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Wigmore Castle, Wigmore

SMR Number
: 179
Grid Reference
: SO 4084 6927

In Domesday Book held by Ralph Mortimer - reported that castle built by Fitzosbern in waste previously held by King Edward. Motte and bailey outline - quite modest in size. Motte at NW end of high inner ring work which may well predate it. Bailey approached from relatively level outer enclosure (ie outer bailey - HAW) defended by series of banks and ditch across low remains of spur. Gatehouse midway in SE curtain defended by double ditches. Gatehouse submerged in its own rubble to depth of at least 1.8m - to springing of inner gate arch. Not single period C14, started life almost square, present arch being original outer arch with its portcullis slot in front. Gateway flanked by butresses with sloping offsets. The curtains flanking the Wigmore gate suggest they were laid out on earlier (earthwork) alignment. Early gatehouse perhaps C1200. East tower only rounded one, reasonably placed in C13. Remainder of upstanding buildings attributed to 8th Lord Mortimer, Roger. In outer bailey are two rectangular towers. S tower contained series of well appointed chambers on at least 3 floors over vaulted cellar. SW tower of same type but contains single deep and fairly narrow chamber on each of 2 floors over cellar-like basement. Immediately adjacent to N is another building.
Inner bailey: foundations include building over 50', perhaps great hall at one end multi-angular tower may have acted as chamber block. From this tower the curtain climbs c 75' to donjon - a strong walled oval shell some 36.5 x 18m, the entrance to which must have lain alongside this curtain fragments of 2 towers survive on the S side of the motte. To the W is the high standing corner of a tower containing part of a stair turret. Although much of the building is ascribed to the C14, a study shows a variation in profiles and stone indicating several phases of building. (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)
Passed to Edward IV, acquired by Harley family 1601, said to have been dismantled 1643. (2)
Photocopies of detailed hand-written notes from the RCHM 1934 survey are in the SMR. (9)
The archaeology research section of the Woolhope Club visited the site on 19/07/97 and 09/10/97. (10)
Observations on Wigmore Castle by Roger Stirling-Brown. These notes have been put together after many visits and include detailed descriptions and a plan of the site. Note is made of a possible tower keep at the west end of the shell keep. (11)
SW from the entrance to the castle, Alan Morris found a barbed iron arrowhead. Find No. 399. (12)
Rubble and vegetation masks the results of some areas with the earthwork survey. The castle is a substantial motte, much of it is natural with an inner bailey bordered by a ditch, bank and ditch on the SE. Full detailed survey and historical account. (14)
A drawing of the south view by Buck Delin of 1731 shows vegetation growing from the walls but no trees within the castle walls or in the surrounding countryside. The keep and tower are clearly illustrated. (15)
Reference to writings of John Aubrey in Monumenta Britannica with comments on the architecture of Wigmore Castle. (16)
C. Musson's 2002 colour slide aerial photograph catalogue. (17) (18) (19)
Photographic Survey (20)
ST Walker & Partners undertook two architect's report one in 1988 and one in 1994. The reports outline the condition of Wigmore Castle and reconmendations and costings on the repairs. (21)(22)
A watching brief was carried out during groundworks for new gateposts located to the south of the castle. No significant archaeological deposits were encountered. (23)
A watching brief carried out during the installation of 4 interpretation panels did not encounter any significant archaeological deposits. (24)
Scheduled Monument Consent granted for proposed works to the public footpath, 5 July 2013. (25)
In 1996, a trench (Area A) was excavated against the curtain wall of the inner bailey by Marches Archaeology, in advance of consolidation works by English Heritage. This formed part of a larger programme of excavation and consolidation, following the taking of the castle into Guardianship in November 1995. No post-excavation assessment or analysis was undertaken, and the results were presented as a preliminary interpretation report in January 1998. The excavation produced evidence for occupation of the castle from the late 11th century to the 16th century, followed by a period of abandonment and decay. This activity was divided into eleven periods. The earliest activity (the digging of a pit) may be of prehistoric date. A later phase (Period 1) suggests some use in the 11th century which may pre-date the construction of the castle, or its expansion into this area. A 12th century timber building, apparently domestic, was the first substantial use of the area as part of the castle (Period 2). At this date there was no evidence of any defences in the area excavated, though they may have been