Notes: Upper Slaughter is found to the south-west of Stow-on-the-Wold and is accessed from either the A429 or B4068. The site is not sign-posted. No car parking facilities nearby but on-road parking is possible.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The earthworks of a motte-and-bailey castle. The remains are in a privately owned field with no public access but can be seen from the roadside.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Upper Slaughter Castle is a motte-and-bailey castle of unknown original and purpose. Possibly built to administer the estate or perhaps merely a safe refuge during the chaos of the Anarchy, it seemingly had a short life span before it was abandoned.
HISTORY OF UPPER SLAUGHTER CASTLE
Little is known about the history of Upper Slaughter Castle. The manor itself seems to have developed no later than the eleventh century as an overflow from Lower Slaughter which was a Royal manor. By the time of the Domesday Book (1086), Upper Slaughter was held by Roger de Lacy and it is possible he raised the castle as a form of manor house either for himself or one of his tenants. However, the Domesday Book also makes no mention of a fortification on the site (not definitive evidence as castles were sometimes omitted from the document), so it is possible it could have been built later. One option is it was built as a means of local defence during the Anarchy, the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda that was fought 1139 to 1153. This latter theory is at least circumstantially supported by archaeology; pottery finds suggest a twelfth and thirteenth century occupation of the site.
The castle itself was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey. Located on a bend in the River Eye, it consisted of a flat topped mound enclosed within what is believed to be an oval shaped bailey. Whilst the river provided protection for the north side, the remainder was enclosed by a ditch.
Precisely when the castle went out of use is unknown. Perhaps it was one of the many castles destroyed by Henry II in his bid to restore Royal authority following the Anarchy. Certainly documentary evidence from 1190 and 1239 records that the King's sergeant in Slaughter maintained a local prison at Lower Slaughter rather than the castle which is indicative the fortification did not have a significant local role at this time.