Last Photographed: Tuesday 26th September 2006
Sherborne Castle was built for Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury, some time in the early part of the 12th Century. Roger acquired a number of castles outside his diocese, and his audacious nature attracted the disapproval of King Stephen. In 1139AD, the king demanded that Bishop Roger surrender his castles. Upon his refusal, he was arrested, and Sherborne Castle passed into royal hands.
For the next 200 years, the crown retained control of the castle, and its structure remained virtually unaltered with no major building work being undertaken.
In 1354, Bishop Robert Wyville successfully petitioned Edward III to lease the castle back to the church. The king agreed, and Sherborne was subsequently used as a residence for visiting bishops.
In 1592, Queen Elizabeth transferred the lease to Walter Raleigh with the agreement of the church. He had taken a liking to the castle when passing by on his way to Plymouth, and had planned to modernise the building and transform it into a comfortable residence. It proved unsuitable, and Raleigh instead directed his energies towards building a new home close by.
It is reasonable to assume that the castle began falling into disrepair from this date onwards, but it finally saw action during the English civil wars, in the years 1642 and 1645. In the final engagement, the castle fell to Cromwell's troops under General Fairfax after holding out for 16 days. Its lengthy resistance led Fairfax to refer to it as "a malicious and mischievous castle".
Subsequently, the castle was "slighted" - rendered unusable as a fortification - and passed from recorded history.
Although little remains of Sherborne Castle, the walls and gatehouse create a strong impression of cohesion and provide a focus that prevents the ruins from entirely underwhelming. The setting on the edge of Sherborne town is pleasant, with the castle surrounded on all sides by countryside and trees. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, and there's plenty of space to wander round while you soak up the ambience and the history of the place. While Sherborne may not be one of England's grander castles, it's certainly one of its hidden gems.