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Scheduled Monument record MDR4748 - Horsley Castle (remains of), Horsley

Type and Period (1)

  • (Medieval to Tudor - 1100 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

So little of the ruins of Horsley Castle remain, that it is impossible to say with any certainty what portions of the fabric were constructed by 1199, a date when certain works are documented at the castle. 'One thing is certain, that a very large quantity of moulded ashlars and other fragments of this period now compose a part of the wall of the old park… a stone from this wall formerly decorated the gable end of a pig-cote at Horsley Park farm at the time the old buildings were taken down. It consisted of the cap of a column, the lower portion beneath the abacus forming a wolf's head with distended jaws …'. In 1852 Kerry excavated on the site of the castle, when the basement story of a small tower was emptied. Some years later he 'removed the sloping bank from the face of the masonry looking towards Horsley. The wall had been covered to a considerable height with loose stones, and the work solidified by pouring liquid mortar on the pile. We had very great difficulty in clearing this mass away from the face of the tower basement …'. The present ruin formed part of the keep which was apparently constructed on an outcrop of rock considerably higher than the rest of the castle buildings. However, as the whole surface of the hill has been disturbed by quarrying, the castle's original features have entirely disappeared. (1) The site of Horsley Castle, of which there is documentary evidence from the later 12th century, has for so long been used for quarry purposes and afterwards planted over, that very little proof of the former extent of this once important stronghold can now be obtained. Several visits to the site have failed to produce any conjectural plan, apart from the fact that some of the earthworks seem to have been original parts of a deep moat round the centre of the castle. (2) 'The remains of Horston [sic] castle are situated in the parish of Horsley about a mile south of Horsley church on a spur of rock some 200 ft above the Derby-Sheffield road … These remains are fragmentary and consist of a wall of dressed stone which is part of the north face of the keep, and a small portion of the west wall of the keep.' Within the north wall, which is 15 ft thick in places, is a chamber lined with dressed stone, stated by various writers to be a well but considered by Fisher to have been a store room for valuables and money. There is a sheer drop from the west and south aspects, but a moat is visible on the north and east sides which is crossed by a built-up pathway on the north side and a similar one to the south-east. Extensive quarrying in the immediate vicinity has made it virtually impossible to reconstruct the general layout of the castle. It may have gone out of use before the civil war; however, it was finally destroyed in c. 1760 when much of the dressed stone was apparently taken for the rebuilding of Kedleston Hall. Constables, keepers or custodians of the castle can be traced from the time of Stephen until the 1540s, and details of work carried out survive; for example expensive repairs to the fence, bridge, buildings, gate and hall were carried out in 1246, while the following year there were repairs to the barbican, buildings and gutters and a chaplain was provided to celebrate divine service in the castle chapel. References to the castle are few after the 1470s, and it is possible that around this time the manors of Horston and Horsley became one unit. The last mention of the castle is in 1555. (3) Early forms of the name relating to the castle are Har(e)stane(e), Harestain, Har(e)ston(e), Hor(e)stan, Hor(e)stone(e); presumably the castle was built at a place called Harstan, meaning grey stone. The change to Horsley Castle is late, although there is one document of 1373 which refers to John 'del Castell de Horsel'. (4) The site is now a scheduled monument consisting of the remains of a keep and small bailey on a natural outcrop of rock with a moat round the west end, partly natural and partly excavated. The keep is at the west end. The east end has been damaged by quarrying and the site is covered with trees. The keep is in poor condition, the core about 10 ft high in places with stone facing in some parts. (5, 6) The remains comprise part of the keep north wall and buttress (a retaining wall rather than free standing) and a cellar. Further disconnected remains of foundations are also evident. A stretch of the north bailey wall with an original entrance can be traced from SK 3755 4320 - 37634320. Extensive quarrying over the whole area has obliterated the rest of the site. Surveyed at 1/2500 (7) The initially wooden Horsley (or Horeston) Castle was rebuilt in stone quarried on site in 1200-3, but this structure provided a virtual quarry when it was raided to supply the building of Kedleston Hall in the period 1759-70. The surrounding natural outcrop at Horsley went on to become a major source of stone in its own right, particularly for Denby. (9)

Sources/Archives (10)

  • --- Unpublished document: Trow, R (ARS Ltd). 2019. An Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment of Land West of Sandy Lane, Coxbench.
  • <1> Article in serial: Kerry, C. 1888. 'Annals of Horeston and Horsley', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 10, pp 16-27.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Cox, J. 1905. 'Ancient Earthworks', in The Victoria County History of Derbyshire, Volume 1. pp 357-396. pp 383-384.
  • <3> Article in serial: Fisher, F. 1938. 'Horston Castle; its governors from the 12th to the 16th centuries', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 59, pp 1-52.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Cameron, K. 1959. 'The Place-Names of Derbyshire, Part II', English Place-Name Society. p 471.
  • <5> Article in serial: Heathcote, J. 1963. 'Scheduled Ancient Monuments in Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 83, pp 94-96. p 95.
  • <6> Scheduling record: Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. 1965. Ancient Monuments of England and Wales. 23364.
  • <7> Personal Observation: F1 BHS 02-JAN-67.
  • <8> Index: TPAT. 2216. 2216.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p 6.



Grid reference Centred SK 37585 43192 (112m by 61m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR5144
  • EDR745

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Record last edited

Oct 28 2020 9:54AM

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