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Newport Castle, Essex

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Wigingamere; Stone Hall

In the civil parish of Newport.
In the historic county of Essex.
Modern Authority of Essex.
1974 county of Essex.
Medieval County of Essex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL52023441
Latitude 51.98732° Longitude 0.21248°

Newport Castle, Essex has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a Urban Defence but is rejected as such.

There are no visible remains.


Site of Castle marked on 1881 OS map. Said to be some slight banking remaining. Was a royal manor and market town until superseded by Saffron Walden in C12. Supposed site is entirely feasible overlooking ford on main road, although has been said to be in a poor defensive position as is overlooked by higher ground. Documentary evidence refers to a castle - Gerard de Turnwall surrendered the town and castle of Newport to King John in 1207. Excavations on the site of the new school hall in 1959 proved negative. A geophysical survey in the grounds of Newport Grammar School (on the higher ground around the school) revealed one anomaly which may represent masonry. The resistivity survey revealed an area of high resistance near to the footpath interpreted as an area of masonry or tile, or possibly hardstanding. An excavation on the site of the Grammar School proved inconclusive. Nurse suggests that the more probable site is near the present Newport House, where a 'stone hall' is recorded as having stood. In addition Henry II built a series of jails across England in order to establish law and order; in Newport the jail was granted 9s.10d in 1176/7. (Derived from PastScale and Unlocking Essex's Past)

There is known to have been a manor-house in Newport, owned originally by the King and then by the Earls of Cornwall. Its identification is not proven but it is probable that early post-medieval references to the presence of a 'Stone Hall' and a gatehouse in the town refer to the manor-house. The use of stone as building material in Essex is normally only confined to important public buildings or the homes of the very wealthy, and in Newport the only other stone buildings were the church and the hospital. The location of the 'Stone Hall' is given in a 1760 rental as being on the west side of South Street, near the later Newport House. In addition to the manor-house there would have been the usual range of farm-buildings, for example permission was granted in 1229 to take twenty royal oaks to build a barn on the manor. (Essex HER 18805 located at TL521339)

It was usual at this period for the jail to be attached to the manor house and it is possible, as Nurse suggests, that the jail and the 'castle' recorded by Holman were the same building. More modern ideas of castles, which recognise the term relates to a range of diverse buildings not just military establishments would certainly include this as a castle. The presence of a hall, most likely mainly as a residence for a royal steward, seems fairly certain.
It should also be noted that Jeremy Haslam did suggest Newport as the site of the C10 burh of Wigingamere built by Edward the Elder in May, 917, although he revised and withdrew this suggestion in 1997.
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This record last updated 22/08/2017 09:47:53

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