Notes: The castle has a dedicated car park. When approaching do not get confused by signs for the newer Sherborne “castle” which is in fact a stately home and a major venue for events throughout the year.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Impressive ruins of a medieval stone castle including gatehouse and (originally) covered passage to the Watergate. There are also some remains of fine masonry giving an insight into the comfortable life of senior members of the clergy during the medieval period.
1. Sherborne castle was a favourite residence of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Built by the the Bishop of Salisbury in the twelfth century, Sherborne Castle was designed to protect the considerable church owned property in the region. Converted to a comfortable home in the Tudor era, the castle was garrisoned for the King during the Civil War and slighted thereafter.
HISTORY OF SHERBORNE CASTLE
Sherborne Castle was built between 1122 and 1137 by Roger of Caen, Bishop of Salisbury to serve as a military base for the protection of the extremely prosperous church property in the area. The site was specially chosen due to its features; a small hill surrounded by a lake.
In 1135 King Henry I died and the country was plunged into a civil war known as the Anarchy. Roger of Caen supported King Stephen (against Queen Matilda) but eventually fell from favour after which his castles, including Sherborne, were seized by the Crown. But Stephen lost control of the castle in 1143 and it then remained in the hands of the Earls of Gloucester until he died in 1183 after which it reverted back to the King (by now Henry II).
Numerous modifications and upgrades were made to the castle during Henry’s reign and likewise during the troubled rules of King John and Henry III. The castle was in sufficiently sound condition to host a Royal visit by Edward I in 1297. By 1355 it was back in the hands of the Bishop of Salisbury and further modifications were made. The lake had silted up and had become ineffectual so the elaborate Gatehouses were added at this time.
By the sixteenth century the church no longer had any need for the castle and it ultimately passed to the Crown and, through Elizabeth I, into the hands of Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1640, during the Civil War, the castle was garrisoned for the King and after changing hands several times, it finally fell permanently to Parliamentary forces in 1645. The castle was slighted thereafter.