Castle Cary

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Castle Cary
A church with spire surrounded by trees and houses.
In the foreground, the motte and bailey of the old castle. Behind is Castle Cary church.
Castle Cary is located in Somerset
Castle Cary
Castle Cary
Location within Somerset
Population2,276 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceST641322
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBA7
Dialling code01963
PoliceAvon and Somerset
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
51°05′17″N 2°30′50″W / 51.08798°N 2.51395°W / 51.08798; -2.51395Coordinates: 51°05′17″N 2°30′50″W / 51.08798°N 2.51395°W / 51.08798; -2.51395

Castle Cary (/ˌkɑːsəl ˈkɛəri/) is a market town and civil parish in south Somerset, England, 5 miles (8 km) north west of Wincanton and 8 miles (12.9 km) south of Shepton Mallet, at the foot of Lodge Hill and on the River Cary, a tributary of the Parrett.


The word Cary derives from the Celtic caer meaning rock, crag or castle, making the term Castle Cary a double-play. Castle Cary is said to take half its name from River Cary, itself an aporia.[2]

The first Cary Castle was besieged in 1138 and again in 1152. It was originally made of timber frame, as it would have been built by the Normans and inherited their building traditions in wood. Cary first appears in recorded history after the Norman invasion in the 11th century though according to Castle Cary history 'there is evidence the site was occupied and fortified before this.[citation needed] The second castle was abandoned by the mid-15th century in favour of a manor house and the stones pillaged for other buildings in the town.[citation needed]

It would seem that the second castle was begun in the 13th century around 1250 and built in Cary stone, indicating that the Hadspen Quarry was in operation at this time.[citation needed] It suggests the Church of All Saints, Castle Cary was begun at a similar time and completed over centuries.[citation needed]

Castle Cary Manor[edit]

Castle Cary Manor was given to the Lovels by King Stephen of Blois, who reigned from 22 December 1135 to 25 October 1154 (18 years 308 days). The castle was besieged by King Stephen of Blois in 1138 in his struggle for the throne of England with his cousin Matilda. When the Lovels failed to produce a male heir during the reign of King Edward III, it passed through marriage to Nicholas de S. Maure, a Baron. It passed again through female heir during the time of King Henry V to Lord Zouches of Harringworth. King Henry VII attainting John Lord Zouch gave the Castle to Robert Willoughby Lord Brook and Lord Zouch's lands at Bridge-water to Lord Daubney. The Zouches had backed King Richard III, the wrong side of the struggle between Richard III and the Tudors.[citation needed]

Castle Cary was granted a formal market charter in 1468 from Edward V. It developed as a market town with a number of rural industries, wool flourishing. The Greene King George Hotel is said to have been constructed around this time, rebuilt after a fire and the Market House from Cary stone 150 years later, 1616.[citation needed] Cary flourished in the 16th century, as indicated by its muster roll when threatened by Spanish invasion late in the century. By 1700 Castle Cary was known for its cloth production, when linen weaving replaced wool at the end of the century. In 1837 John Boyd began making horse-hair textiles, for which he is still renowned today and produces on the original 1870 looms. The diary of Reverend James Woodforde born in Ansford in 1740 provides an insight into 18th century life in the Parish.[3]

The manor was bought in the 1780s by the Hoares of Stourhead in Wiltshire.[4] In 1785 Henry Hobhouse Esquire purchased Hadspen and Hadspen House as the Hobhouse family seat.[5] In the 18th century Castle Cary changed. The Donnes established flax mills making twine, sail cloth, webbing still situated today in the 1877 Florida House.[citation needed] In 1837 the Cricket Club was founded winning the first and only Olympic medal in 1900, though the possibility of it being contested at the Olympics again has resurfaced.[6] The Market House was rebuilt in 1855 in anticipation of increased trade influenced by the railway station. Today the Castle Cary station today is known as the main station to the Glastonbury Festival. In recent years the town has expanded northwards the centre changing little.

Its change starting in the late 18th century was due to the investments of the Hoares and the purchase of Hadpsen and Hadpsen House by Henry Hobhouse Esquire, once part of Castle Cary Manor. Henry Hobhouse Esquire made significant investments in Castle Cary Manor.[citation needed] Castle Cary now comprises a significant part of Hadspen.[citation needed]

On 19 June 2004, Castle Cary was granted Fairtrade Village status.


The Town Council has responsibility for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to cover the council's operating costs and producing annual accounts for public scrutiny. The Town Council evaluates local planning applications and works with the local police, district council officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime, security, and traffic. The Town Council's role also includes initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of town facilities, as well as consulting with the district council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters (including trees and listed buildings) and environmental issues are the responsibility of the district council.

The town falls within the Non-metropolitan district of South Somerset, which was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Wincanton Rural District.[7] The district council is responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.

Somerset County Council is responsible for running the largest and most expensive local services such as education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, policing and fire services, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.

The town is in the Cary electoral ward. This stretches south to the North Cadbury parish, and south west to Babcary. The population of the ward at the 2011 census was 5,502.[8]

It is also part of the Somerton and Frome constituency represented in the House of Commons. Prior to Brexit in 2020, it was in the South West England constituency of the European Parliament.


