Codnor Castle, Castle Lane, Aldercar and Langley Mill, remains of a 13th century castle and moat.
The remains of Codnor Castle lie on the edge of the upland forming the Erewash valley boundary about three miles east of Ripley. "In the sixteenth century this stronghold consisted of two large oblong - if not rectangular - courts, separated by a wall strengthened by four circular towers, nearly equidistant, the gateway between the courts being placed in the centre." The principal building, of three storeys, seems to have been in the northern or innermost court. Part of the boundary wall on the east front remains and the southern extremity shows "twenty courses of squared freestone of broad and narrow work (c1200) capped by later shale masonry (c1330), and is clearly coeval with the circular towers." The wall between the courts, with the circular towers, was once the south wall of the original fortress. A window above the basement dates to about 1350 or a little earlier. Of the south courtyard, a later addition, only the west wall remains. The eastern side is occupied by a farmhouse. The principal gateway must have been in the south wall, now destroyed. As many as six farmsteads are said to have been built out of materials obtained from this castle. From an observation made by Glover, it seems that in about 1740 the outer walls of the castle were then tolerably perfect. This information may have been derived from a view of the structure engraved by Buck in 1727 [illustrated in article]. In the mid 19th century the ground within the northern or inner court was completely turned over in search of ironstone. Traces of gardens are still visible [in 1892] in the field to the north-west and a double row of trees formerly grey on the eastern bank of the moat. The park connected with the castle has long been under cultivation; it is said to have contained about 3000 acres. The estates at Codnor were acquired by Henry de Grey before 1208 on marriage to the heiress. He undoubtedly erected the circular towers. John, Lord Grey, probably repaired, enlarged and strengthened the castle, including the c1350 window. The Greys continued in possession of Codnor until 1496 when it passed to the Zouch family, who remained in possession until 1634. (1)
As far as earthworks at Codnor Castle are concerned, there are considerable portions of a wide and deep moat still extant, particularly on the east side. This moat is probably of 14th century date, when the castle was considerably strengthened and extended. The moat on the north and west sides was quite as perfect as on the east side until about fifty years ago, when considerable search was made for ironstone on the castle site. (2)
The apparent earthworks shown surrounding the castle are the result of ironstone quarrying except for a mutilated fragment of a moat on the east of the keep, centred at SK 43374999. It is shown accurately on the 25" AM. The surviving walling of the castle is in very poor condition. The inner faces of the south court are overgrown and almost entirely obscured. The eastern wall shown on the plan of authy. 1 and the O.S. 25" is almost entirely modern built of re-used material. Re-surveyed at 1/2500. See G.P's A0/59/395/7 & 8. (3) No change. (4)
Some investigations were carried out around the south court of Codnor Castle in c. 1920. (5)
'Castle Lane 1 and 2/6 Grade II Remains of Codnor Castle. Ruins of stone rubble, some parts of considerable height, 30 feet or more, other parts just footings. Formerly Grey and Zouch property. Grade II Castle Farm House Much rebuilt, it incorporates parts of the castle buildings. Two storeys, originally ashlar, now mainly red brick. Ground floor of front of ashlar. Two stone mullion and transom windows and one mullion window. Brick upper part with five casements. Modern tile roof.' (6-7)
Codnor Castle was built by the Lords Grey of Codnor and passed to the Zouch Family in 1496. It was surrounded by a park of 1500 acres. The lower court lies west and north-west of the present farmhouse (auths 6,8), which occupies the east side of the court. Masonry dates from the early 13th and early 14th centuries. (8)
SK 434500. Two rectangular courts; four round towers remains, with some part of the wall and a few rectangular projections. Appears to be a 13th C. castle with a later outer ward. (9)
Scheduled (10). The standing remains of the castle were surveyed by Trent & Peak Archaeological Unit in 1986-7. (11)
An English Heritage project aimed at the consolidation and eventual public display of the castle began in 1993 with Phase I, the recording, description and assessment of the condition of the remains, including a photogrammetric survey. The remains were generally in an unconsolidated condition, with the stability of some sections giving cause for concern. Trees and shrubs had been cut from around the monument, but regeneration was occurring, and several large trees had become well established close to sections of masonry. (12)
Geophysical survey was carried out in June 2007, as part of an investigation by Channel 4's Time Team. A number of anomalies were identified. Mining activity was considered to be the likely cause of the majority of the anomalies within the Magnetic data; however, Resistance and Ground Penetrating Radar data showed anomalies associated with the Castle, including a fireplace and wall foundations. (13)
In June 2007 an archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s Time Team. This involved the excavation of six trenches, three in the lower court to examine the approaches to the gatehouse and three in the upper court to explore the rear of the extant gatehouse and to trace the curtain wall of the upper court. The trenches in the lower court encountered a large moat, approximately 6m wide and 3m deep, with substantial masonry abutments that would have supported a drawbridge. Pottery recovered from the fills of the moat indicates that this probably fell out of use and was backfilled in the 16th or early 17th century. The finds from the lower fills suggest that the moat was probably open from the early 13 century. The lower fills also produced a notable find, a gold noble of Henry V (1413-1422), struck at the London mint. Although much of the archaeology in the upper court had been heavily disturbed by post-medieval and modem coal extraction and garden features, excavations here revealed part of the back wall of the gatehouse, which appears to have been built in the early 13th century, and parts of the northern and eastern curtain wall, including the footings of a tower or turret on the western wall. Occupation deposits were found within the turret, although these appear to relate to a fairly late phase in the use of the castle. Analysis of the finds suggests that the masonry castle was probably established in the early l3th century and continued in use until the 16th or early l7th century. (14-15)
From the National Heritage List for England:
Codnor Castle comprises a motte and bailey castle remodelled in stone sat on the eastern perimeter of an upper court, with a lower court to the south. The east and south walls and parts of the residential block are upstanding, as are the east and west walls of the lower court. The castle is surrounded by a moat and a number of medieval garden features.
