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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 97 SW 1
Type of record:Monument
Name:Queenborough Castle

Summary

The site of a concentric royal castle built in 1361-75 but demolished in 1650 and now an earth covered mound.

This was the only wholly new royal castle built in England during the later Middle Ages. It was unique in its design, anticipating the concentric plans of Henry VIII's coastal artillery castles. The designer was Henry Yevele. The castle was intended for coastal defence and for the defence of the planned town alongside it. It was also equipped as a royal residence. A ground plan survives, (drawing by Hollar), and also a 17th century Parliamentary survey prior to its demolition in 1650. It was said to be much out of repair and was accordingly sold and pulled down. An evaluation took place at the site in 2005 as part of the Time Team programme. A number of different features were identified from trial trenches and geophysical survey.


Grid Reference:TQ 9123 7216
Map Sheet:TQ97SW
Parish:QUEENBOROUGH, SWALE, KENT

Monument Types

  • CASTLE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1361 AD to 1650 AD)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1007465: QUEENBOROUGH CASTLE

Full description

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[TQ 9123 7215] Castle [NR] (site of) [NAT] (1)

Queenborough Castle, Sheppey, was built in 1361-77 and destroyed in the 17th century. Only the moat and the grass covered foundations remain. (2)(3)

The remains of Queenborough Castle comprise a vague mound surrounded by a moat, now dry, and the whole site is severely mutilated by an engine house, a school playground, an allotment garden, and a railway yard. Published 1:1250 survey revised (4).

Queenborough (or Sheppey) Castle was built in 1361-2 under the direction of J. H. Yevele. In his 'Survey of the County of Kent', published in 1659, Kilburne states that the castle having become ruinous 'was again being repairedby Henry VIII', c. 1545. Further works were undertaken in 1574 and again between 1596 and 1599. In 1635 the castle was again being described as ruinous. A Parliamentary survey of 1650 reported that it was much out of repair. It was accordingly sold and pulled down. Only the earthworks now remain, which are tolerably complete though a railway yard cuts into the moat to the east and a part to the west is asphalted over. An additional area to include the circular outworks, illustrated in the Hatfield MS and by W. Holler, is now included in the scheduled area ((3) see plan). Scheduled (5,6).

It has been reported that the site had been bulldozed and ploughed up by agents of Swale District Council, the owners of the site (7).

There was a group of three works at Queenborough: i) Sheppey Castle, which has been mutilated, ii) the 'camp', which appears to have been obliterated, and iii) a homestead moat (TQ 97 SW 2). The entrenchments of Sheppey Castle are much destroyed, so the original form of the castle is uncertain; but there was most probably a central mount, higher than at present, surrounded by a plateau, both defended by a rampart and a water-filled moat (8).

[TQ 912 722] Queenborough (Sheppey). Damaged earthworks of a stong, circular, concentric castle with a twin tower gatehouse and four roundtowers (9).

Queenborough Castle was built in 1361-77 as a defence against French raids. It was demolished after 1650, but it was so remarkable that some comments must be made about it. In plan it was the ultimate development of concentric planning; a circle with six attached circular towers and ranges of rooms built within the walls to form a circular coutyard. A circular outer wall with a gatehouse on the west, a postern on the east, and a circular moat completed the fortifications. Queenborough Castle was, however, more than just a fort and the king stayed there on numerous occasions. The only remains of the castle now are a few mounds, 0.33 miles inlandfrom the church (10).

Excavation at the Se side of the school (in 1991) revealled a ditch- either the moat not corresponding to the documentary evidence, a robbed wall or a previously unknown inner moat (13).

Additional references (12) and site photographs (14-22). For site in context with other defence sites, see (23).

