SMETHCOTT CASTLE

Smethcott Castle, also known as Castle Field, was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification raised in the late twelfth century. It overlooked a major route north to Shrewsbury. Occupation of the castle continued through the first half of the thirteenth century but thereafter the site was abandoned.

History

 

At the time of the Domesday survey of 1086, Smethcott formed part of the domain of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury although its pre-Conquest owner, Aldred, was still Lord of the Manor. The survey noted that it was a small settlement with just three houses and was of limited value. However, the site had some strategic importance as it was connected with the wider region due to its proximity to the Roman road south from Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum). With the emergence of Shrewsbury rather than Wroxeter as the regional urban centre, this route had shifted its path to the west closer to Smethcott placing the site just one mile west of the road. Precisely who built the castle is unknown but it was probably raised in the late twelfth century perhaps at the same time as the nearby motte-and-bailey at Woolstaston.

 

Smethcott Castle was a motte-and-bailey fortification built on top of a hill with steep scarps to the south. The motte was built on the summit of the hill and was topped with a timber palisade or tower. A 'V' shaped ditch (now in-filled) ran around the base of the mound. Extending to the south was a 'D' shaped bailey which was protected by an earth and timber rampart fronted by a ditch. Stone foundations of two semi-circular structures were found to the immediate east of the castle site but the purpose of these is unknown.

 

Archaeological finds of pottery and other materials found at the castle have been dated to the first half of the thirteenth century clearly indicating it was in use at this time. However, thereafter the archaeological record goes silent and it is probable the site was abandoned in the mid-late thirteenth century. This may have occurred around 1270 when the manor of Smethcott passed to the Burnell family.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Douglas, D.C and Rothwell, H (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 3 (1189-1327). Routledge, London.

Higham, R and Barker, P (1992). Timber Castles. Batsford.

Historic England (1994). Motte and bailey castle 50m to the west of St Michael's church, List entry 1008394. Historic England, London.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Montgomerie (1924). Ancient Earthworks. VCH Worcestershire.

Salter, M (2000). Castles of Shropshire. Folly Publications, Malvern.

Williams, A and Martin, G.H (2003). Domesday Book: A Complete Translation. Viking, London.

What's There?

Smethcott Castle survives as a series of earthworks although the surrounding ditches have been in-filled whilst the motte itself has been badly damaged from ploughing.

Motte. The low motte would originally have been much taller but has been damaged over the centuries by ploughing. Archaeological examination discovered numerous post-holes on the summit presumably the base of some form of tower or palisade.

Gentle Hill. The north approach to the motte was gentle but steep scarps guarded the southern side of the castle site.

Bailey. The 'D' shaped bailey was located to the south of the motte.

St Michael's Church. The church as rebuilt in 1860 but some portions of the Norman masonry survive. The church was contemporary with the castle.

Getting There

Smethcott Castle is found adjacent to St Michael's Church. Follow signs to Smethcott and the church (but not the castle) is sign-posted from there. There is a dedicated car park on the site.

Car Park

SY6 6NX

52.589370N 2.814373W

Smethcott Castle

No Postcode

52.589390N 2.815116W