elsewhere or have been removed by later defences. The building was removed in the later 12th century and the area was left as open ground until the early 13th century (Period 3). After this the area was made more level and given more solid surfaces. There was some industrial process (probably ironworking) nearby and the re-surfacing may reflect the more frequent use of this area at this time (Period 4). In the later 13th century a large stone wall was built as the boundary between the inner and outer bailey, with a ditch on the outside (Period 5). After the wall was built the area was used for leadworking, with a stone building, plastered on the inside, being built at the north end of the area dug in the late 13th or early 14th century (Period 6). After some time the leadworking ceased, probably while the stone building was in use (Period 7). Eventually, the stone building was disused, at some time in the 14th or 15th century, and the upper part of the curtain wall was rebuilt, and the whole area left covered with stone debris (Period 8). After the rebuild of the curtain wall the area was left for some time with little use. At some time, perhaps as late as the 16th century, a part of the site was used for ironworking, but there was little further activity (Period 9). During this period an amount of debris from buildings, including floor tile and window glass, was present, showing that structures which were built in the 14th century were being demolished at this time. The decay of the castle continued into the 18th century (Period 10). Thereafter, little has happened on the site apart from a gradual growth of topsoil, and occasional further falling of masonry (Period 11). (26)(27)
The lead pieces recovered during the 1996 excavation were assessed by Roger C.P. Doonan of English Heritage's Ancient Monuments Laboratory. The pieces totalled approximately 35kg of lead in various forms, including window cames, spillages, offcuts and scrap. They appear to be associated with the building and maintenance of the castle structure, mostly the windows and roofing. The presence of a large plano-convex hearth bottom is evidence that lead was melted in bulk for use in various building applications. The "spillages" could be genuine spillages of molten lead during transportation, but could also represent lead fittings which have melted during accidental fires. Limited XRF analysis showed that only lead was present. The absence of tin and/or antimony confirmed that the debris was not associated with the manufacture of tableware or other portable artefacts. (28)
The metal-working debris recovered during the 1996 excavation was assessed and analysed by David Dungworth of English Heritage's Ancient Monuments Laboratory. The material recovered comprised 13kg of iron-working slag, 1kg of vitrified building debris and 1.2kg of lead-working waste. The iron-working slag indicates that iron smithing took place in the immediate vicinity of Area A in the period before the castle was constructed. While some iron-smithing slag was recovered from later contexts it is likely that this is residual or derived from another working area some distance from Area A. On the basis of the evidence from Area A iron smithing was not a significant part of the economy of the castle. The evidence of lead working indicates that lead was being melted, but the reason for this is uncertain. The vitrified building debris is found in contexts of many different periods and cannot on contextual evidence be related to a single period of destruction. (29)
In 1998, a trench was excavated in and around the east tower. Tis produced evidence of the occupation of the castle from the 13th Century to the 16th Century, followed by a period of abandonment and decay. Preliminary interpretation report. (30)
Published report on 1996 and 1998 excavations. Two areas within the Inner Bailey were excavated: one running up to the Southern Curtain Wall and the other within and around the East Tower. Evidence of the earliest timber castle was found. The evidence indicated that the present site of the castle was that of fitz Osbern's 11th Century castle. Part of a substantial 12th Century timber building was found. The construction of defences in stone probably began in the 12th Century. The present standing curtain wall was constructed around 1300. High status occupation continued into the 16th Century, but by the Early 17th Century, decline at the castle appears to have been terminal. The Harley family are credited with the preemptive slighting of the castle during the Civil war, although the slighting was not evident in the excavated areas, and the area in and around the East Tower appears to have been derelict well before the Mid 17th Century. Almost total ruination had set in by the Early 19th Century. (31)
In 2003 the University of Reading, as part of a larger undergraduate program a small geophysical survey was conducted, two transects were done around the gatehouse of Wigmore Castle. Where areas of resistence were discovered. (32)

