The remains of a ruined but elaborate fourteenth century tower surrounded by a water filled moat. Part of the curtain wall that was attacked during the Civil War but subsequently repaired has caved in.
1. The name of Nunney derives from the Saxon word ‘nuni’ suggesting a nunnery once existed near the site.
2. In the early fifteenth century Nunney Castle came into the ownership of Sir John Poulet. His main residence was Basing Castle (now Basing House) in Hampshire.
Castle Hill, BA11 4NL
Notes: The castle is found off Castle Street in the village of the same name around 2 miles South West of Frome. There is a village car park.
Collapsed Wall. This section of the curtain wall collapsed on Christmas Day 1910. Although repaired it is the same section that was bombarded during the Civil War.
The construction of Nunney Castle was funded from ransom money acquired during the Hundred Years War with France. A domestic residence first and foremost, its only action was during the Civil War when it was held against the Parliamentary army of Sir Thomas Fairfax prompting an artillery bombardment that badly damaged the structure.
HISTORY OF NUNNEY CASTLE
Sir John de la Mare,an experienced soldier who had fought in France during the early years of the Hundred Years War and had made his fortune from ransom money, was granted a licence to crenellate his manor house at Nunney in 1373. Rather than convert his existing property, he built an elaborate new Tower. A statement of his wealth and status, the structure had a rectangular layout with round turrets in each corner topped with conical roofs - a design he would have seen during his campaigns in France (and one that can be seen in the UK at the reconstructed Castell Coch). A wooden rampart walk extended out from the towers and the curtain wall supported by projecting corbels. The tower was surrounded by a water filled moat fed from the adjacent Nunney Brook. Beyond the moat a large courtyard surrounded the tower and would have contained stables and other supporting buildings.
The de la Mare family remained in ownership of Nunney Castle until the early fifteenth century when the last male heir, Elias de la Mare, died during Henry V’s 1415 campaign in France. Through marriage it passed into the hands of Sir John Poulet remaining with his family until 1572 at which point it was sold and eventually came into the hands of the Roman-Catholic Prater family.
In 1642 hostilities between King and Parliament erupted into Civil War. Nunney Castle was owned by Colonel Richard Prater who, like his immediate ancestors, was Roman-Catholic and supported King Charles. Battles at Lansdown Hill (1643), Roundway Down (1643) and Lostwithiel (1644) ensured the South West was Royalist territory and accordingly Nunney saw no action until September 1645. Having destroyed the last major Royalist army at the Battle of Naseby in June, the Parliamentary New Model Army was engaged in reducing Royalist garrisons. In Somerset Sherborne was attacked first followed by Cary and Shepton Mallet. On 6 September Sir Thomas Fairfax, commander of the New Model Army, supported by Colonel Rainsborough and Colonel Hammond’s Regiments, arrived at Nunney. By the 8 September a 36 pounder artillery piece had been brought from Shepton and smashed a breach in the walls; Colonel Prater’s position was impossible and he surrendered. The castle was set alight by the Parliamentary troops and, coupled with the severe damage caused by the bombardment, meant it remained abandoned until restored to the Prater family in the 1660s by Charles II.
Repairs were made in the latter part of the seventeenth and the castle remained inhabited for much of the eighteenth century but thereafter was abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin. On Christmas Day 1910 a portion of the wall collapsed and as the rest of the structure continued to destabilise the then owner, Robert Bailey-Neale, handed the castle over to the State.