History of Stourton Caundle

The Castle

By Richard Miles

The fortified manor house of Caundle Haddon

An impressive manorial dwelling stood for more than three centuries in our village but which disappeared during the 16th Century and has since been long-forgotten with precious little evidence of its existence remaining. I have been researching the subject and am hopeful we may one day discover its exact location.

The two ancient structures that have survived since the early 13th Century are the Church of St. Peter, and the Chapel of St. Andrew; both of which are mentioned in the will of Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn made in 1412. The Chapel is located 90m west of Manor Farmhouse and would have been built as a private place of worship for the Lord of the Manor, Henry de Haddon and his family. As such it would have been built within the grounds of the Manor House. The Chapel was more extensive in those days with a family graveyard adjoining the Nave, which was also connected to a Chancel building on its northern side. Both are shown on the 1798 map of the parish, but some time after that date the Chancel appears to have been demolished.

Hutchins, in the 1730’s, described the existence of the remains of a ‘castle’ of which nothing survived except for a few indeterminate scarps and mounds, and a platform 45 yards square and about 6 inches high. This platform was located some 300 yards south-west of the Church. British History Online states that there is no evidence of a medieval castle; and that the remains more probably represent a former manor house, perhaps with turrets, as shown on a plan in the Wiltshire Record Office (Stourhead papers, 929). Immediately south of this site was an L-shaped pond, then dry, some 100 yards long, 30 yards wide and up to 10 feet deep.

Back in 2009, Tim Villiers and I made a visit to the Record Office in Chippenham, and at that time I looked at a late-18th Century plan, entitled “Ground plan or Foundation of old Demolished Castle at Stourton Caundle”. Twelve years on and, thanks to modern technology, I have now obtained a scanned copy of the document, a version of which is shown below:

CastlePlan_BW_tiny.jpg

The dimensions are given in feet, the building being 90 feet square with an inner courtyard some 40 feet square, turrets 16 feet in diameter on each northern corner and two wings on the southern corners. At the front there is an outer 65 x 15 feet entrance court facing an ‘L’–shaped pond 306 feet on its longest side and 50 feet on its shortest. This is all very impressive and grand in scale, reminiscent of a Norman keep and certainly fitting the ‘fortified manor house’ category. But where was it and what has happened to it?

Fortunately the record office has an old map dated 1709 and on this there is drawn in light blue an ‘L’–shaped pond having exactly the same proportions as that shown in the plan. Above it are the words, “an old house”. Since we know (from the plan) the location of the ‘castle’ relative to the pond, it is possible to find the position of the castle on the map. However, it hasn’t proved that simple a task and what I have done is to use a definitive satellite image on which there is a 100-metre grid shown as spots with four other maps: the 1709 one; the 1798 parish map; the 1885 25-inch-to-the-mile map of the area, which also happens to have a cross marked on it entitled “Castle (site of)”; and the North Dorset Local Plan 46 of Stourton Caundle drawn up in 2003, which shows locations of Ancient Monuments and Sites of Archaeological Importance.The 1798 map is a very good match to the locations of the old buildings on the satellite view, but the 1885 map is almost a dead match with most things within a yard or so of where they really are – A marvellous testimony to the skill of surveyors in the Victorian times.

A full account of the analysis of the maps and the findings will be posted on the village website. Here I’ve summarised what I found out and show below a depiction of the location of the castle and pond superimposed on the satellite view:

Satellite_view_Castle_OS25detailed.jpg

As you can see, if you walked out of the front entrance of the castle all those years ago, you would have been able to walk alongside the Fish Pond and over to the Chapel just 70 yards away. Adjoining the Chapel, the 1798 map shows another building, likely to be the Chancel. It’s not so strange that Enid Blyton in her novel “Five on Finniston Farm” (modelled on Manor Farm) refers to there having been a Norman castle nearby.

I have searched the Web to see whether anything of a similar construction can be found elsewhere in the UK or even further afield. Old Wardour Castle, situated just across the border in Wiltshire, has some similarities measuring 90 feet across at the front (the same size as ‘our castle’) and having an inner courtyard. Old Wardour was built in the 1390’s and to some extent may have been modelled on the one here.

You’ll have to wait for Part 2 to find out more about the Castle at Stourton Caundle and the reason it was demolished.

Richard Miles

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