In 2005, as part of a 'Time Team' TV project, GSB Prospecting carried out a resistivity, magnetomery (fluxgate gradiometer) and ground penetrating radar survey at the site. The results of the magnetometry survey were dominated by the highly magnetic anomaly running northwest - southeast through the centre of the area. This was presumed to be a large pipe, probably of 19th century date. Other anomalies probably related to Second World War usage of the site. The resistivity survey was the most productive. The walls of the inner keep were detected as was an inner entrance to the castle as well as demolition rubble and landscaping. Surrounding the core of the site was an area of low resistance interpreted as the courtyard surrounding the keep and the outer defences comprising a moat, ditch and wall. Some of the stone from the castle was believed to have been pushed into the moat during demolition. This was confirmed by excavation. The GPR survey did not detect any castle remains, detecting only modern features.(24)

An evaluation by trial trenching was carried out in the summer of 2005 as part of a 'Time Team' TV programme. Six trenches were opened. Three possible medieval features were found during the evaluation, comprising a short, irregular gully and two small irregular scoops. The remains of the castle were indicated by robber trenches resulting from the 17th century demolition of the castle and subsequent salvage of the building materials. Only small areas of in-situ foundations were observed. The finds included a few sherds of residual medieval pottery plus a small assemblege of Flemish brick materials.

"The site of a concentric royal castle built in 1361-75 but demolished in 1650 and now an earth covered mound.
This was the only wholly new royal castle built in England during the later Middle Ages. It was unique in its design, anticipating the concentric plans of Henry VIII's coastal artillery castles. The designer was Henry Yevele. The castle was intended for coastal defence and for the defence of the planned town alongside it. It was also equipped as a royal residence. A ground plan survives, (drawing by Hollar), and also a 17th century Parliamentary survey prior to its demolition in 1650. It was said to be much out of repair and was accordingly sold and pulled down." (26)

From the National Heritage list for Enlgand:
Details
The monument includes an enclosure castle situated on low lying land on the north bank of The Creek, near the west coast of the Isle of Sheppey. The castle survives as a low circular earthwork mound, c.100m in diameter and 1.5m high, surrounded by the partially infilled remains of a moat. This is visible to the north and south of the mound as an earthwork up to 0.6m deep and between 12m and 18m wide. To the east, the outer edge of the moat has been cut away by the construction of the railway line and to the west it has been completely infilled but survives as a buried feature.

The early history of the castle is well documented, having been built by Edward III `for the defence of the realm and for the refuge of the inhabitants of the island' and named after Philippa, his queen. Its construction was started in 1361 and continued until 1369 with final touches, such as the outer gates, being finished between 1373 and 1375.

The plan of the masonry structure is known from an Elizabethan manuscript and comprised a central well within a small, circular inner ward, c.18m in diameter, surrounded by a circular keep, 40m in diameter, with six outer circular towers. Beyond this was the outer ward, enclosed by a circular curtain wall with a main gate to the west and a small postern gate to the east. Pairs of high walls connected the main gate with the western face of the keep and the postern with the keep's gate. Each of these walls had a gateway in it. The moat then ran around the curtain wall and was crossed by two drawbridges at the gateways. In 1382 six of the towers collapsed owing to an earthquake and were rebuilt by Richard II. Various alterations and repairs were carried out until 1650, when the castle was declared obsolete by the Parliamentary Commissioners. The structure was demolished soon after. The well was reopened and deepened in 1725 and was retained in use until the 20th century with a second well sunk next to the first in 1868.

In 1991 two shallow trenches were excavated in the north west corner of the site which located a cut likely to be the robber-trench where the stones of the outer curtain wall were removed after demolition.

Excluded from the scheduling are the bus shelter, fences, brick walls, car park surface, standing buildings, tarmac road surface, pavement, rubbish bins and streetlamps, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

Reasons for Designation
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo- Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. Between the Norman Conquest and the mid-13th century, mainly during the 12th century, a number of motte and bailey castles and ringworks were remodelled in stone. In the case of ringworks, this could involve the replacement of the timber palisade surmounting the defensive bank with a thick stone wall to form a "shell keep". With only 200 examples recorded in England, ringworks are rare nationally and shell keeps constructed on ringworks are particularly rare with only 8 examples known to have been converted in this way. As one of a limited number and very restricted range of Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.

Despite demolition of the above ground stonework in the 17th century and the construction of a pumping station, the site of Queenborough Castle survives comparatively well with buried features remaining largely undisturbed. It is the earliest example of a concentric circular castle in the country and is possibly the only royal castle to be constructed in the late medieval period. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the monument contains both archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and demolition.


Wessex Archaeology, A249 Iwade Bypass to Queenborough Road Improvements, Kent: Archaeological Survey: Stage 2: Preliminary Field Evaluation (Unpublished document). SKE11943.

Wessex Archaeology, A249 Iwade Bypass to Queenborough Road Improvements, Kent: Archaeological Survey: Stage 2: Preliminary Field Evaluation (Unpublished document). Ske11943.

