Bourne Archive: Bourne Castle: Trollope’sCastle.htm                      Latest edit 31 Oct 2010

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Edward Trollope’s Essay on Bourne Castle (1861)


Reports and Papers read at The meetings of the Architectural Societies of the County of York, diocese of Lincoln, Archdeaconry of Northampton, County of Bedford, Diocese of Worcester and County of Leicester during the year MDCCCLXI.

General Secretary, Rev. Edw. Trollope, Leasingham, Sleaford.

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It is presented here as an historical document so the credibility of what it says should be assessed.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 an old essay on history is usually best on points to do with the writer’s own time.

Rev. Edward Trollope FSA, of Leasingham was assembling a much larger, collection of reports for the six fairly high-powered societies which jointly, formed the Associated Architectural Societies. He seems to have written the report of the activities of the Lincoln society of which he was at the time, Honorary Acting Secretary. However, the part of the report dealing with Bourne Castle, which is transcribed here, is a summary of a lecture by a Mr. Trollope, who was Edward himself as page xxix of the report makes clear.

In the Lincoln society, there was also an Arthur Trollope, of Lincoln and a baronet Sir J. Trollope of Casewick.

The relevant drawings from the report are linked here. The page will open in a new window, for viewing alongside the text on this page.

From the church 1 the Society’s members and their numerous friends, preceded by the Rifle Corps band, adjourned to the site of Bourne Castle, where Mr. Trollope made the following observations connected with its History.

“A small mound, the faint traces of an inner and outer moat, and a few crossbow slits inserted in an adjacent modern building, 2  are now the sole remaining remains of the old castle of Bourne and its adjuncts; (see ground plan drawn by Mr. James Fowler, from a survey taken by Mr. R. Parker, of Morton, and presented to the Society); 3 but these are still sufficient to invite enquiry as to what was the character of the stronghold that once rose from this little grassy plain. 4 It is probable that from the attraction of the stream ever most beautifully flowing from the spring of Peterspool, or Well-head, the Romans founded a station near this spot, in connexion with that branch of the Ermin-street running from the great city of Durobrivae to Sleaford, 5 and also with their navigable canal the Car-dike; a supposition that is strengthened by the fact of a discovery made near this spot in 1808, consisting of an urn, containing a gold coin of Nero, and others of the Constantines and Maximian II, &c. From the same cause we may fairly assume that the Saxon lords of Bourne manor also settled themselves on this spot. Here, then, we conceive, lived Morcar, who fell with all his followers at the battle of Threckingham 6 in the year 870; Oslac, who died in the reign of Edgar, 960; Leofric, the friend and counsellor of the famed abbatial house at Croyland during the reign of the Confessor; but, above all, his patriot son Hereward—long the subject of song at home and abroad—and also his younger brother, whose head was exposed within Bourne Castle, 7 after he had suffered death at the hands of the Normans. Here moreover, continued to live the representatives of Hereward (deriving their name of “Wake” from the appropriate soubriquet given to their ancestor, indicative of his watchfulness) until at length the elder branch merged into the royal house of Plantagenet, one of whom, Thomas Lord Wake, received here king Edward as his guest shortly after he had ascended the throne.

