Stone castle built 1209 and licensed 1301. Probable fortified manor house, including moat and fishponds, demolished c1585. Site now confused traces of earthworks which suggest two courts with remains of a moat on the west side.
The published site of Bretby Castle falls on a low-lying platform overlooked by rising ground to the north and west. It is partially enclosed on these sides by the mutilated remains of a single ditch or moat. All traces of any defences on the south and east have been obliterated, and there is no evidence of any outworks. Three small rectangular enclosures at the southern end of the platform may constitute the sites of minor buildings. The whole site has been greatly disturbed by surface quarrying, and encroached upon by modern development. The impression gained, however, is of a single moated enclosure, and this in conjunction with a generally poor defensive position, implies a probable fortified manor house. (PastScape ref. Field Investigators CommentsF1 RWE 14-AUG-62)
The monument includes the core area of the site of Bretby Castle fortified manor and incorporates manorial remains dating from the 13th to the 17th centuries. The visible remains, which occupy a sub-rectangular enclosure of c.3.5 ha, are those of the 16th century manor partially excavated in 1800. The remains of earlier buildings and structures will survive as buried features beneath the earthwork remains of later buildings. The visible remains include, on the west and north sides, a massive outer bank measuring up to 5m high. This bank is flanked on the inside by a ditch-like feature which has, in the past, been inaccurately termed a moat. Although it undoubtedly served as a boundary feature and may have had different functions at different times, in its present form the feature has been reinterpreted as a sunken driveway. This is in part due to the presence of two gateways visible at its southern end. One of these leads southward towards Bretby Park and the other westward towards Home Farm. Although the present day Home Farm was not built until the early 19th century, it is believed to stand on the site of earlier farmsteads belonging to the fortified manor. On the inside, the sunken driveway is flanked by the remains of buildings which reveal that the 16th century manor was built round two courtyards. Although partly masked by numerous mounds of excavation spoil, the layout can be seen to have included a large court to the north and another to the south. Along the south-east edge of the latter, adjacent to the south gate, are the well preserved foundations of three rectangular buildings. These are each roughly 40m long by 15m wide and were previously thought to be fishponds. In fact, there is no evidence for this and several factors, including the lack of a water supply, make it unfeasible. One example includes a 2m deep cellar and two exhibit evidence of opposing doorways. It is therefore likely that they were ancillary or service buildings. These three features previously thought to be fishponds are excluded from the scheduling. Alongside them to the north- east is a level area interpreted as a small yard or, alternatively, a kitchen garden. Additional features lie to the north of this. Formerly, the manor site would also have extended further to the north-east. However, although further remains, including those of a chapel, will survive beneath modern development in this area, they are not included in the scheduling as their extent and state of survival is not sufficiently understood. Originally a berewick or outlier of Newton Manor, Bretby became a separate manor in the 13th century when it was granted by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, to Stephen de Segrave who, amongst other attributes, was Justiciar of England between 1232 and 1234 and once acted as joint regent for Henry III during the king's absence. It may have been he who built the first manor house. In 1300, Edward I granted Stephen's great-grandson John Segrave licence to crenellate, that is fortify the manor house at Bretby. This may have been the origin of the massive outer earthworks which would have been surmounted by a castellated wall. John Segrave had a distinguished career as a royal servant, including in 1302 being made constable of Berwick Castle and the king's lieutenant on the Border and in occupied Scotland. However, during the civil strife between the factions of Edward II and his queen, Isabella, the Segraves incurred royal displeasure and John and his sons were despatched to serve in Gascony and Aquitaine where John and his heir, Stephen, died. Stephen's son, John, inherited the Segrave lands which then passed to his daughter after his own death in 1352, and from there, by marriage, to the Mowbray and Berkley families. The Bretby estate was purchased by Philip Stanhope in 1610 and the manor house subsequently demolished, reputedly to provide building materials to build a mansion house in the new Bretby Park. (Scheduling Report)