Time Team Series 17: The Massacre In The Cellar (Hopton Castle, Shropshire)

Broadcast 16 May 2010 | Report available

In 1644, during the Civil War, the Parliamentary garrison of Hopton Castle in Shropshire was besieged and outnumbered by Royalist forces. After weeks of bombardment the garrison surrendered, and the commander was taken prisoner. He was marched out of the castle and lived to fight another day, but his men were not so lucky - all of them were executed and thrown into a pit on the site. Hopton Castle was later slighted by the Royalists, and was never used as a military base again.

The commander of the Hopton garrison, Samuel More, left an eyewitness account of the siege, and this provided an opportunity for Time Team to compare a contemporary account of the Civil War with the archaeological remains, as well as investigating the medieval origins of the castle, of which only the Keep, or tower house, survives today.

Part of the medieval moat and curtain wall were located, as well as a large cellared building and a stone-built tower, which may have been of medieval origin, but which was still standing during the Civil War siege.

More’s account mentions various buildings within the Castle, including the ‘out walls’, the ‘brick tower’, and ‘the new brick dwelling’. The ‘out walls’ appear to have been the medieval curtain wall, by this time discontinuous but in some places shored up by the defenders. Large amounts of brick rubble found in two of the trenches to the north-west of the tower house may be the remains of the ‘new brick dwelling’, while the most favoured site for the ‘brick tower’ seems to have been a mound to the south-west of the tower house. Part of the defensive ditch dug by the defenders was also found.

Lead musket shot found on the site, some of them clearly impacted through use, provided a grim reminder of the Civil War bloodshed. The most exciting find, however, was a gold coin of James I, dated 1623-4, found in a demolition deposit within the cellared building.

Gallery

Click to view a larger version of each photo with description.

Hopton Castle, ShropshireGold coin of James I, dated 1623-4, Hopton Castle, ShropshireHopton Castle, Shropshire

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