The only existing account of the character of the castle is contained in a “MS. Description of the towns in Kesteven, by Peake,” 8 whence we gather that the keep, flanked by four square towers at its angles, stood in the centre of an artificial mound; this was probably of the usual Norman form, like those at Rochester, Newcastle, and London; on the summit were “’trim walks,’ commanding a good view of the fens.” Within were the hall and principal apartments of the lord of the castle; also, on the south side, those of the officers and ladies of the household, beneath which were a prison, a cellar, and a scullery. The keep (marked C on the plan) was surrounded by a deep moat (G G) crossed by means of a drawbridge, and protected by a strong gatehouse, (D) terminating with an embattled parapet; and a massive door within the solid round-headed doorway, eight feet high, gave access to stone steps leading to the top are also mentioned; also several “niches” i.e. crossbow slits (see figs. 2 and 3) the exterior stones of which are now built into the end of an adjacent barn, E, whose materials were derived from the remains of this gatehouse that once protected the inner bailey of the castle, B. A second moat, also, marked G G, defended the outer baily A, which contained about eight acres of land, and to this was subsequently added another piece of entrenched ground, at what date we do not know. Cromwell is said to have destroyed this castle; but when Leland visited it (tem. Hen. 8) scarcely anything but the earthworks of the castle remained, he saying, “There appear great ditches, and the dungeon hill of an ancient castle against the west side of the priory, somewhat distant from it: it belonged to the Lord Wake, and much service of the Wake fee is done to this castle; and every feodary knoweth his station and place of service. “Itin., vol. 1., p. 27.—From the site of the castle Cromwell again is said to have directed the fire of his artillery against the town, or according to others from the rising ground to the west; but this is entirely without foundation, although Bourne was burthened with the maintenance of a garrison that appears to have been quartered on the castle site from the following memorandum in the parish register:—”Octr. 11th, 1645.  The garrison of Bourne Castle began.Owing to the excavations that have just been so zealously carried on in anticipation of the Society’s visit, a very interesting discovery has been made, whence the plan of the gatehouse protecting the inner baily marked B, has been ascertained;—see fig. 1 (marked D on the ground plan of the castle.) As might have been presumed this gatehouse was flanked with two circular towers, although one only is mentioned by Peak, of which however he gives the height, viz. 9, 30 feet. The lower moulds of these were found, marked E E, The space between them was 16 feet 6 inches, and the walls of the central feature were from 3 to 3 feet 6 inches thick. Within it, the timber substructure, connected with the leverage of the drawbridge over the inner moat, was revealed. This consisted, in the first place, of a large timber 18 inches thick (B) within a sunk chamber (A) 10 feet 6 inches long, by from 6 feet 3 inches  to 6 feet 9 inches wide; into this timber three upright ones had been morticed; and over it another timber 15 inches thick (C), was placed at right angles. Opposite to this gatehouse, but below the soil, are remains of a wall that probably served as the support of the drawbridge when let down, 10 and the moat there seems to have been 43 or 44 feet wide. 11  It, as well as the other moat, was supplied with water from Peter’s Pool, marked F on the plan.

On returning to the town, the carriages for conveying the excursionists to the places named in the programme were in readiness, and at the appointed time (10.30) a long procession of vehicles left the town. 12


There is a picture of Edward Trollope on the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology’s site.

1.     Bourne Abbey.

2.      Then known as the Castle Barns, now usually called the Shippon Barn.

3.        Fowler’s plan of the castle is reminiscent of that in the early nineteenth century (1825) estate record of the Pochin property of Bourne Abbots and that of the Exeter estate book (c.1826).  The larger scale plan of the centre of the town, which will have been in the latter is now missing so it is no longer possible to compare it but its remaining plan of the area shows what appears to be a fore-building of the keep rather than the inner bailey gatehouse, which was excavated. However, in his plan, Fowler has tried to reconcile the two. The Parker survey mentioned in the text may have been that in the record of his estate, centred on Morton. The maps of the three estates look as though they may have arisen from the same survey and that of the parish, made for the commissioners of the Enclosure Act of 1766 comes to mind. But the appearance of that is rather different, not only in showing buildings like the old Town Hall, which were present in the eighteenth century but gone by 1825, but also in minor details. Were they directly copied from the Enclosure map, we should be left with the question of why the ‘fore-building’ alone should be shown in a map of 1766-70 when it was the gatehouse which was demolished by Lord Exeter, apparently in ca. 1805 (Moore).  Click on the respective names to see the castle site as it appears in the estate maps of Bourne Abbots and the Exeter Estate.

It is the parch mark of the gatehouse which clearly matches the detailed plan in Fowler’s Figure 1. but that of the fore-building which comes closer to matching the building in his general plan. On the ground, the site of the inner bailey gatehouse is well outside the line of the keep moat, while that of the fore-building is within it. The two estate plans clearly show a building straddling the line of the keep moat and acting as a terminus for it. Fowler has this building in a similar position but moved a little westward and detached from the moat so as to bring it closer to representing the excavated gatehouse of the report. On the ground, the hollow representing the keep moat ends in what might be interpreted as a building platform (RJP1)  but in Hibbitt’s geophysical resistance survey (Hibbitt’s figures 4 & 5), it shows only faintly. It could be that the building in question was a form of barbican, built out from the fore-building but its present slightness might imply a post-medieval farm building.

