Montacute Castle

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Montacute Castle
Montacute, Somerset
View west from the tower on St Michael's Hill, Montacute - - 71082.jpg
View from the site of Monacute Castle
Montacute Castle is located in Somerset
Montacute Castle
Montacute Castle
Coordinates50°56′57″N 2°43′23″W / 50.9493°N 2.7231°W / 50.9493; -2.7231Coordinates: 50°56′57″N 2°43′23″W / 50.9493°N 2.7231°W / 50.9493; -2.7231
Grid referencegrid reference ST493169
TypeMotte and bailey
Site information
OwnerNational Trust
Open to
the public
Site history
Battles/wars1068 uprising

Montacute Castle was a castle built on a hill overlooking the village of Montacute, Somerset, England.


Montacute Castle was built after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 by Robert of Mortain.[1] The castle was part of a new settlement called Mons Acutus - literally, sharp hill - built on land that Robert had acquired from Athelney Abbey in exchange for the manor of Purse Caundle, an expensive exchange for Robert.[2] The natural features of the hill were used to form an oval-shaped motte and an inner bailey, surrounded by an outer bailey beyond.[3] A park for hunting was established alongside the castle and the village.[4]

Map of Montacute Castle

The location for the castle is thought to have been a deliberate political statement by Robert: before the battle of Hastings, the Anglo-Saxons had discovered what they believed to be a holy cross on the hill.[5] Taken into battle by Harold Godwinson who held it in great esteem, "the holy cross" had also been used as the battle cry of the Anglo-Saxon army against the Normans.[5]

Robert made Montacute Castle the caput, or main castle, of his honour, abandoning another castle he built in Somerset, Castle Neroche.[6] The castle was unsuccessfully besieged in 1068 during a major Anglo-Saxon revolt against Norman rule, but the rebels were defeated by Geoffrey de Montbray, the Bishop of Coutances.[7] In 1102, however, William of Mortain (Robert's son) gave the castle and the surrounding lands to the Cluniac order, who founded Montacute Priory there.[8]

The castle was no longer of military value and was left to decline, although the castle chapel, dedicated to Saint Michael, continued in use until at least 1315.[9] The antiquarian John Leland described the castle in 1540 as "party fell to ruin", and by this period it was being quarried for its stone, ultimately resulting in its disappearance.[3] The castle chapel was eventually rebuilt after the destruction of the surrounding castle.[3]

Today the site is a scheduled monument.[10] An 18th century folly, St. Michael's Hill Tower, named after the castle chapel, stands on the site today, making use of part of the castle chapel's foundations.[11] The site is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.[12][13] English Heritage staff surveyed the site for the National Trust in April 2000.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richardson, p.3.
  2. ^ Richardson, p.3; Pounds, p.68.
  3. ^ a b c Richardson, p.7.
  4. ^ Richardson, p.8.
  5. ^ a b Parishes: Montacute, A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 3 (1974), pp. 210-224, accessed 13 July 2011; Richardson, p.3.
  6. ^ Pounds, p.64.
  7. ^ Richardson, p.4; Liddiard, p.35; Mackenzie, p.63.
  8. ^ Creighton, p.117; Richardson, p.4.
  9. ^ Richardson, pp.4, 7.
  10. ^ Richardson, p.7; Motte and bailey castle, Montacute, Somerset Historic Environment Record, Somerset County Council, accessed 14 July 2011.
  11. ^ Richardson, p.7, citing Adkins and Adkins (1989).
  12. ^ "St Michaels Hill, Montacute". National Trust. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Outdoor Adventure". National Trust. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  14. ^ Montacute Castle, Pastscape National Monuments Record, English Heritage, accessed 14 July 2011.