Dunster Castle and Gatehouse, Dunster

Record ID:  119640 / MNA176582
Record type:  Building
Protected Status: Scheduled Monument, Registered Park or Garden, Listed Building: Grade I
NT Property:  Dunster Castle; South West
Civil Parish:  Dunster; West Somerset; Somerset
Grid Reference:  SS 9919 4348
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Summary

Castle with 11th C origins, the current house evolved on the site of the Bailey or Lower Ward. The oldest feature is the 13th C gateway. The present buildings were totally reconstructed c1617, refurnished in 18th C & greatly enlarged and remodelled 1869-72 by A. Salvin.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • BAILEY (Medieval to Early 17th C - 1066 AD to 1632 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Built, Medieval - 1404 AD to 1428 AD)
  • HOUSE (Early 17th C to Early 21st century - 1617 AD to 2050 AD)

Description

English Heritage - List entry 1057643
UID 264651

From EH listing
Built originally by William de Mohun in the 11th century. Of the Norman castle no trace remains, the oldest surviving feature is the 13th century Gateway flanked on either side by a semi-circular tower with a vaulted chamber at ground floor level lit by arrow loops. Adjoining the gateway is the Gatehouse erected in 1420 by Sir Hugh Luttrell, the first of the family to live at the Castle. The heraldic panel over the entrance was set up in the 16th century. Two buttresses were added to the east wall in 1428. In 1764 the level of the lower ward was raised, submerging the first two storeys, the upper part was enlarged by the addition of two battle- mented polygonal turrets on the west side, pierced by arrow loops.
The present castle buildings were thoroughly reconstructed from circa 1617 onwards from designs probably by William Arnold, refurnished in the 18th century and extensively enlarged and remodelled in 1869-72 by Anthony Salvin. Red sandstone walling dressed and coursed on the west wing and porch tower elsewhere random rubble. Window surrounds in dressed Doulting stone. Mainly three storeys, H-shaped plan of Jacobean building altered in 19th century to roughly L-shaped. Main elevation to north-west comprises embattled centre block, single square headed mullioned and transomed windows either side of porch tower. 4-centred entrance doorway with wood mould terminated with label stops bearing initials of members of Luttrell family. Large coat of arms above. West wing with three window front and staircase tower in return angle. East wing has prominent octagonal staircase tower with conical roof and arrow loops. Good interior features of 17th and 18th centuries including oak staircases, ornate plaster ceilings and overmantles, panelling, etc.

Below taken from Pastscape Record
Summary
Castle of 11th century origins, rebuilt in the mid 13th century and 1420. The house was built circa 1617 and altered in 1867. By 1086 a castle, probably of the motte and bailey type, was established here by the Mohun family using the strong natural defences of the hill. A stone-built castle was in existence by 1138 but no masonry from this seems to survive. At about that time the castle was held by William de Mohun against Henry de Tracy and although seigeworks were erected, no structures remain. In the Civil War it was held against the Royalists, but was taken by them in 1642. Later in 1645-6, after a six month seige, it was retaken by the Parliamentarians. In 1649 it was ordered to be dismantled, although little demolition was carried out. A view of the castle in 1733 shows the motte used as a gazebo and pleasure garden, but with much of the rest of the castle retaining medieval features. The scheduling relates to the natural features and associated below ground remains which together formed the medieval motte and bailey of Dunster Castle.

Detail
[Centred SS 99114344] Dunster Castle [NR] Site of Keep [NR] (1)

Dunster Castle. Nothing now remains of the Norman castle or of the later medieval buildings. The old gateway to the Lower Ward with the towers flanking it, and some sections of wall are probably mid 13th century. In 1420 Sir Hugh Luttrell built a new gatehouse spanning the approach from the town; this still stands, but two towers were added on its inner side in the 18th century. The existing house dates in the main from c.1571 but since then, substantial alterations have taken place culminating in those of 1867 (2).

Description and plan - see Illustration Card . (2-3)

The castle is sited on a steep sided hill. The Norman motte seems to have been formed by scarping the hill top, and it is difficult to differentiate between natural and artificial slopes. This difficulty has been further increased by later terracing of the hill, for a carriage drive and landscape gardening. Earthworks surveyed at 1:2500. (4)

Dunster Castle and gatehouse, Grade I, Castle Hill. Built originally by William de Mohun in the 11th century. Of the Norman castle no trace remains, the oldest surviving feature is the 13th century gateway. The gatehouse was erected in 1420. (For full description see list.) (5)

