Bourne Archive: Bourne Castle: Marrat’sCastle.htm                        Latest edit 26 Jul 2009

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William Marrat’s essay on Bourne Castle (1816)

from The History of Lincolnshire, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive.  Vol III. Boston.

This document is one of several dealing with Bourne Castle.

It was transcribed from a book lent by the Willoughby Memorial Library, to the trustees of which I offer my thanks.

It is presented here as an historical document so the credibility of what it says should be assessed. The reliability of old essays on history is usually best on points to do with the writer’s own time. Marrat was assembling a much larger, commercial work so it is likely that this material is based on someone else’s research. Similarities between this and Moore’s slightly earlier publication can certainly be detected.  In later works, one or other of these is usually given as a reference for the quotation of Peak’s description.

The name of the founder of Bourn Castle is not known nor the time of its foundation; it has been said that it was built by the Wakes, but a Castle existed in the year 1062,* 1 and this was prior to the Wakes’ being in possession of the place. It is extremely probable that the Castle was built by the Normans, as has been before observed; and, having been kept up successively by the Saxons and Normans, it at length fell to decay and ruin, as Bourne fell away from its primitive splendor. It appears from what Leland says (Itin. Vol. I pa. 27.) to have been in a dilapidated state in his time. “There appear grete diches, and the Dungeon Hill of an ancient Castle agayne the West ende of the priory, sumewhat distant from it, as on the other side of the streate backwards: it longgid to the Lord Wake, and much service of the Wake fe is done to this Castelle; and every feodarie knoweth his Station and place of service.”

The building is entirely destroyed, but the earth-works, and foundation walls on the west side, are nearly entire. The area within the outer moat contains about 8 acres 2; within the inner, about one acre, 3 not like a keep, but flat and covered by a rampart within the ditch. 4 Between the moat and ditch on the north and west sides, the works are very irregular, consisting of raised banks of about 20 yards [18m] in length, and 10 in breadth, with a ditch between every one of these, pointing to the grand moat. 5

There is a house and barn, near the place where the Castle stood, which were built out of the old materials. Among the records of this parish, it is said, that, “Oct. 11. 1645. The Garrison of Bourne Castle began,” whence it appears that the Castle was not entirely demolished until the time of the Common-wealth. The inhabitants have a tradition that it was destroyed by the forces under Cromwell, for adhering to Charles I 6; but however this may be, it has certainly never been made mention of as existing subsequent to that period, nor are there any records relative to the time of its demolition.

The only decription [sic] of this Castle is in Peak’s M. S. account of the towns in Kesteven 7; where he says.—“The castelle of Brun ys a verrye ancyent portlic [sic] castelle scytewate neare Peterspoole, it contaynes thre principal wardes. 8  On the north side ys ye porter’s lodge wch ys now reuinoose, and in decaye by reasone ye floores of ye upper house ys decayed and very necessarie to be repaired. 9 The dungeon ys sett of a little moat made with men’s handes, and for the moste part as yt were square. 10  It is a fare and prattie 11 buildinge, with IV square toures, Rounde about ye same dungeon upon the roofe of ye said toures, ys tryme walkes and a fare prospect of the fenes. And in ye said dungeon ys ye halle, chamberes, and all other maner of houses of offices for ye lord and his traine. The southe syde thereof serveth for ye lordes and ladies lodgeinges, and underneighe them ys ye prisone and wyne cellar wth ye shollorie. Over ye moat yt surrounds ye castelle ys a drawe bridge, ye moat is verie fresh and deipe. Ther ys also a fare parke belonging ye castelle.” 12 In the inner ditch was the gate house, it consisted of a round tower thirty feet high, embattled on the top, and ascended by a flight of stone steps. In the walls, which were upwards of six feet thick, were several niches, and the door of entrance was through a circular arch, apparently saxon, in height about eight feet, and closed by a massy door. It was taken down by Lord Exeter, to build a barn and repair the roofs. The situation of this lodge was at the north end of what is now called the castle barns, at the south end of which, on a mount of earth “cast up with mene’s hands,” stood the castle. 13

Nothing of the castle now remains—the outer and inner moat are, however, still visible, and there is a house and barn near the place where the Castle stood, and which were built out of the old materials.

[Marrat’s footnotes]* Ingulphus, in his history of Croyland, after mentioning several benefactors to Croyland abbey, says, that Leofric lord of the Castle of Brunne Kinsman to Ranul or Radin the great Count of Hereford, gave many possesins to this abbey, and assisted the monks with is council [sic].