<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> Castles of Great Britain 1953 207-208 Plan (S Toy) (OS Card Reference). SKE38640.

<3> Country Life 21 1 1949 136 (OS Card Reference). SKE39415.

<4> F1 ASP 20-AUG-63 (OS Card Reference). SKE42202.

<5> DOE (IAM Record From plan 31 1 84 (OS Card Reference). SKE40673.

<6> History of the King's Works 3 1485-1660 pt 1 292-293 (OS Card Reference). SKE44157.

<7> VCH Kent I 1908 408-409 plan (I Chalkley Gould) (OS Card Reference). SKE51172.

<8> Castellarium Anglicanum I 1983 232 (D J Cathcart King) (OS Card Reference). SKE38610.

<9> The Buildings of England North East and East Kent 1983 419 (J Newman ed N Pevsner) (OS Card Reference). SKE50201.

<10> Field report for monument TQ 97 SW 1 - August, 1963 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5018.

<12> Wessex Archaeology, 1996, Queenborough WTW, Archaeological Field Evaluation (Unpublished document). SWX7134.

<13> Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 1991 Oct, Queenborough Castle - Report Of Evaluation Trenches (Unpublished document). SWX6761.

<14> 1946, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX9518.

<15> 1946, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX9570.

<16> 1946, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX9571.

<17> 1947, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX9815.

<18> 2000, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10298.

<19> 2000, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10299.

<20> 1998, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX11299.

<21> 1998, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX11300.

<22> 1998, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX11301.

<23> Kent County Council, 1999, Survey of Kent post-1500 defence sites, KD9 (Index). SWX11828.

<24> GBS Prospection, 2005, Queenborough Castle: Gradiometer Survey (Unpublished document). SKE12953.

<25> Wessex Archaeology, 2006, Queenborough Castle, Isle of Sheppey, Kent: Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results (Unpublished document). SKE12954.

<26> Victor Smith and Andrew Saunders, 2001, Kent's Defence Heritage (Unpublished document). SKE6956.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
---Unpublished document: Wessex Archaeology. A249 Iwade Bypass to Queenborough Road Improvements, Kent: Archaeological Survey: Stage 2: Preliminary Field Evaluation.
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: Castles of Great Britain 1953 207-208 Plan (S Toy).
<3>OS Card Reference: Country Life 21 1 1949 136.
<4>OS Card Reference: F1 ASP 20-AUG-63.
<5>OS Card Reference: DOE (IAM Record From plan 31 1 84.
<6>OS Card Reference: History of the King's Works 3 1485-1660 pt 1 292-293.
<7>OS Card Reference: VCH Kent I 1908 408-409 plan (I Chalkley Gould).
<8>OS Card Reference: Castellarium Anglicanum I 1983 232 (D J Cathcart King).
<9>OS Card Reference: The Buildings of England North East and East Kent 1983 419 (J Newman ed N Pevsner).
<10>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 97 SW 1 - August, 1963.
<12>Unpublished document: Wessex Archaeology. 1996. Queenborough WTW, Archaeological Field Evaluation.
<13>Unpublished document: Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 1991 Oct. Queenborough Castle - Report Of Evaluation Trenches.
<14>Photograph (Print): 1946. Photograph. 3141. print.
<15>Photograph (Print): 1946. Photograph. 4058. print.
<16>Photograph (Print): 1946. Photograph. 4060. print.
<17>Photograph (Print): 1947. Photograph. 4026. print.
<18>Photograph (Print): 2000. Photograph. 157. print.
<19>Photograph (Print): 2000. Photograph. 159. print.
<20>Photograph (Print): 1998. Photograph. TQ9172/1. print.
<21>Photograph (Print): 1998. Photograph. TQ9172/2. print.
<22>Photograph (Print): 1998. Photograph. TQ9172/3. print.
<23>Index: Kent County Council. 1999. Survey of Kent post-1500 defence sites. KD9.
<24>Unpublished document: GBS Prospection. 2005. Queenborough Castle: Gradiometer Survey.
<25>Unpublished document: Wessex Archaeology. 2006. Queenborough Castle, Isle of Sheppey, Kent: Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results.
<26>Unpublished document: Victor Smith and Andrew Saunders. 2001. Kent's Defence Heritage.

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