Monument Type(s)

  1. MOTTE AND BAILEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  2. CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  3. IRON WORKING SITE (11th Century to 16th Century - 1001 AD to 1600 AD)
  4. LEAD WORKING SITE (13th Century to 14th Century - 1201 AD to 1400 AD)

Associated Files

Sources and Further Reading

  1. <32> SHE10251 - Unpublished Report: Darnell, A. R.. 2003. Preliminary report of Geophysical findings at Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire. University of Reading.
  2. <4> SHE11637 - Bibliographic reference: Renn, D. 1968. Norman Castles in Britain. Norman Castles in Britain. 347.
  3. <8> SHE11721 - Bibliographic reference: Robinson, Rev C J. 1867. The Castles of Herefordshire and Their Lords.
  4. <23> SHE14814 - Unpublished Report: Shoesmith, R. Hoverd, T.. 1996. Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire. A Watching Brief.. City of Hereford Archaeology Unit. 266.
  5. <9> SHE15352 - Bibliographic reference: Anon. 1934. Notes on Wigmore Castle by compilers of RCME Volumes. hand written notes by RCHM.
  6. <10> SHE15402 - Serial: Anon. 1997. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 68. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 68. Pages 6/7.
  7. <12> SHE15404 - Serial: Lowe, Ros (ed). 1998. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 69. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 69. Pages 31.
  8. <11> SHE15659 - Serial: Shoesmith, R (ed). 1988. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 48.Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 48. Pages 30.
  9. <14> SHE15724 - Unpublished Report: Brown, Graham, M Bowden and D Parker. 2002. An earthwork survey and investigation of Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire. EH Archaeological Investigation Report Series.. English Heritage. A1/14/2002.
  10. <13> SHE15753 - Serial: Shoesmith, Ron (ed). 1967. Herefordshire Archaeological News No 6. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 6. Pages 7.
  11. <15> SHE15904 - Graphic material: S and N Buck Delin. 1731. The south view of Wigmore Castle, in the county of Hereford. print.
  12. <16> SHE16045 - Article in serial: Buchanan-Brown, John. 1999. The Natural History of Herefordshire. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. XLIX 1999 Part III. 379-403. XLIX 1999 Part III. Pages 391.
  13. <26> SHE16147 - Unpublished Report: Stone, Richard and Nic Appleton-Fox. 01/1998. Wigmore Castle, Wigmore, Herefordshire. Archive report on the excavation of Area A.. Marches Archaeology. 9A.
  14. <27> SHE16148 - Unpublished Report: Stone, Richard and Nic Appleton-Fox. 01/1998. Wigmore Castle, Wigmore, Herefordshire. Archive report on the excavation of Area A. Annex, location plan and sections.. Marches Archaeology. 9A.
  15. <30> SHE16151 - Unpublished Report: Appleton-Fox, Nic. 11/1999. Wigmore Castle, Wigmore, Herefordshire. Interim archive report on the excavation of Area B.. Marches Archaeology. 36a.
  16. <17> SHE17265 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 13/07/2002. 02-C-0016. Herefordshire Aerial Archaeological Survey 2002. Oblique. Colour Slide.
  17. <18> SHE17266 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 13/07/2002. 02-C-0017. Herefordshire Aerial Archaeological Survey 2002. Oblique. Colour Slide.
  18. <19> SHE17538 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 30/08/2003. 03-C-1186. Herefordshire Aerial Archaeological Survey 2003. Oblique. Colour Slide.
  19. <24> SHE18401 - Unpublished Report: Doyle, D. 2009. Wigmore Castle interpretation panels, Wigmore, Herefordshire. An archaeological watching brief. Archaeological Investigations Ltd. 826.
  20. <20> SHE18569 - Unpublished Report: City of Hereford Archaeology Unit. 1995. Wigmore Castle: A Photographic Survey, 26th May 1995. City of Hereford Archaeology Unit.
  21. <21> SHE18570 - Unpublished Report: S T Walker and Partners. 1988. Wigmore Castle, Hereford and Worcester: Architect's Report.
  22. <22> SHE19012 - Unpublished Report: 1994. Wigmore Castle, Hereford and Worcester: Architects' Report. S T Walker & Partners. 0180/D/1.
  23. <25> SHE19022 - Document: English Heritage. 2013. Letter granting Scheduled Monument Consent for proposed works at Wigmore Castle, Wigmore.
  24. <28> SHE19045 - Unpublished Report: Doonan, R. 1999. Evidence for Lead Working from Wigmore Castle. English Heritage. 66/1999.
  25. <29> SHE19046 - Unpublished Report: Dungworth, D. 2000. Assessment of Metal Working Debris from Wigmore Castle, Hereford and Worcester. English Heritage. 38/2000.
  26. <31> SHE23636 - Monograph: Ratkai, Stephanie. 2015. Wigmore Castle, North Herefordshire: Excavations 1996 and 1998.
  27. --- SHE23955 - Unpublished Report: Darnell, A. R.. 2004. An investigation of the Geological Constriants on the Siting, Design and Consutrction of Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire.. University of Reading.
  28. <3> SHE267 - Bibliographic reference: Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. 1934. Inventory of Monuments, Herefordshire North-West, Vol III. Herefordshire North-West, Vol III. III. Pages 205.
  29. <6> SHE30 - Bibliographic reference: Thorn, F & Thorn, C. 1983. Domesday Book: Herefordshire. Phillimore.
  30. <1> SHE3964 - Bibliographic reference: 1981. Summer meeting to Acton Burnell. Royal Archaeol Institute.
  31. <7> SHE533 - Bibliographic reference: 1846. Archaeologia Cambrensis (Journal). I. Pages 183.
  32. <2> SHE5890 - Bibliographic reference: AMD (Midlands). 10/1987. Management statement. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (English Heritage).
  33. <5> SHE692 - Bibliographic reference: 1858. History & Directory of Herefordshire.

Associated events

Protected status

  1. Scheduled Monument 5: Wigmore Castle
  2. Conservation Area: Wigmore

Associated Historic Landscape Character Records

  1. HHE29 - Adaptation of Earlier Enclosure System - Former Common Arable Fields - L1 Linking Type