Place Wood Castle was an earth and timber ringwork fortification probably built as part of Henry I's campaign to isolate and defeat Robert of Bellême, Earl of Shrewsbury. Henry I had become King in 1100 following the death of his brother, William II, during a hunting accident in the New Forest. The Earl, along with numerous other magnates, opposed the new King and instead supported his elder brother Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. In 1101 the Duke invaded but his campaign failed and a negotiated settlement, the Treaty of Alton, secured Henry's throne. The King then began a campaign of vengeance against those magnates who had opposed him including besieging Robert's stronghold at Arundel Castle. It is likely Place Wood Castle, along with nearby Motley's Copse Castle, was a temporary fortification raised to contain the hinterland around the Earl's substantial fortress. The castle was sited overlooking the Chichester to Bitterne Roman Road that was still in use during the twelfth century but was later diverted.
The castle consisted of the ringwork and large 'D' shaped bailey built on top of a spur of land near Southwick village. The ringwork itself was a circular earthwork around 20 metres in diameter that would have originally been topped by a timber palisade. The bailey, which was located to the south-west of the ringwork, was a single undivided enclosure.
Henry I's campaign broke the power of Robert of Bellême and in 1102 he capitulated to the King. His estates were confiscated and he went into exile in Normandy and never returned. It is likely Place Wood Castle, now superfluous, went out of use at this time. Only earthworks survive and these were damaged by the enclosure of Southwick Park, which included construction of a lodge for the Park Keeper, and also by construction of a (modern) military firing range.
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Place Wood Castle survives as a series of discrete earthworks found next to a public right of way. The area is now dense woodland and significant undergrowth makes appreciation of the remains difficult. Nevertheless, with robust footwear and determination, the ditches and banks of the fortification can be seen. On initial inspection the location of the castle also seems bizarre as its prominent position on a raised scarp is masked by the trees whilst the medieval diversion of the Roman Road, which formerly connected the villages of Purbrook and North Boarhunt, makes the castle seem remote when actually it once commanded a key communication route between east and west.
Place Wood Castle. The fortification survives as a series of earthworks but the site is overgrown.
Place Wood Castle Context. The castle stood directly adjacent to the main east/west road.
Ramparts. The earthwork remains of the castle.
PLACE WOOD CASTLE
Place Wood Castle was an earth-and-timber ringwork fortification. It was probably built by Henry I around 1102 as part of his campaign to defeat Robert of Bellême, Earl of Shrewsbury who supported a rival claimant for the throne. The site was abandoned after Robert went into exile and never recommissioned.
Place Wood Castle is found to the north-east of Southwick village on an unnamed road leading to Denmead. There is a small lay-by adjacent to the right of way that leads to the castle site.
Car Parking Option
Place Wood Castle
The castle is accessed from a public right of way that connects to the main road. The path is sign-posted and runs along the edge of the field after which simply follow the track.