Old Sherborne Castle

Old Sherborne Castle, Dorset

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Castleton Road, Sherborne


Off B3145



Sherborne Old Castle was built less than a mile from the monastery of Sherborne, then one of the richest religious houses in southern England.

It was once surrounded and protected by a marsh, now long silted up

2~ History ~

705 ~ A diocese is established at Sherborne by Ine, King of Wessex, who appoints Aldhelm as its first bishop.

He latest founds Sherborne Cathedral.

1075 ~ Following the Norman Conquest the bishopic is moved from Sherborne to Old Sarum.

1122 ~ Roger of Caen, Bishop if Salisbury, commences the building of Sherborne Castle to serve as a military base for the protection of the extremely prosperous church property in the area. The site is specially chosen due to its features, a small hill surrounded by a lake and marshland. It takes fisteen years to complete,

1135 ~ King Henry I dies and the country is plunged into a civil war. Roger of Caen, one of Henry's most important and loyal supporters, declares for the King's nephew Stephen, against the King's wishes, that his daughter the Empress Matilda, be crowned Queen of England. The declaration of support to Stephen by his uncle's powerful Chancellor proves to be crucial to his fight for the Crown.

1139 ~ Whilst King Stephen is absent in Normandy, Roger acts for the King in England, but he grows to mistrust Roger, encouraged by those who envy Roger's position. Events start to move quickly. Fearing Roger means to transfer his loyalty to his rival the Empress Matilda, King Stephen summons him to court. Here, together with his son and two of his nephews, he is arrested. Sherborne Castle is ceized. A borken man, Roger dies before he is able to face trial.

1143 ~ King Stephen loses control of the castle into the hands of the Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son of King Henry I.

1183 ~ The castle revertes back to the Crown under Empress Matlida's son, King  Henry II. Improvements are made to the castle.

1215 ~ Prompted by his barons uprisings, King John orders the defences of the castle be upgraded.

1261 ~ A survey reports the castle as 'in a ruinous state'.

1267 ~ Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, is appointed governor of the castle and sets about repairing the castle.

1290's ~ Edmund's brother, King Edward I, visits the castle several times and has ten welsh hostages imprisoned in the castle during his campaigns against the Welsh.

1330 ~ King Edward III grants the castle to William Montagu, who he later creates Earl of Salisbury.

1355 ~ Bishop Robert Wyvil  decides to press forward with his long standing intention to recover the castle. He chooses to settle the matter by trial of combat against the Earl. As a clergyman he is prohibited from fighting, so chooses a champion to fight on his behalf. The Earl is also not keen tofight in person, so he too chooses a champion. In the end the matter is resolved behind the scenes by the bishop agreeing to pay 2,500 marks to the Earl and 500 marks to the King for return of the castle.

The bishop is declared victor.

1357 ~ The bishop entertains King Edward III's eldest son, the Black Prince, at his castle.

1377 ~ The bishop renews his attempts to obtain a license to crenellate Sherborne.

1450 ~ The castle is plundered by local inhabitants disatisfied with the unpopular King Henry VI. Bishop William Aiscough, a member of the King's inner circle, is dragged from celebrating mass and is stabbed to death.

1480's ~ Bishop Thomas Langton takes up residence at Sherborne Castle. He demolishes much of Roger's original buildings replacing them with more fashionable and comfortable dwellings.

1592 ~ Sir  Walter Ralegh persuades Queen Elizabeth I to transfer the lease of the decaying Sherborne Castle to him. Seven years later he purchaes the freehold to the castle. He sets about modernising its buildings, but eventually decides to instead abandon this work and instead upgrade a neaby hunting lodge into a country house in the latest tudor fashion.

1603 ~ Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Ralegh is arrested for treason. His wife Bess, is permitted to keep Sherborne Castle.

1608 ~ King James I purchases the castle for the Earl of Somerset and then later his son Henry, Prince of Wales.

1617 ~ The King sells the castle to Sir John Digby, his ambassador to Spain, for £10,000. He is later created Baron and then Earl, before retiring at Sherbourne.

1642 ~ The castle is garrisoned for King Charles I and repaits are made to its defences in anticipation of an attack. 

Parliamentary forces lay siege to the castle but are repeatedly repelled by field-gun fire from the castle. After more than 2 weeks siege, the Royalist garrison finally surrender and are allowed to withdraw, leaving the castle to be occupied by parliamentary troops. Within four months they are evicted by a small Royalist force.

1645 ~ Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax lay siege to the castle. Its garrison of 150 soldiers and calvery hold out against artillery bombardment, mining and being forced to retreat to the great tower for 11 days before being forced to surrender. Much of the castles belongings are sold and is walls demolished so as it can never again be held against Parliament.