research shows it to have occupied the site of the cloisters and the area northwest of the Abbey, in the grounds of the Bell Hotel (for details of the history of that building , please see ST 98 NW30). The castle was involved in the wars of King Stephen and Mathilda: it was taken three times in 1139, when King Stephen captured it, lost it in a suprise move by Robert fitz Hugh, and recaptured by Stephen shortly afterwards. In 1144 it was beseiged by Robert Earl of Gloucester, who constructed three seige castles around it (see ST 98 NW 20). In 1153 it was taken by Henry, Duke of Normandy. Twenty pounds were spent on the castle walls in 1173-4, but in 1216 the monks were given permission to dispose of the site after it had been abandoned by King John. Some remains may still have existed in 1643, when there was a Royalist garrison in Malmesbury. (PastScape)
Castle at Malmesbury, built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1118, 'not a stone's throw away from the Abbey'. Its site has not yet been verified by excavation, but although Brakspear places it east of the Abbey, documentary research shows it to have occupied the site of the cloisters and the area to the northwest of the Abbey, in the grounds of the present Bell Hotel (formerly the Castle Hotel), which is said to contain Medieval features. This places it at the narrowest part of the promontory occupied by the town, and is the only possible location for a castle built to subjugate the Abbey and town. Twenty pounds was spent on the castle walls in 1173-4, but in 1216 the monks were given permission to dispose of the site and buildings as they wished. Some remains may still have existed in 1643 however, when there was a Royalist garrison in Malmesbury (Haslam and Edwards; Renn; Pevsner)
Listed as a vanished castle by Cathcart King. A castle was founded at Malmesbury in the early 12th century. It was taken three times in 1139 when King Stephen captured it, lost it in a surprise move by Robert fitz Hubert, and recaptured by Stephen shortly afterwards. In 1144 it was besieged by Robert, Earl of Gloucester who constructed three siege castles around it. In 1153 it was taken by Henry, Duke of Normandy. In 1215 it was abandoned by King John, at which time the abbot of Malmesbury was castellan. The monks were given leave to destroy it (King). (PastScape)

The remains of the castle, believed to have stood immediately to the northwest of the abbey, have completely disappeared. The only excavation on the site, in 1988, revealed no evidence of its existence (Anon 1990). (Urban Survey Malmesbury)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
OS getamap   Streetmap   Old-Maps   Where's the path   NLS maps  
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   EarthTools   GeoHack  
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Photos >
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • 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
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 269, 276
      Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 627-9
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 95
      Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 88, 90, 184
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 278 (slight)
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 502
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 259
      Haslam, Jeremy and Edwards, Annette, 1976, Wiltshire Towns: The Archaeological Potential (Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society) p. 35
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 239
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 734
      Pevsner, N., 1963, Buildings of England: Wiltshire (London, Penguin) p. 295
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 228 online copy
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 4 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Anon, 1990, 'Excavation and fieldwork in Wiltshire 1988: Malmesbury' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 83 p. 220 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)
      Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
      Rees, Henry, 1945, 'Malmesbury, its castle and walls' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 51 p. 184-7 online copy
      Brakspear, H., 1913, 'Malmesbury Abbey' Archaeologia Vol. 64 p. 400
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 59, 107 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 see online transcription)
      Hardy, D.H., (ed), 1840, Willelmi Malmesbriensis monachi gestis regum Anglorum atque Historiae novella (London) p. 726 online copy
      1896, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twentieth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1173-1174 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 21) p. 29 online copy
      Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1837, Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216 (Record Commission) p. 222 view online copy
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • 2004, The Archaeology of Wiltshire's Towns An Extensive Urban Survey Malmesbury (Wiltshire County Archaeology Service) online copy
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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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