Reasons for Designation
Codnor Castle is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* As a surviving example of a C13 castle with evidence of C14 and C15 rebuilding; * For its C13 orchard and vineyard remains and C16 ornamental garden features.
* As a rare survival of a castle together with its extramural gardens. Survival:
* For its upstanding masonry, detailing the development of the castle, and earthworks, illustrating the extent and design of the gardens. Potential:
* For the archaeological potential of the two courts and surrounding earthworks, highlighted in previous archaeological investigations.
* Codnor Castle has group value with the Grade II-listed Castle Farmhouse (NHLE entry 1335403) and the Grade II-listed Farm Building to South of Castle Farmhouse (NHLE entry 1109026).
Medieval castles were the residences of seigneurial families and their households and incorporated physical features expressive of the idea of defence (although some were more designed for display than for fighting). Most involved an element of architectural display and were often sited for dramatic as well as strategic effect. While modern castle studies have typically assessed the worth of a castle according to the strength of its defences, medieval commentators do not seem to have discriminated between castles that were ‘strong’ and those which were ‘beautiful’, emphasising the dual function of most as a stronghold and lordly residence.
The earliest castles built immediately following the Norman Conquest were built around the motte-and-bailey pattern, in which the castle was divided into a raised artificial mound (the motte), usually topped by a tower, and an enclosed flat area (the bailey) containing domestic buildings, stables and so forth. Stone towers, known as donjons, were added to some from the late C11 onwards, principally as a demonstration of authority. Stone curtain walls became common in the C12, sometimes incorporating the donjon (a form known as a shell keep), and the civil wars of the C13 saw an increase in the complexity of castle defences, with the addition of gatehouses incorporating semi-circular towers and the increased use of water-filled moats.
From the C12 onward, castles were laid out with parklands, gardens and meres whose functions were as much aesthetic and recreational as they were defensive or economic.
The castle at Codnor began as a series of earthworks, possibly indicating a pre-Conquest manorial centre or early motte and bailey castle. The land, along with its dependencies, had been granted to William Peverell by King William I as part of the Honour of Peverel. In 1154, the estates were gifted to Ranulf, Earl of Chester following the civil wars of the Anarchy. Ranulf died before he could take possession, and the Honour of Peverel reverted to the Crown.
The Codnor estate was passed to Henry de Grey before 1208, who commenced the construction of the castle. The Grey family became Lords Grey of Codnor in 1299 and continued to live in the castle until 1496 when the male line of the family died out. The estate passed to the Zouche family, who retained the castle and estate until 1634 when Codnor was sold to the Archbishop of York, Richard Neile. The estate was sold to Sir Streynsham Master in 1692 and then leased to Benjamin Outram and Company (later the Butterley Company) in 1800. The estate was purchased by the Butterley Company in 1862. The site was sold in 1968 and has had a number of owners since, including the National Coal Board and UK Coal.
The first stone castle at Codnor comprised a roughly rectangular court enclosed by a curtain wall (now known as the Upper Court), constructed around 1200, with a series of orchards or vineyards laid out to the west. The walls were substantially rebuilt in the 1330s, possibly in advance of a visit from King Edward III. Round towers flanking the gate were inserted as part of these works. The south arm of the moat was revetted in stone at the same time. The residential block was built between 1290 and 1400 and may have been included as part of the 1330s renovations.
Construction of the residential block partially slighted the moat, and the north arm was partially infilled. There are a number of undated garden features in the former moat that may date from this period.
