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Vastern Manor

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Vasterne; Fasterne; Fetstern; The Gatehouse

In the civil parish of Wootton Bassett.
In the historic county of Wiltshire.
Modern Authority of Wiltshire.
1974 county of Wiltshire.
Medieval County of Wiltshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU04948150
Latitude 51.53167° Longitude -1.93002°

Vastern Manor has been described as a probable Fortified Manor House, and also as a probable Palace.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Site of 13th century manor house and its associated chapel, prison and conduit house. Two fishponds survive as earthworks. Fragments of the probable gatehouse for the manor survive in the post-medieval listed building of Vastern Manor House (Listed Building number 316852). (PastScape)

A great house at Vastern is first heard of in 1233 when, because of Gilbert Basset's part in the rebellion against him, Henry III ordered it to be demolished. The house, as its name implies (In 1573 the manorhouse was evidently represented by a house known as the Gatehouse, which may have evolved from the great gate of the manor mentioned in 1369), was almost certainly fortified. Consideration of the site indeed confirms this supposition, for the house stood aloft on the limestone ridge in an excellent defensive position, with the land falling away not only to the north and south, but also to the east where the ridge dips suddenly before climbing again to the town of Wootton Bassett. How far the demolition ordered in 1233 was carried out is not known for in the following year Gilbert Basset was restored to favour. But the Constable of St. Briavels (Glos.) was ordered to send 10 workmen to undertake the task and the Sheriff of Wiltshire was commanded to pay and provide them with the necessary tools. If demolished, Vastern was quickly rebuilt and became and always remained the manor-house of the combined estate which came to be called the manor of Wootton. By 1355, when the manor had been restored to Queen Isabel, the manorial buildings at Vastern were in disrepair and carpenters, masons, sawyers, and other workmen were dispatched there. More repairs were necessary in the 1360s when the manor formed part of the lands of Queen Philippa. Between 1369 and 1376, when Vastern was leased to William Wroughton, the king retained responsibility for the upkeep of all buildings within the great gate of the manor, special mention being made of the great grange there. A series of account rolls covering this period suggests a considerable conglomeration of buildings, requiring fairly constant maintenance. Roofs in particular needed the attention of many tilers and women were employed to collect moss to line them. Two high towers were covered with lead. A fireplace (caminus) in the great hall was repaired. Drains and a water tank were made. There were rooms, with a garderobe, above and next to the gate of the manor. Various other garderobes were repaired. Rooms named within the manorhouse were the 'Shyngledechamber' and 'Haloneschamber'. A great oven (furnus) is mentioned, as well as a kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, and malthouse. An account roll of 1449–50, when the manor had passed to Richard, Duke of York, mentions at Vastern a cellar, a little kitchen, and a porter's chamber. (VCH)

Although, at various times, in direct royal ownership (leading to the survival of building accounts) does not seem to have been much used as a royal residence and then mainly as part of the Queen's dower land.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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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.
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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 26/07/2017 09:20:10

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