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Monday, May 23, 2022

Archaeologists to explore the motte at Shrewsbury Castle

New funding has been awarded to allow archaeologists to explore the motte at Shrewsbury Castle this summer.

A previous dig took place in 2020 at Shrewsbury Castle. Photo: Shropshire Council
A previous dig took place in 2020 at Shrewsbury Castle. Photo: Shropshire Council

The Castle Studies Trust has granted funds for a team, led by local archaeologist Dr Nigel Baker and Dr Morn Capper of University Centre Shrewsbury, to excavate on top of the motte, the great earth mound overlooking the river, in July 2022.

The Castle Studies Trust is a UK based charity founded in July 2012 with the aim of increasing knowledge of castles in the UK and abroad. It is entirely funded by the public and will award grants of up to £10,000.

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The motte dig at Shrewsbury Castle has been awarded £6,790.

Jeremy Cunnington of the Castle Studies Trust said: “This is the third project the Trust has funded on this important castle and is an excavation of the motte top.

“The aim is to understand the structural sequence and assess the character and the status of the buildings there, specifically to identify the royal hall known to be present during the Middle Ages.”

Dr Baker added: “We know this was the strongest point of the Norman castle, and was once crowned by a tall wooden tower, sometimes called the ‘Great Tower of Shrewsbury’, until that was undermined by the river and fell down in the mid-1200s.

“The big question is though – how much damage did Thomas Telford do up there when he built Laura’s Tower? Previous digs funded by the Trust found that Telford’s restoration in the 1780s had been extremely destructive, though evidence survived that the site had been occupied in the Saxon period, and before the castle was built by the Normans to suppress revolt in newly-conquered Shrewsbury.”

Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for communities, culture, leisure and tourism, and transport, welcomed the opportunity to gain further insight into Shrewsbury Castle’s history.

She said: “This latest round of excavations will add vital new knowledge to our understanding of the history and archaeology of Shrewsbury Castle.  It will also be a great opportunity for residents and visitors to the town alike to learn how archaeologists work.

“Shropshire Council is also grateful to the Castle Studies Trust for providing further grant funding to enable Dr Baker and Dr Capper to continue their work exploring the castle’s story.”

Professor Paul Johnson, head of University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS), added: “At UCS we are extremely proud to be part of this. It is really exciting to support this excavation right in the heart of our community, which will also contribute to the conservation of this vital piece of our heritage.”

Recent maintenance and repairs-related investigative work at the Shropshire Council-run site have seen vegetation cleared from parts of the historic castle walls, revealing a wealth of new information on how the castle was built, fell into ruin, was refortified in the Civil War, and eventually turned into a grand house.

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