The Lower Court was laid out to the south of the Upper Court. The date of Lower Court is unknown, but the masonry of the west wall suggests it is contemporaneous with the mid-C14 reworking of the castle. The construction of the east wall suggests that either it was built in two phases or it was modified or expanded in the late C15 or early C16. It is likely that the residential block was extended to the north at the same time, as part of a programme of repairs and modification. The works included additions to the gardens, including a terrace and ornamental mound to the east of the castle and the construction of the north end of Castle Farmhouse, in the south-east corner of the Lower Court.
The works appear to have been left unfinished, possibly due to a lack of funds. Parts of the castle fell out of use and by the time the castle was sold in the C17, it was described as ruinous and was being used as a source of stone for other properties. A substantial dovecote associated with the castle and of similar construction to surviving medieval fabric was demolished in 1969.
The site has been the subject of a number of archaeological surveys, but little excavation work has taken place. A metric and photographic survey of the ruins and earthworks was undertaken by Trent and Peak Archaeological Unit in 1986. A geophysical survey was undertaken by Dearne Valley Archaeological Services in 2007. An episode of Time Team was filmed at the castle in 2007. As part of the programme, ground-penetrating radar, earth resistance and magnetometer surveys were conducted, followed by earthwork surveys and targeted trial trenching. The works recorded elements of the defences including internal buildings, a mural tower, an earlier gatehouse and details of the south arm of the moat. An earthworks survey of the castle and its associated gardens was conducted by English Heritage (now Historic England) in 2008.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: Codnor Castle comprises a motte and bailey castle remodelled in stone sat on the eastern perimeter of an upper court, with a lower court to the south. The east and south walls and parts of the residential block are upstanding, as are the east and west walls of the lower court. The castle is surrounded by a moat and a number of medieval garden features.
DESCRIPTION: The upstanding remains of the residential block are built in coursed ashlar and squared sandstone, and comprise the north, west and east walls of a building measuring approximately 12m by 20m. A large fireplace in brick on the north face of the north wall indicates that the building extended further to the north, possibly by another six or seven metres. The building survives to a height of seven metres.
The Upper Court is rectangular and measures approximately 30m by 50m. A 26m length of the east wall survives, extending south from the residential block and incorporates a garderobe shaft emptying into the moat. The south wall extends approximately 32m and separates the Upper and Lower Courts. The gatehouse is marked by two semi-circular towers. West of the gatehouse is a small C14 window in ashlar. The west and north walls do not survive, but excavations in 2007 revealed the foundations of a mural tower in the west wall.
The Lower Court lies to the south of the Upper Court. The ground level is approximately two metres lower than the Upper Court. The Lower Court measures approximately 40m by 40m, although its true length from north to south is impossible to measure, as the south wall does not survive. The court is trapezoidal in shape, widening to the south. The west wall is of sandstone and contains the remains of two mural chambers. The east wall is more fragmentary and is battlemented, with crenels infilled with brick. The south-east corner of the Lower Court has been terraced in front of Castle Farmhouse.
The castle is surrounded by the earthwork remains of formal gardens. To the west lie a series of rectangular enclosed areas, each measuring approximately 20m by 40m, partially terraced into the slope. These have been interpreted as the remains of C13 orchards or vineyards, bounded by a north-south oriented boundary. To the north of the castle are the remains of an ornamental pond, further enclosures, each measuring 20m by 90m and the remains of post-medieval mining activity in form of a number of circular depressions caused by test pits. The features to the north are enclosed by an east-west oriented boundary ditch. To the east lies a broad terrace running south down the east edge of the former moat, terminating in a mound or viewing platform.
To the south of the Lower Court lie the foundations of a substantial dovecote.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: The scheduling covers the remains of the castle, the lower court, garden features to the west, north and east, with the dovecot to the south.
EXCLUSIONS: Modern fencing and signage are excluded from the schedule, although the ground beneath is included.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number:
RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Hartwell, Clare, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Williamson, Elizabeth, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, (2016), 277-278
Kerry, C, 'Codnor Castle, and its Ancient Origins' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 14, (1892), 16-33
Stevenson, W, 'The South Court of Codnor Castle' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 42, (1920), 46-59
Reedman, KA, Riden, PJ, 'Codnor Park Ironworks' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 91, (1971), 164-168
Birbeck, V, 'Investigations at Codnor Castle, Derbyshire' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 129, (2009), 187-194
Alexander, M and Millward, J 'Codnor Castle, Derbyshire Earthwork Analysis Survey Report' Historic England Research Report 82-2008
Wessex Archaeology 'Codnor Castle, Derbyshire Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results' Wessex Archaeology Report 65307.01.'