Holdgate Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHoldgate Castle
Alternative NamesHolgate; Helgots; Stanton Holegate; Stanton Long; Castle Holegod; Holgot; Howgate; Castellum Helgod; castrum Helgoti in Scalopescyra
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishAbdon

Holdgate Castle motte and bailey survives well and is a fine example of its class. It has a well documented history which demonstrates an early foundation and longevity of occupation. The substantial motte and bailey earthworks will contain important archaeological evidence concerning their construction and stratified evidence relating to the occupation of the site. The summit of the motte will contain evidence for the building which stood upon it and archaeological material relating to its occupation. The interior of the northern bailey, although overbuilt by farm buildings, will contain important archaeological material relating to the domestic occupation of the site buried below the ground surface. The southern bailey, which forms the churchyard and which has documented historical links with the foundation of the church, demonstrates the close association between church and castle in the medieval period. The garden earthworks to the south east are thought to relate to the later medieval and early post medieval occupation of the castle and are thus a comparatively rare survival. They survive well and will provide valuable information concerning the physical arrangement of gardens in this early period. They will also contain archaeological and environmental material relating to their original plant communities. Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the castle itself was built will be preserved sealed beneath the motte, the various banks and ditches

The complex, considered as a whole, is one of the most complete medieval castle complexes in Shropshire and contributes valuable information pertaining to the development of the castle in the Marches and to an understanding of the settlement pattern, economy and social organisation of the countryside during the medieval and early post- medieval period.

The monument includes the remains of Holdgate Castle, a large motte and bailey castle, with two baileys, a 13th century tower, garden remains, secular college and later ice house. The castle is situated at the northern end of a low ridge on the east side of Corve Dale in Holdgate village and lies in close proximity to the parish church, with which it is historically associated. Holdgate takes its name from the Norman landowner Helgot, who is recorded in Domesday as holding the manor, which was then known as Stanton, along with 16 others in the county of Shropshire. Helgot was a sub-tenant of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, and is said to have built a castle here as his main residence, one of the three earliest castles to be documented in the county of Shropshire. Domesday also records an existing church and priest at Stanton. A new church, presumably replacing an earlier church, is recorded as being consecrated by Bishop Geoffrey de Clive sometime between 1115 and 1119. This 12th century church is described as being built within the perimeter of the pre-existing castle and some 12th century work survives in the fabric of the present Holy Trinity Church. A small college of secular clergy was founded in a dwelling within the castle sometime before 1210. The college is known to have survived until at least 1373, being dissolved sometime after this date. The castle was held by the Royalists during the Civil War and was laid siege to by the Parliamentarians. It was recorded as being deserted and abandoned by 1645. The motte and bailey earthworks at Holdgate include a large castle motte, slightly oval in plan with base dimensions of 50m north to south by 46m east to west and standing up to 10m high. The flat summit of the motte measures 18m north to south by 13m east to west and has been disturbed in the north west and east quarters at some time in the past. There are several dressed stones visible in these diggings which may be part of the foundations of a tower keep which once occupied the summit of the mound. A stone lined ice house, blocked 3m from its entrance, is set into the base of the motte in the west quarter of the motte. A section of the surrounding ditch is visible as a substantial earthwork up to 11m wide and 2.1m deep running for 50m around the south west and west sides of the motte, separating the motte from the churchyard to the south west. Around the remaining sides of the motte, farm buildings and access roads have removed any surface indications of the ditch. However, it will survive as a buried feature. There are two baileys attached to the motte: these would have contained the domestic buildings associated with the castle. The larger of these baileys forms a level platform to the immediate north east of the motte, the area now occupied by Hall Farm. Although a large part of the bailey earthworks has been reduced by the construction of the farm buildings, sufficient evidence remains to show that the bailey platform was roughly rectangular in shape with internal dimensions of 130m north west to south east by 60m transversely. It includes a well defined length of scarp, 70m long and 0.8m high, which runs from the north corner of the motte to curve around to the east forming the north west corner of the bailey. This continues along the north side for 50m before turning south and fading out after 26m. The north west scarp is flanked on its outer edge by a berm up to 3m wide, separating the inner scarp from a shallow outer scarp which merges into the natural hillslope falling to the west. This outer scarp, up to 0.6m high, continues around the outside of the motte to join with the outer scarp of the second bailey south of the motte. The east side of the north bailey is no longer visible as a surface feature, having been levelled to accommodate farm buildings. Similarly the south western section of the bailey perimeter is no longer visible as an earthwork. However around the south eastern edge of the bailey platform the perimeter scarp is present as a steep scarp 2.2m high falling from the platform to the roadway below. In the north west quarter of this bailey and included within the scheduling, is a large semicircular mural tower believed to be 13th century in date. It is built into the rear of the later farmhouse and is of ashlar construction with narrow slit windows and a conical, tiled roof. Access to the interior of the tower is from the interior of the farmhouse, though it is not presently used for any purpose. Both the tower and the farmhouse are Listed Buildings Grade II. To the south west of the motte, its north east side conjoined with the south west section of motte ditch, lies a smaller, possibly earlier, bailey. This level platform, edged by a steep scarp averaging 2m high, now forms the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church. It is roughly triangular in shape with internal dimensions of 77m north to south by 65m east to west. The parish church lies at the centre of this enclosure, a siting which agrees with the early reference to the church being constructed within the confines of the castle. The church and churchyard are still in use and are excluded from the scheduling but the perimeter scarp of the enclosure is included within the scheduling. The church is Listed Grade B. To the south east of the motte and bailey complex, occupying ground falling to the south east, is a complex of earthworks forming a series of rectangular enclosures. They are believed to represent the remains of formal gardens associated with the later phases of the castle complex. The enclosures are bounded by strong cross-slope scarps up to 1m high with down-slope banks arranged at right angles to the scarps. At least four distinct rectangular plots with an average internal area of approximately 0.7ha can be recognised. To the south west of the enclosures lies a pond which appears to be associated with the earthworks. A well defined north west to south east orientated hollow way, up to 1.5m deep, marks the south western extent of the garden earthworks. (Scheduling Report)