Castle Cary railway station is on the main Reading to Taunton line and the Heart of Wessex line. It is about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the town. Every year around the time of the summer solstice this railway station is used by thousands of festival goers who travel to nearby Worthy Farm for the Glastonbury Festival (about 7 miles from Glastonbury) – a parade of free buses and coaches take ticket holders to and from the festival site.

Bus services operate from the town to Yeovil, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wincanton.

The town is on the Monarch's Way long-distance footpath.


The market hall
The Roundhouse

Attractions in Castle Cary include a small circular eighteenth-century prison called the roundhouse. This is a temporary prison, or village lock-up. It was built in 1779 by Mr WM Clark for £23, from money left to the poor of Castle Cary in 1605.[9] The structure is circular, stone and has a domed roof. It is 7 feet (2.1 m) in diameter and 10 feet (3.0 m) high with two iron grills for ventilation.[10] The building has an inner and outer door. The interior of the building has a single stone privy. In 1992, the Lord of the Manor, Sir Henry Hoare Bt., gave the building to the parish council.[11]

The Market House a grade II* listed building built in 1855 in anticipation of increased trade after the projected arrival of the railway in 1856, by F.C. Penrose. It replaced the former house on the site which had stood since 1616, and incorporating some features from the earlier building.[12] The market house contains the local Castle Cary and District Museum. There is a varied collection of exhibits spread over the two floors of the building. The earliest are local fossils including ammonites and a display about the discovery of an ichthyosaurus at Alford. Local industry and agriculture are represented with displays on the production of rope and hemp and a collection of agricultural implements, tools and relics.[13] A room is dedicated to the life and work of Parson James Woodforde who was born at the Parsonage in nearby Ansford in 1740. He was later curate at Thurloxton before moving to Norfolk. For nearly 45 years he kept a diary recording an existence the very ordinariness of which provides a unique insight into the everyday routines and concerns of 18th century rural England.

Hadspen House is Grade II* Listed manor house outside the town.[14] The original farmhouse was built by William Player between 1687 and 1689; the Hobhouse family acquired the house in 1785 and have owned it ever since. The gardens were restored by the garden writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse in the late 1960s.[15]

The Grade II* listed Top Mill Building at Higher Flax Mills which was built in the 19th century is on the Heritage at Risk Register.[16]

The Newt in Somerset, located in Hadspen, is a working estate with gardens, woodland, farmland and cyder orchards.[17][18]

Religious sites[edit]

The largest church in the town is All Saints', which dates from 1470 and is notable for its high steeple, which contains six bells dating from 1760 and made by Thomas Bilbie of the Bilbie family.[19] It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building.[20] The Cosenes monument in the churchyard, which dates from the 16th century, is on the Heritage at Risk Register.[21]

There is also a Methodist church and St Andrew's in the neighbouring parish of Ansford.

Notable residents[edit]

Notable people from the town include the 18th-century diarist James Woodforde who was curate between 1765 and 1775 and Douglas Macmillan, founder of the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity. The Macmillan Way walking trail passes through the town.


The town has a primary and a secondary school. Castle Cary Community Primary School dates from 1840,[22] whereas Ansford Academy built in 1940 with additional rooms for science, technology, mathematics and modern languages being added in the 1970s. A new £1.7 million Sports Centre was completed in 2005.[23]


  1. ^ "Statistics for Wards, LSOAs and Parishes — SUMMARY Profiles" (Excel). Somerset Intelligence. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  2. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1991). The concise Oxford dictionary of English place-names. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-19-869103-7. OCLC 489779493.
  3. ^ Beresford, John (1924). The Diary Of A Country Parson. pp. 10.
  4. ^ Bush, Robin (1994). Somerset: The complete guide. Wimbourne: Dovecote Press. p. 56. ISBN 1-874336-26-1.
  5. ^ Burke, Esq., John (1838). History of The Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Henry Colburn. pp. 360–61.
  6. ^ Wigmore, Tom (25 July 2017). "Cricket is on the verge of making its application for Olympic inclusion". The Guardian. (account required)
  7. ^ "Wincanton RD". A vision of Britain Through Time. University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Cary ward 2011". Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  9. ^ Byford, Enid (1987). Somerset Curiosities. Dovecote Press. p. 16. ISBN 0946159483.
  10. ^ Historic England. "The Round House (1056279)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  11. ^ Warren, Derrick (2005). Curious Somerset. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7509-4057-3.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Market House (1056254)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  13. ^ "Castle Cary Museum". Castle Cary Museum. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  14. ^ Historic England. "Hadspen House (1251809)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Gardening guru Penelope Hobhouse sells her Dorset house and garden". Times. 30 March 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Top mill building, Higher Flax Mills, Torbay Road, Castle Cary — South Somerset". Heritage at Risk. English Heritage. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "The Newt in Somerset". The Telegraph. 17 September 2019.
  19. ^ Moore, James; Rice, Roy; Hucker, Ernest (1995). Bilbie and the Chew Valley clock makers. The authors. ISBN 0-9526702-0-8.
  20. ^ Historic England. "Church of All Saints (1056241)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  21. ^ "Cosenes monument, Church of All Saints, Church Street, Castle Cary — South Somerset". Heritage at Risk. English Heritage. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  22. ^ Historic England. "Castle Cary Primary School (1307353)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
  23. ^ "Ansford School Facilities". Ansford School. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2009.

External links[edit]