Combining Trollope’s information with that from Hibbitt’s survey and Cope-Faulkner’s observations makes clear that the motte site and its vicinity were redeveloped in the later thirteenth century (RJP3). More space was made around the entrance to the keep by moving the gatehouse and the southern end of the curtain westward, into the moat. The earlier curtain was made of pisé, faced with stone and shows in Hibbitt’s resistance survey only faintly and not at all, where the stone has been robbed. The ‘building platform’ at the end of the motte moat coincides with the line of this earlier curtain wall so the lack of a geophysical feature there is not surprising. Just as the estate maps show, the motte moat ended and the late thirteenth century fill of the inner bailey moat between the old pisé wall and the new (ca. 1280), masonry one formed a causeway.

Unlike the pisé, the masonry work shows clearly as parch marks when conditions are appropriate. Picture of parch marks.

4.        The description makes it clear that by 1861, all the major demolition had been completed and that the remains of the inner bailey curtain wall had been used to largely fill the moat. The plan however, shows the middle bailey moat in the form it took before the Horse Pool was dug. That development had been made before the Ordnance Survey map of around 1880 was surveyed.

5.       King Street and Mareham Lane.

6.     Trollope’s spelling follows the pronunciation.

7.       The Hereward story (De Gestis) refers not to Bourne Castle but to “his father’s house” or more literally, “his father’s lodging” (“…ad sui patris mansionem quandam quæ vocatur Brunne recessit ...”) which will have been an Anglo-Saxon hall within a compound, “over the gate” of which, the head was displayed (Chapter XIV). By the twelfth century, the meaning of the word mansio was evidently developing from a ‘stay’ or’ sojourn’ to include the place in which the stay was made; as the meaning later became (OED mansion 3.b.). Great landowners would make a circuit of their capital properties in each estate to keep the owner’s eye on the estate management and to allow his household to use the produce of the estate in situ, so avoiding the need to transport large quantities of food, particularly provender for horses, from one estate to another. There was also a need to maintain contact with his people in the various parts of Mercia, in order to retain their support. The tendency of the youth, Hereward to disrupt this was firmly dealt with (Chapter II). Leofric is associated with his major estate centre at Coventry but he will have spent some time on his other properties including those of south Kesteven of which Bourne was the centre. Unless the term is used extremely loosely, there is no sign, archaeologically or historically, of a castle at Bourne before about 1140. (RJP3)

8.     Trollope’s source for this was probably either Moore or Marrat.

9.     This is an abbreviation of the Latin, videlicet and in an English text is pronounced ‘that’s to say’ or ‘namely’.

10.     The impracticality of this suggestion becomes clear when the 44 foot span is compared with the 30 foot height of the gatehouse and the 8 foot height of the doorway. However, the masonry will have been an abutment for a probably wooden, bridge of which the gateward end was a drawbridge. (RJP3)

11.    This is the width as modified at this point, when the castle was demilitarized (ca. 1280).  Generally and in the original design also here, the inner bailey moat was much wider: up to about 110 feet (33-34 metres). (This is based on the positions of inner bailey features shown by Cope-Faulkner’s section and the outside of the moat as shown by remaining surface features. RJP3)

12.      The two days of the society’s meeting had begun at nine o’clock with a service in the Bourne Abbey. Then the castle was visited and the meeting set off at 10.30 for Dunsby, Dowsby, Sempringham Priory, Billingborough, Horbling, Threckingham (Threekingham), Folkingham, Aslackby, Rippingale, Hacconby and Morton. After dinner, the evening meeting in Bourne heard polite formalities and a lecture on Hereward the Wake. Next day, they went to Thurlby, Baston, Langtoft, Market Deeping, Northborough, Peakirk, St. Pega’s Chapel, Croyland (Crowland), Deeping St James and back to Bourne for dinner, more courtesies and a lecture on Robert de Brunne.

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