History of Nunney Castle

Built by a soldier returning from fighting abroad, Nunney Castle is as much the realisation of an ideal as a stronghold intended for serious defence. It was built by a knight called John de la Mare under a royal licence issued in 1373. 

A plan of the castle showing the possible extent of its walled outer court

A plan of the castle showing the possible extent of its walled outer court, marked as a black dotted line. (Based upon Ordnance Survey material with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.  © Crown copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. English Heritage 100019088. 2006)

Sir John’s Castle

Sir John was a figure of relatively modest means who was beginning to enjoy royal favour. The new castle displayed his growing power in the locality.

The tower formerly stood within a larger courtyard enclosed on three sides by a wall and on the fourth by the brook. Within the courtyard there were probably several service buildings.

The tower is laid out on a four-lobed plan and encircled by a moat. On each corner, there is a turret capped by a conical roof. A projecting line of battlements ran round the wall tops. Inside the tower were a kitchen at ground floor level, a hall on the third floor and withdrawing chambers on the top floor. Opening off these into the far right-hand corner tower was a chapel.

Cutaway reconstruction drawing of the great tower of Nunney Castle as it might have appeared in the 1580s

 A reconstruction of the great tower of Nunney Castle as it might have appeared in the 1580s  
© Historic England (illustration by Stephen Conlin)

Later History

Nunney Castle was extensively modernised in the late 16th century, probably by Richard Prater, a rich Londoner who bought the castle sometime after 1560.

The castle remained in the possession of the Prater family until the Civil War, when it was besieged and ruined by order of Parliament.

The shell of the tower was taken into state guardianship in 1926 and cleared of plants and rubble. At the same time both the moat and the medieval drawbridge pit beneath the far end of the bridge were re-excavated.


FIND MORE PROPERTY HISTORIES

Further Reading

Platt, C, The Castle in Medieval England and Wales (London, 1982) 

Rigold, SE, Nunney Castle (London, 1956)

Note

The text on this page is derived from interpretation panels at the castle. We intend to update and enhance the content as soon as possible to provide more information on the site and its history.

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