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Rufus Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bow & Arrow; Rufus's; Portlaund

In the civil parish of Portland.
In the historic county of Dorset.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.

OS Map Grid Reference: SY69757117
Latitude 50.53955° Longitude -2.42829°

Rufus Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Rufus Castle, an irregular pentagonal tower with walls of roughly squared rubble and no roof, may be a rebuilding of the castle which was captured by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, in 1142. The present building is probably mainly of the late C15. The walls to the north and west stand to their full height and retain at the top a number of shaped corbels for a machicolated parapet, but part of the south-east wall, which is thinner, has broken away. To the south-west is a gateway with four-centred, arched head; to the north is a C19 gateway with a round-arched head approached by a bridge of the same date. In the south-east wall is a chamfered stone jamb of a doorway which has been closed up. In the north and west walls, at first-floor level, are five embrasures, splayed internally under segmental rear arches, with circular gunports. Outside the south gateway are the remains of stone footings and there are said to have been further buildings to the east, where the cliff has fallen away (RCHME).
The pentagonal tower of Bow and Arrow Castle overlooking Church Ope Cove has late Medieval gunholes, but rests uncomfortably on an earlier foundation (to the north) and stepped plinth (to the west) which may have been a C12 keep (Renn; Scheduling Report).
The gunports consist simply of a hole bored through a single ashlar slab, and are typically 15th century ( Fort 1980). (PastScape)

Aylmer de Lusignan obtained a licence to crenellate, in 1257, the insulam de Portand' and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, was granted a similar licence just 14 months later. It is generally presumed that Rufus castle is the site of any work that may have resulted from these licences and any remains that may date from the period exist only at foundation level, or have been lost to cliff erosion.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 26
      Pomeroy, Colin, 1998, Discover Dorset Castles and Forts (Dovecote Press) p. 32,34-36
      Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 167
      Wilton, P., 1995, Castles of Dorset (Wimborne)
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 66-7
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 125, 129
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 288
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 113
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Pevsner, N. and Newman, J., 1972, Buildings of England: Dorset (London) p. 342
      RCHME, 1970, An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset Vol. 2: south-east (HMSO) p. 252-3
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 239 online copy
      Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 402 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Hunt, A., 1983, 'Rufus or Bow and Arrow Castle, Portland' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 140 p. 74
      Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 219-20
      1980, Fort Vol. 8 p. 5
      King, D.J.C., 1947, 'Bow and Arrow Castle, Portland' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 69 p. 65-67
      Pentin, H., 1916, 'Old Portland' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 37 p. 230-233 online copy
      Symonds, H., 1914, 'Sandsfoot and Portland Castles' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 35 p. 27-40 online copy
      Head, J.Merrick, 1891, 'Portland: Historical Notes, Descent of the Manor, etc.' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 12 p. 121-124 online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1910, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1258-66) Vol. 5 p. 11 online copy
      Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1908, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1247-58) Vol. 4 p. 607 online copy
      Potter, K.R. (ed), 1955, The Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury (Nelson's Medieval Texts) p. 76 (eodemquea impetu insulam Portland, quam incastellauerant, subegit) (A revised edition by Edmund King (Oxford University Press, 1999) should also be consulted)
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 136
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 252 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 162 online copy
      English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 156 online copy
      English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 172 online copy
      English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 157 online copy
      English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 154 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.
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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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