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Castles of the British Isles

Photo Focus: Newton St Loe Castle

by Peter Kessler, 30 January 2022

 

Newton St Loe Castle in Somerset
Photo © Michael Day

The much remodelled keep which is St Loe's Castle, as it is officially known, sits in the south-western section of Newton Park in Somerset.

The Saxon manor of Newton was given to the bishop of Coutances in 1065. The original keep seems to have been built as part of a fortified manor house in the early thirteenth century (records are a bit sparse here but archaeology pinpoints this period for the first phase of building), and possibly by one Roger St Loe (Latinised as de Sancto Laudo) who had gained the location from the bishops.

The fortified manor house consisted of a rectangular courtyard with square corner towers and connecting ranges behind a curtain wall, surrounded on at least three sides by a ditch. It may have replaced an earlier, much more modest dwelling which has been suggested by finds of ceramics dating to the 1100s.

Newton St Loe Castle in Somerset
Photo © Michael Day

One of the corner towers (now lost) was located on a mound which itself can still be seen to the north of the keep. The rubble walls of the three-storey keep, with freestone dressings, support a hipped slate roof which is set back and concealed behind a tall, embattled ashlar parapet. The parapet is inset with shields of arms, moulded string, and gargoyles.

The footprint is irregular, in an 'L'-shape, with a sixteenth century extension to the north and a projecting porch which was added in the eighteenth century.

Sir Roger died around 1244, and his family in the male line ended in 1375, so the keep passed through marriage to William, Lord Botreaux. The gatehouse (shown in the first photo) was added not long afterwards.

Newton St Loe Castle in Somerset
Photo © Michael Day

The sixteenth century saw alterations being made to the main house and defences. Joseph Langton purchased the property in 1666, and it was remodelled later in the same century.

In 1760 a new house was built with a large porch, while the grounds were landscaped. This included laying a gravel drive which ran right through the original manor house, so this was demolished, with only the gatehouse and keep surviving.

The new house was restored in the nineteenth century, while the grounds were heavily landscaped to produce the present park. The gatehouse and keep were restored, and both are now Grade I listed buildings.

 

All photos kindly contributed by Michael Day, via the 'History Files: Castles of the British Isles' Flickr group.

Main Sources

Historic England

Heritage Gateway

Fortified Britain

Other Sources

Collinson, John, & Rack, Edmund - The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset (1791)

 

Images and text copyright © Michael Day & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.