Farmhouse incorporating remains of castle. C16 with medieval vestiges (late C13 or early C14), C19 alterations and C20 restoration. Sandstone ashlar rear, coursed rubble front with ashlar dressings, and stone rubble. Plain-tile roof with conical roof-end over tower wing. 2 integral stone ridge stacks and brick stack all with brick shafts, integral brick gable-end stack to north-east, projecting brick stack to gable-end to south-west. PLAN: rectangular plan with rear wing consisting of the lower 2 storeys of a semicircular castle tower, and end extension wing. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys, attic and cellar. South-east front is a 2-storey, 6-window range of C20 Tudor-style twin-mullion windows over twin-mullion and transom windows. 3 restored 2-light gabled dormers. Entrance door to centre right with top-light, C20 boarded door to left in segmental-arched opening. Single-storey extension wing to left with three 3-centred arches of differing widths and with C20 infilling. Right return gable: ashlar wall with 3-light attic casement to left. Left return gable: stone rubble wall with C20 attic casement, otherwise covered by single-storey extension wing. Rear: to centre right is projecting wing of former castle tower. Curved ashlar blocks on battered plinth with 3 thin arrow-slits at lower floor and 3 chamfered glazed slits above. Casement at each storey to right side of wing. To right is a stone rubble wall with 3-light casement at upper floor over 2 single-light casements. To left is a mostly ashlar 4-window range: 2 casements to left; 2 wood mullion and transom windows to right, one with leaded lights; 2 C20 2-light ground-floor windows, that to left with transom; C20 casement in cellar. INTERIOR: square-framed internal partitions, large open fireplace in hall. Chamfered bridging beams: those in hall with faceted stops, the kitchen has concave stops, the parlour has ogee stops. Fine roof timbers. Arched tower doorway. Tower reputedly attributed to Bishop Robert Burnell, Chancellor of England, who bought the castle in 1284, probably as a replacement for the old castle to the south-west. The castle was fortified in the civil war and besieged and heavily damaged by the Royalists in 1644. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The caput of the holdings of Helgot of Holdgate who held some 40 odd manors across Shropshire and Staffordshire in 1086. Helgot held Holdgate directly of the King and was of baronial status. As Helgot held his lands by the service of proving knights to the king undoubtedly many of his tenants on these manors would have been knights and sergeants; a 'frenchman' and a 'rider' (Radman) are mentioned in the Domesday records for Stantune (Holdgate). Although some of these knights would have owed their service to the king for expeditions into Wales or elsewhere they may also have been available to provide castle guard and other services at the castle directly to Helgot and his successors.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO562896
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