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Bridport Castle

In the civil parish of Bridport.
In the historic county of Dorset.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.
Medieval County of Dorset.

OS Map Grid Reference: SY46609282
Latitude 50.73255° Longitude -2.75799°

Bridport Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are no visible remains.


Surrendered to Henry, Duke of Normandy, in 1149. Vanished (King)

Documentation indicates that in 1150, the keeper of Bridport Castle was taken prisoner by the future king of England, Henry II. At that time, the keeper's loyalty would have been to King Stephen of England, following Stephen's invasion of the town. The original castle construction was probably of timber, but whether its position was at the Old Castle (present location of Bridport Museum), or further south at the location of the Chantry is unclear. At that time, the defended area of Bridport was probably a rectangular piece of land about 300 metres wide, straddling the current position of South Street. Its southern boundary would have been at the current position of the Chantry and northern boundary at the Old Castle (Bridport Museum). This makes the probable location of the original Bridport Castle at the Old Castle, as this would have been the highest point of defended land. Castles were usually built on high land to make defence easier. Claims to a Bridport Castle are also indicated on the Corporation Shield, which includes a castle standing on wavy blue lines in its design. The apparent portcullis in the entrance to the castle is actually spinning cogs, a reference to the town's main industry. From the 13th Century, the site of the Bridport Museum was known as 'Castlehay', further strengthening the theory of a castle. However, there is no archaeological evidence that a Bridport Castle ever existed. (

Wilton gives two possible sites, The Castle in South Street or The Chantry. Both recorded in PastScape as surviving late medieval houses but not as site of castle. Baxter gives two further possible sites (in the NW corner of the Saxon burh and on the west edge of the Saxon burh) with very little evidence, and these seem mainly to be suggested as archaeological surveyable areas. May have been a Conquest castle since record of 20 houses being 'waste' in Domesday and this would be in line with the other Saxon burhs of the South West such as Wareham. However there are other reason for houses may have been unoccupied, such as economic recession.
The site in the NW corner of the Saxon Burh (now a car park at SY46389282) was an area of rope walks. Generally Norman urban castles were built in the corner of existing defences (mainly to reduce the amount of new work needed) so this is a reasonable area to suggest for further investigation and the relatively early abandonment of this castle may have meant this became an area within the town where the space consuming rope walks could be set up.
The Castle (at the given map reference) is a late medieval town house, now the town museum. Baxter states there are C13 references to this site as the Castle or as Castlehay. However, the house plot is too small to be that of a castle and the site in the centre of the Saxon Burh would be untypical for a immediate post-Conquest site. This may represent a domestic building of the King's steward where the civil administrative functions (i.e. tax collecting) of the earlier castle were carried out after the castle was abandoned. Indeed the reference in the Gesta Stephani is not to a castle but to a castellan of Bridport which may have been just such a royal official with just a civil base and no castle.
Baxter's third site, a car park at SY46669266, has nothing to suggest it being a castle site, other than being with the probable line of the Saxon Burh.
The Chantry (See Gatehouse record) is just outside the line of the Saxon defences, although the area is well defined by waterways. The Chantry is a C14 building which may have functioned as a toll house and it may have had an earlier precursor - which could have been the recorded castle (the main job of urban castles being to collect money).
The 'Castle' site has the best documentary evidence but is topographically unlikely. The NW corner site is the most likely from topographic comparison to other Norman castles in Saxon urban burhs. Wherever it was situated it is clear this could not have been a large or strongly built (either in stone or earthwork and timber) castle nor have lasted very long as it would have made a stronger mark on the town street plan.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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