The place name Dunster indicates that in the Saxon period the torre, presumably Castle Hill, belonged to a man called Dun and it is possible that the hill may have been fortified in pre-Conquest times. By 1086 a castle, probably of the motte and bailey type, was established here by the Mohun family using the strong natural defences of the hill. A stone built castle was in existence by 1138 but no masonry from this seems to survive. At about that time the castle was held by William de Mohun against Henry de Tracy and although seigeworks were erected, no structures remain. There are many medieval references to buildings and structures in both an upper and lower ward of the castle. In the Civil War it was held against the Royalists, but was taken by them in 1642. Later in 1645-6, after a six month seige, it was retaken by the Parliamentarians. In 1649 it was ordered to be dismantled, although little demolition was carried out. A view of the castle in 1733 shows the motte used as a gazebo and pleasure garden, but with much of the rest of the castle retaining medieval features. (6-8)

Additional bibliography. (9-21)

As reported by authy 4, the site of the original Norman motte and bailey is difficult to discern due to three factors: the extreme topography of the hill on which the castle is sited; later landscaping and dense garden planting; later building and re-building work. The current 1:2500 depiction records the motte as an earthwork centred at SS 9910 4345, with a very level top, the result of early 18th century landscaping. The bailey was in the level area to the northeast, now occupied by the Castle. Part of a curtain wall and tower from the 13th century survive at SS 9914 4354. (22).

The history of the Castle has been researched in considerable dtail by Gibb, who records the site from earliest times onwards (23).

Listed by Cathcart King. (24)

Additional reference. (25)
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SOURCE TEXT
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( 1) Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
OS 6" 1928-38

( 2) Royal Archaeological Institute The Archaeological Journal
(M Whinney) 107, 1950 Page(s)123

( 3) Royal Archaeological Institute The Archaeological Journal
(G T Clark) 36, 1879 Page(s)309-20, 400-01

( 4) Field Investigators Comments
F1 GHP 27-MAY-65

( 5) List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
District of West Somerset, August 1983 Page(s)8

( 6) by Michael Aston and Roger Leech 1977 Historic towns in Somerset
Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon, Gloucestershire and Somerset surveysNo 1 (1975) - no 6 (1983) no.2 Page(s)46

( 7) compiled and edited by Robin Fedden and Rosemary Joekes 1977 The National Trust guide
Page(s)100-2

( 8) Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, Bath
125, 1981 Page(s)1-14

( 9) Royal Archaeological Institute The Archaeological Journal
37, 1880 Page(s)386-404,

(10) by Eric R Delderfield 1968 West Country historic houses and their families. Volume 1 : Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset
Page(s)51-5

(11) General reference
Armitage E S. 1912. Early Norman Castles Page(s)145-6, 398

(12) by Geo T Clark 1884 Medieval military architecture in England. Volume 1
1 Page(s)24-32, 146

(13) Country Life
14 Page(s)689-694

(14) General reference
Mackenzie J. 1887. Castles of England 2, 54

(15) Devonshire Association reports and transactions
60, 1928 Page(s)34-40

(16) General reference
Armitage E S. 1904. English Historic Review 19, 229-30

(17) Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, Bath
52, 1906 Page(s)56-63

(18) Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, Bath
(A W Vivian-Neal) 104, 1960 Page(s)63

(19) by Charles Oman 1926 Castles

Page(s)60

(20) General reference
Turner T H. Domestic Architecture of England 3 Pt 2, 339

(21) by Nikolaus Pevsner 1958 South and west Somerset
The buildings of England Page(s)156-57

(22) English Heritage Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England
Somerset Part 37

(22) Field Investigators Comments
Riley H 1998 RCHME Field Investigation

(23) David J Cathcart King 1983 Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
2 Page(s)442

(24) edited by Peter Furtado et al 1988 Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain
Page(s)83

(25) Scheduled Monument Notification
Scheduling revision 24-Apr-2002

Sir Walter Luttrell gave the castle and Old Park to the National Trust in 1976.

References

  • SNA64771 - Collection: National Trust. Undated photographs and reconstruction drawingsrelating to Dunster Castle..

  • SNA65029 - Unpublished document: Martin Papworth. 2011. Dunster Castle Somerset Heritage Impact Assessment & WSI Path to Summer House.

  • SNA65034 - Unpublished document: Michael Heaton Heritage Consultants. 2009. Dunster Castle Roof Repairs.

  • SNA66368 - Unpublished document: Hughes Simon. 2015. Dunster Castle Drainage Works, Dunster, Somerset.

  • SZN48234 - Unpublished document: Kate Felus and John Phibbs. Survey of the Historic Landscape, Dunster Castle, Somerset.

Designations

Other Statuses and References

  • Conservation Area
  • HER/SMR Reference (External): MSO9412
  • National Park

Associated Events

  • ENA3168 - Field Survey, Historic Landscape Survey Dunster June 2004
  • ENA6487 - Archaeological Intervention, Dunster Castle Roof Repairs 2006-08
  • ENA7901 - Non Archaeological Intervention, Watching brief on drain repairs path SE of Gatehouse (Ref: ACD1086/2/0)
  • ENA9528 - Archaeological Intervention, monitoring and recording, vaulted brick walkway, Dunster castle. 2019

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

None Recorded