Earthwork remains of a motte-and-bailey castle that have been extensively stylised as part of a later landscaping project. Nevertheless the layout of the castle can still be appreciated and it is a pleasant, albeit muddy, walk to the castle.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
ACCESSING SHOTWICK CASTLE
1. The footpath can be found on Church Street. Following it across a field and through several kissing gates:
Car Parking / Access
Notes: The path to the castle is best accessed from Church Street on Saughall. The route is detailed below. On-road parking is possible.
2. Don’t deviate from the footpath (!). Cross the bridge and following the path. Turn right at the end rather than going left through the kissing gate to your left.
3. Cross the second bridge and then a third one. You’ll see a conservation sign - keep going ahead and you’ll come across the earthworks.
Shotwick Castle was originally a motte-and-bailey castle raised in the late eleventh century. It was later substantially rebuilt in stone but by the fourteenth century its defensive requirements were superfluous and its grounds were enclosed into a deer park.
HISTORY OF SHOTWICK CASTLE
Although the site is now land locked, Shotwick originally stood on the east bank of the River Dee and was accessible to shipping as well as being in vicinity of a ford across the river. For these reasons, it is likely a castle was established at Shotwick around 1093 by Hugh Lupus, first Earl of Chester. This early fortification was a simple earth and timber motte-and-bailey structure. Sited on top of a steep escarpment overlooking the river, it was protected on its north and south sides by water features that were filled at high tide. The motte was also surrounded by a flooded ditch and, judging by the shape of the mound, may have had a jetty on its western side.
Due to its location on a communications artery into North Wales, Shotwick became a frontier fortress. On his Welsh campaigns of 1156 and 1165, Henry II used the adjacent Shotwick to Flint ford as his access into Wales. Accordingly, at some point during the twelfth or early thirteenth centuries, the castle was rebuilt in stone. A rectangular stone keep, sited on top of the motte, was probably the first structure rebuilt but this was followed by a substantial pentagon shaped curtain wall that originally stood over 15 metres tall and was augmented by numerous towers. There is no evidence to suggest the buildings in the outer bailey were ever rebuilt in stone.
John of Scotland, Earl of Chester died in 1237 and the castle reverted to the Crown. Between 1240 and 1242 various buildings were repaired and in 1245 the castle again hosted an English monarch - this time Henry III on his way into Wales with an army to seize control of the Four Cantrefs. In 1254 Prince Edward was made Lord of Chester including all the lands of the former Earldom. Although briefly forfeited to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester during the Second Barons War, it was returned to Edward who subsequently visited (again at the head of an army invading Wales) in 1278.
Following the conquest of Wales by Edward I, the castle's role as a border fortress declined. However, it found a new role as a hunting lodge as in 1327 Edward III enclosed a Royal deer park at the site. The last recorded repairs were made to the castle in 1371 but the castle certainly remained in use for sometime after this as around the fifteenth century the surrounding grounds were remodelled as part of a formal garden scheme. By this time the River Dee was silting up rendering Chester ineffective as a port. Shotwick briefly became a landing site for cargo that was then transferred to small boats and moved up river. However, subsequent decades saw further silting of the River Dee meaning Shotwick also became unviable as a port.
Shotwick was acquired by the Wilbraham family in 1627 but by this time the castle was ruinous and stonework was being robbed to support local building projects. The diversion of the River Dee in 1737 led to the site becoming land-locked and hastened its decline - within a few decades all masonry had been removed. The castle site was purchased by Cheshire County Council in 1930.