Castle Learning Center Fortified Manors
Castles of Britain

Fortified Manors

© 2000-2015 by Lise Hull
fortified manor A manor was an estate held by and the principle dwelling house for a lord. Most of the time, the lands surrounding the manor were farmed and taken care of by people who owed the lord money or service.

Manors were sometimes given a kind of defence, whether it be a ditch, moat, or palisade. This was to protect them from damage from animals or being taken by an enemy. There were very few fortified manors before the 12th century, but by the 13th and 14 centuries it was becoming common for the king to grant licences to crenellate.

Many private houses were fortified during this time frame, some to such an extent that they became known as castles. One early fortified manor house was Stokesay Castle. Fortifications were made by Lawrence de Ludlow, after receiving a licence to crenellate in 1291. A moat surrounded the castle and the enclosing walls were 30 feet high.

Another fortified manor is Weobley Castle, located on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. It was built by David de la Bere in the 14th century, and had walls 7 feet thick. There was a keep, hall, chapel, and other features that you would expect to see in a castle.

It is believed that Thornbury Castle was the last fortified manor to be built in England. Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, began building it in 1511, without a licence. Stafford was executed in 1521 and the castle was never completed. It was taken over by King Henry VIII who transformed it into a palace.

A licence to crenellate did not mean that fortifications were ever built, nor do they indicate the actual date that a manor was fortified. Many lords received multiple licences to fortify their houses, but they were never modified or built. Bishop Wyvill of Salisbury, for example, received licences for his house in Salisbury, four manors in Wiltshire, two in Dorset, and one in Berkshire. None of the structures he built or modified were defensible nor fortified.