Altogether they look like a piece of ground drained and are said to have supported Cromwell’s artilery against the town. 14


1.     Since 1816, it has become clear that the Ingulph document is unreliable. It seems to have been forged in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, at some time before 1415 and long enough after the building of the castle for its origins to have been forgotten — unless the 1062 date is accurate. In reality, the evidence indicates the establishment of the castle as part of the scheme in which the Abbey was founded. There is no reliable evidence that either was on its present site before about 1140. A more exact date hinges on the abbey charter of 1138 but clearly, the work took more than the one year to complete (RJP3).

2.      3.24 hectares

3.       0.405 ha

4.      The one acre and the visibility of the ’rampart’ make it clear that in the early nineteenth century, the material of the walls of the inner bailey had not yet been pushed into the moat. Since that happened, the inner bailey has looked much larger than one acre in extent. The curtain wall was made of pisé faced with limestone (RJP2)  (RJP1). It appears that once the facing had been robbed, the pisé core weathered and looked to Marrat’s informant like an earth bank. This was subsequently used to partially fill the surrounding moat. The combined area of the inner bailey, plus the site of the wall, plus the in-filled part of the moat makes the present appearance of the inner bailey larger than Cope-Faulkner’s observations make clear that it originally had been (RJP3).

5.       The use of the expression ‘grand moat’ confirms that the ‘ditch’ is the moat around the east and middle baileys while the ‘moat’ is that round the inner bailey. Cope-Faulkner’s observations (report 2002: RJP’s interpretation) show that the latter was very wide; probably 34m; certainly more than 30 metres. Again, this supports the hypothesis that the size of this moat was visible in the early nineteenth century, as it is not today. It follows that the apparent ‘rampart’ formed by the remains of the core of the curtain wall was then visible, as Marrat says. This great width is not shown in Fowler’s plan of 1861 but more informatively, it is not shown in the Exeter and Bourne Abbots estate maps of the 1820s. If we assume that Marrat is taking his information from Moore, it seems that the work was done between 1809 and 1826. It may have been undertaken as parish relief during the economic depression following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This was the same depression which appears to have led to the perception of a need for a new courthouse in Bourne (1820 to 1), a new jail at Folkingham (1824 to 6) and a new courthouse at Sleaford (1828 to 30) (Olney pp. 108-11).

6.    The circumstances of the time and the design of the earthworks make it clear that the defence being prepared for was that of the town against the king. (Events of the time are listed in September and October 1645 of the chronology.) It was doubtless sensible to put another gloss on events after the Monarchy was restored in 1660 (RJP3).

7.       Peak seems to have written a manuscript to which the early nineteenth century Bourne writer, John Moore had access.  He gives its date as 1380. Peak’s English style is in any case, too old-fashioned for the mid-seventeenth century Samuel Pecke. Also, the quoted description makes the castle seem better preserved than is likely in the 1640s, by which time it had passed through the hands of both Henrys, VII and VIII, neither of whom  is likely to have left the lead on the roof if the building was not useful to him. Further; it had been in Cecil family ownership for 120 or more years. Even as early as 1520, William Cecil’s mother was accommodated in a house on the other side of the road when he was born.  Besides, Leland’s description of a century before Samuel Pecke’s heyday, makes it clear that in the 1530s, there was much less of the castle left than Peak saw.

8.    These were the East Bailey, now the car park and Memorial Garden; the middle bailey, an ell-shaped enclosure behind West Street and the inner bailey enclosed by the other two and the keep moat.

9.    This is the main gatehouse, situated across the East Bailey moat from where the projected lines of North Street and the main part of Abbey Road meet.  In other words, the gatehouse was behind Boots, in West Street and The Masons’ Arms, in South Street.  Its site is now the corner of the car park.  Until the late nineteenth century, the short part of Abbey Road, near the Market Place, was called Church Street.  The whole of the rest was Star Lane.

10.     This is a French usage of the word.  A donjon is a castle keep rather than a subterranean prison.

11.   craftily contrived.

12.     This seems to be a park which became that of the Red Hall. Though it contained ridge and furrow, that is consistent with its development in the late thirteenth century, on the demilitarization of the castle.

13.     Like Moore, Marrat seems to be using someone else’s notes if not Moore’s book. He confuses the main gatehouse or conceivably, the middle bailey gatehouse and the inner bailey gatehouse. See Trollope.

14.   The works are consistent with their having been a response to a threat from the Belvoir direction. The 11th October 1645 timing follows the fall of Leicester to the king and came during a period when he was trying to work out what to do next in view of Naseby and the retaking of Leicester.

However, his activity was mainly in the east Midlands so that, as seen by the parliamentarians, it presented a threat to their line of communication, which we know as the road, A15. (See particularly Rupert’s move to Belvoir, October 26.) This was eased by his withdrawal to Oxford and by the third siege of Newark. (See Civil War context.) So the works at Bourne were never completed. As well as that visible at the surface, the work of this time was visible in the trench reported by Cope-Faulkner. (RJP2)

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