Sherborne Old Castle // Sherborne

Sherborne Old Castle
Photo: © Chrisp543 | Dreamstime / All rights reserved

Ruined 12th century castle built for the Bishops of Salisbury. The castle was destroyed during the English Civil War by Parliamentary forces

Sherborne Old Castle is not to be confused with Sherborne Castle. Both are in the grounds of the fifteen thousand acre Digby estate, located south east of Sherborne. Sherborne Castle is a sixteenth century Tudor mansion, however, while Sherborne Old Castle is the ruin of a castle that was built as a fortified palace for Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England in the twelfth century.

Sir Walter Raleigh fell in love with Sherborne Old Castle when he was passing through on his way to Plymouth. Queen Elizabeth leased it to him in 1592. Rather than living in the castle Raleigh decided to build Sherborne Lodge, a four storey rectangular building that was completed in 1594. When Raleigh was later imprisoned in the tower, King James sold the estate to Sir John Digby, the first Earl of Bristol, who expanded the original lodge into the Tudor mansion that is now known as Sherborne Castle.

Sherborne Old Castle withstood two sieges during the civil war but was forced to surrender in 1645. General Fairfax dismantled the castle's defences and it fell into disrepair.

The ruins, now owned by English Heritage, are impressive. The south west gatehouse and parts of the original castle, including the Great Tower and the North Range, survived and can be seen close up from a pleasant grassy area with picnic benches and a small shop selling ice creams and soft drinks. Access to Sherborne Old Castle is via an atmospheric sloping timber bridge.

Attractions near Sherborne Old Castle