Monument record CLA 008 - Clare Castle (Med)

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Scheduled Monument - A large motte and bailey castle probably founded by Richard Fitz Gilbert first of the 'de Clares' (S1). First recorded in 1090.


Grid reference Centred TL 771 452 (414m by 345m) (Centred on)
Map sheet TL74NE


Type and Period (9)

Full Description

A large motte and double bailey castle probably founded by Richard Fitz Gilbert, first of the 'de Clares' , in the 11th century, and occupied until the later 15th century (S1). Between 1317 and 1360 occupied by Elizabeth be Burgh who undertook extensive construction work and kept detailed records (GSB Prospection, Geophysical Survey Report 2003/14). First referred to in 1090 when the church of St John was explicitly stated to lie within Clare Castle.
Castle is on S side of town, 20 acres in area (R8)(S2).
Motte - circumference 850 feet, height 53 feet, with remains of circular shell-keep, perhaps C12/C13, but with late footings, buttresses and battlements (S1).
Inner Bailey - to SE, now almost entirely occupied by Railway Station, and part of earthworks destroyed but N rampart, with remains of curtain wall, secondary Motte with traces of C13 tiled buildings on top and S rampart survive (S1).
Outer bailey - to NE divided from inner bailey by broad, swampy moat, now cut by road and used as playground - ramparts on NE side well defined. Further swamps flank the whole E side of castle (S1).
Some excavations in 1849 - tiles, pottery etc, and supposed doorway of Church of St John Baptist "in Castello" (R5)(S1).
Reckoning counter found 1960 (CLREM), in Outer Bailey - Edward II.
1950s: limited excavations by Knocker in outer bailey (R4).
1981: Whole site is now Country Park. Remains of shell keep masonry in reasonable condition. All earthworks covered in trees - scrub, difficult to define - 2nd motte impenetrable. Railway now disused - buildings house Information Centre. Some slight erosion of main motte due to children sliding. Some dead trees on ramparts (S1).
1991: earthworks heavily overgrown. Outer bailer earthwork hardly visible (S3).
1993: surface survey of area immediately east of inner bailey - nothing archaeologically significant - details in (S5).
2003: for summary history and geophysical survey of parts of monument see GSB Prospection, Geophysical Survey Report 2003/14.
See also Sax.
2012: Monitoring of the shell keep and bailey wall during consolidation of the monument. The remains date from different phases of development of the castle: the bailey wall is a striking example of Norman wall building which is likely to date to the 11th century. The shell keep is later as the treatment of the flint contrasts with the bailey wall and shows none of the indicators of Norman architecture. The use of brick and tile fragments in the core confirms its post Norman dating and the style of the buttresses suggests a later 13th century date; a period when the construction of this type of castle was coming to an end. The presence of later brickwork suggests that the remains of the castle were maintained in the post-medieval period, long after it had stopped being a residence, probably as a romantic ruin to enhance the landscape (S6)

Due to castle in the parish 'normal' manor land marks are missing. It has been decided therefore that the manor was at the castle.
Pre 1066 Aelfric son of Withgar gave this manor to St John, 5 free men have always belonged to this manor with all customary due. King William I took the manor back.
1066 manor of 24 carucates held by Aelfric.
1086 Manor of 24 carucates belonged to Richard, son of Count Gilbert. Manor descended through the Earls of Clare, Hereford, and Gloucester to the Mortimers.
1462 Cicely, Duchess of York, the kings mother.
1553 Granted to Sir J. Cheke. However, Queen Mary took the manor in exchange for other lands. It became annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster, where it remained. For long periods the Barnardiston family possessed it, passing to Elwes of Stoke College.
1909 John Payne Elwes posseses. (S7)

Sub Manor - Stonehall al Stonehouse Al manse manor.
1533 Granted by the Crown to Thomas and Heorge Golding. (S7)

Earthworks visible on Lidar. See associated files.

Sources/Archives (20)

  • --- Photograph: Air Photographs. NAU, TL 769 452/JEH 1 & JEJ 3 & 8, 24/7/1992.
  • --- Suffolk County Historic Environment Record: Suffolk County Council Sites and Monuments Record: Clare.
  • <R1> (No record type): Tymms Samuel, Clare Castle, PSIA, 1, 61-66 (ill).
  • <M1> (No record type): SAM file:.
  • <S1> Unpublished document: Department of the Environment. Scheduling information.
  • <R2> (No record type): BM, Addl Mss 6735.
  • <S2> Unpublished document: Basil Brown. Basil Brown Archive. Brown B, XCVIII, 103, photograph, XC, B10 8.
  • <M2> Unpublished document: Basil Brown. Basil Brown Archive. Basil Brown Archive: volume.
  • <S3> (No record type): Suff Pres Soc (Paul Edwards) survey, table of results, 1991.
  • <M3> (No record type): APs: ALN 18-20; NAU GDU 1-3, 5.
  • <R3> Bibliographic reference: 1911. Victoria County History, Suffolk (VCH). 1911.
  • <R4> (No record type): Knocker, G.M.. Knocker G M, Clare Castle Excavations, 1955, PSIA, 1959, 28, 2, 136-152.
  • <S4> Photograph: Essex County Council. Air Photograph. Essex CC, BW/99/12/12, 99/13/3 & 99/13/5&6, 1999.
  • <R5> (No record type): Arch J, 6, 190.
  • <S5> Unpublished document: Suffolk County Council Archaeologcial Service. Site Report. Newman J (or Loader T) (SCCAS), site report, Feb 1993, map.
  • <R6> (No record type): Suff Arch Proc, 1, 25.
  • <S6> Unpublished document: Gill, D.. 2012. Archaeological Monitoring Report: Clare Castle monitoring of masonry repairs.
  • <R7> (No record type): Little Guide Suffolk, 118, 119.
  • <S7> Photograph: Air Photographs. NAU, TL 771 452/JEG 15, 24/7/1992.
  • <R8> (No record type): White's Suffolk.

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Related Events/Activities (6)

Record last edited

Sep 21 2020 12:00PM

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