Shocklach Castle was an eleventh century motte-and-bailey fortification raised to secure the area from Welsh aggression. Later, a fortified manorial house was established nearby although its relationship with the original castle is unknown. The two fortifications may have co-existed for a period although this seems unlikely.
Shocklach Castle was built no later than 1086 by Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester or one of his retainers. The castle served several purposes. Firstly it was one of a handful of Norman fortifications (the others being Shotwick, Chester and Aldford) raised along the River Dee to secure control of that important waterway. Secondly, along with fortifications such as Malpas and Oldcastle, it provided defence for the valuable agricultural lands of Cheshire from Welsh raids.
The original fortification was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle situated on top of a steep scarp overlooking a small stream. The conical shaped motte would have been topped by a timber palisade and tower whilst the base of the mound was surrounded by a dry ditch and counterscarp bank. The bailey extended to the south-west and would have hosted all the ancillary functions associated with such a site. The stream provided a potable water source and provided strong natural defences on the north and west sides of the site.
It is not known how long the motte-and-bailey fortification remained in use but, by the thirteenth century, a new structure located 50 metres to the north-east had become established. This D-shaped platform enclosed a fortified manorial house but its relationship with the original castle is unclear. It may have been a direct replacement but this seems unlikely as one was in a different manor to the other (the boundary perhaps being the stream or the road). Nevertheless, it is unlikely the two structures were occupied simultaneously as the manorial site diverted the adjacent stream to flood the surrounding moat, provide potable water and serve as a means of waste removal. It is unlikely their downstream neighbours in the castle would have approved had they still been in occupation!
With the historical records making little distinction between the castle and later moated manor, it is not certain when each went out of use. By 1086 the (motte-and-bailey) castle was in the hands of Robert FitzHugh, the illegitimate son of Hugh d'Avranches. Robert’s main caput was at Malpas Castle and, by contrast, the estate at Shocklach was tiny. However, its defensive role would have endured into the thirteenth century and a record of 1290 stated that the occupants of Shocklach Castle were levying tolls on users of the adjacent road. Whether this was referring to the castle or later manor is uncertain, as is another record from 1327. Thereafter the historical record is silent. Based on other castles in the region, it is probable the motte-and-bailey had gone out of use by the thirteenth century especially as there is no evidence it was ever rebuilt in stone. The moated manor probably endured into the late medieval period or beyond.
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Douglas, D.C and Greeaway, G.W (ed) (1981). English Historical Documents Vol 2 (1042-1189). Routledge, London.
Historic England (1991). Shocklach Castle motte and moated enclosure, List entry 1012620. 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.
Salter, M (1998). The Castles and Tower Houses of Cheshire and Lancashire. Folly Publications. Malvern
Swallow, R (2013). Two for One: The Archaeological Survey of Shocklach Castle. Cheshire History Journal 53, Chester.
Williams, A and Martin, G.H (2003). Domesday Book: A Complete Translation. Viking, London.
Shocklach Castle consists of the earthwork remains of an eleventh century motte-and-bailey fortification along with those of the medieval moated site that replaced it. The original castle site is heavily wooded.
Shocklach 'Old' Castle and Manorial Site. The site as viewed from the air. The original castle is now buried in the wood to the left of the road but the earthworks of the manorial site can be clearly seen to the right.
Shocklach 'Old' Castle. The site of the original motte-and-bailey castle is now heavily wooded. The earthworks can (just about) be seen from the main road but they have been badly damaged.
Manor House. No later than the thirteenth century, the motte-and-bailey castle was replaced by a fortified manor house. This was built within a D-shaped platform (possibly the site of an Outer Bailey associated with the original castle).
Moat. The ditch around the manorial platform was originally water-filled due to the damming of a small stream that runs nearby.
Private. The manorial earthworks are on private land but can be seen from the main road.
Shocklach Castle is found off the B5069 a little over one mile north of the village (in Caldecott). There is a small lay-by nearby.
Car Parking Option
Shocklach Old Castle
Shocklach Manorial Site