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Visiting Nunney Castle

Nunney Castle ruins in Nunney, the English village of Somerset is a fine example of a medieval castle. Built in the 1300s by the Knight, John de la Mare, and extensively renovated in the 16th century. Visitors may freely explore the castle's remains by the quaint Nunney Brook.

Parking

There’s an English Heritage designated car park near the castle. Additionally, visitors may use the village parking, located around 30 metres (98 ft) from the site of Nunney Castle.

Car parking in the village is limited on space and accommodates only 30 to 40 vehicles and a small minibus. There are no coach facilities in the castle parking areas.

The streets surrounding Nunney Castle are rather narrow. Visitors should take care to not obstruct traffic, highways, or residences when parking near the castle.

 

Price

English Heritage does not charge visitors a fee to visit Nunney Castle.

 

Opening

Nunney Castle is open to the public year round, including major holidays. Visitors may enjoy touring the castle grounds at any reasonable time, but only during daylight hours.

Location and Access

Visitors may locate Nunney Castle in the town of the same name roughly three and a half miles (5.63 km) southwest of Frome off the A361 at:

Castle Street

Nunney

Nr Frome

Somerset

BA11 4LW.

The castle is conveniently located on major bus routes and about 5.5 kilometres (3.41 miles) from Frome station. Most of the site is on level ground, with several steps up to cross the bridge over the castle moat. Once you cross the moat, you may enjoy the interior and exterior of the castle ruins, with two information panels on display about the castle's history. There are no guided tours of the facility, however.

The statuesque castle stands alongside a picturesque stream called Nunney Brook, a tributary of the River Frome. On the grounds, visitors will find benches provided for picnicking.

In addition, there’s a cafe for hot and cold beverages and light meals. Food prices vary depending on the item chosen. The lovely grass banks are also perfect for a family picnic, where ducks add to the pastoral ambience. 

Know Before You Go

  • A deep moat surrounds the castle with steep sides, and parents should take care to supervise their children around the exposed moat.
  • A three-year-old boy almost drowned in the moat when he mistook the green algae for grass in a recent incident. It’s important that parents keep their children nearby at all times in the castle area to prevent another tragedy.
  • English Heritage forbids visitors to climb the fragile walls of the castle.
  • The site doesn’t offer public restrooms, but there’s a cafe and a pub that visitors may enjoy.
  • Dogs on a leash are welcome to the Nunney Cake site.
  • English Heritage doesn’t allow drone flying and ball play on the site. 
  • Access to the castle involves a moderate climb from the village parking to the castle site.

Places To Stay Nearby

The George at Nunney

The historic 17th century George Inn stands opposite the Nunney castle site and offers the old-world charm of a bygone era with modern luxury. The hotel has exposed beams and ancient stone walls with beautifully renovated decor for a lovely stay with a bar and separate restaurant inside the inn. 

The Geroge is a great base to explore Cheddar Gorge and Stonehenge, as was Longleat Safari park, simply unwind or enjoy Nunney's deep history. The Inn also accommodates our furry best friends in their allocated five dog-friendly rooms. The rates per night for their rooms range from £95 for a budget twin to £140 for a King Junior Suite. 

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Premier Inn Frome Hotel

Premier Inn Frome offers competitively priced rooms in an excellent, central location. The hotel is close to the Longleat Safari Park for nature lovers, Stonehenge and Nunney Castle for history lovers. 

The Premier Inn offers full, unlimited breakfasts for £9.50 and luxurious Hypnos beds, free wifi, and ensuite bathrooms. Premier Inn Frome rates per night range from £49 to £81, depending on which package you chose. 

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Stay at Penny's Mill Nunney

Set in a beautifully renovated 200-year-old watermill, this historic hotel on Nunney Brook is an excellent choice for your stay. Stay at Penny’s Mill features a waterfall that spills from a millpond sluice. Nature lovers will enjoy the bridge that links the hotel terrace to the wilderness and private riverbank scenery.

Close to loads of popular historical sites such as Wells, Bath, and Stonehenge, the hotel is a perfect base to discover the surrounding areas near Nunney Castle. Rooms range from £105 for a standard double room to £185 for a family suite. 

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History of Nunney Castle 

Nunney Castle is a fine example of a medieval castle built by John de la Mare in 1373 on lower ground near Nonny Brook. The castle was likely more a display of de la Mare's rising power and royal favour than a military stronghold. Parliamentarians attacked the castle in the English Civil War. 

Time Line


-1373

John de la Mare was knighted and granted permission by Edward III to crenellate his abode in Nunney. After serving in the Hundred Year's War in France, the french architecture of the time influenced the building of Nunney Castle, although some historians reject this claim. 

The original site wasn’t the best defensive position on the low ground, so the building was more a show of wealth and favour than a military stronghold. The four-storey quadrangular keep had round towers with conical roofs at each corner. 

The top floor offered luxury accommodation, while the lower floors offered the great hall, kitchens, servant quarters, and storerooms. At the parapet level, a wooden platform provided a strategic view of the surrounding areas.

-The Early Fifteenth Century

The Nunney castle passed on in the de la Mare line through John's son, Phillip, and grandson Elias. Elias likely died during Henry V's campaign in France, and the castle passed to the Poulet/Paulet/Paulett family through the marriage of his eldest sister Elenor to William Poulet. 

The Poulets held the castle over several generations, although their family seat was Basing Castle in Hampshire rather than Nunney. 

-1572

Willam Paulet, the Marquess of Winchester, was the last of the Poulet line to own the castle, which passed through several owners.

-1577

Swithun Thorpe sold Nunney Castle to John Parker, who resold the castle within a year to Richard Prater at £2000. Historians believe that Prater, a wealthy Londoner, extensively modernised the castle for his residence.

-1642

The outbreak of the English Civil War broke out, and Richard Prater followed the Royalist cause as he was a staunch Roman Catholic. Although the Praters were initially safe in the firmly Royalist South West territories, after the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby, parliamentarian forces turned their attention to destroying Royalist Garrisons. 

-1645

A parliamentary campaign led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell arrived at Nunney Castle with two regiments of soldiers with cannons. 

Prater refused to submit and waved a flag with a catholic crucifix above the parliamentary besiegers. However, the heavy artillery breached the north wall, and after two days, the garrison surrendered.

Parliamentarians didn’t slight the castle as they did many castles in the area, possibly due to the extensive cannon damage. Prater was forbidden to return to the Nunney Castle even though he promised to support the Parliamentarian cause.

-1660

When Charles II took the throne in 1660, George Prater, Richards' son, reclaimed his right to Nunney castle. Prater replaced the burned-out floors and repaired the damage to the north wall that bore the brunt of the Parliamentarian attack.

However, it became habitable once more until the 18th century, when the castle's condition declined. 

-1770 

The partners sold Nunney castle to William Whitchurch, and not much is recorded of its occupants, although historical records suggest the castle was still in a fair state of repair.

-20–21st Century

The 20th century saw the castle in an increasing state of ruin, with the site covered in thick ivy. In 1910, a large part of the north wall collapsed. Local residents are likely to have plundered the stone as it didn’t remain on the castle site.

-1926

Robert Bailey-Neale, the current owner of Nunney, transferred the castle to the Commissioner of Works for restoration. 

-Today

English Heritage is now the custodians of Nunney Castle, which they offer to the public as a historical site. Nunney Castle is now a scheduled monument and under government protection.

Castle Nunney Occupants

  • 1373: John de la Mare received a licence from Edward III to crenellate (fortify) his abode at Nunney.
  • The 1500s: The de la mare family descendants occupied the castle.
  • The early 1500s- The Poulet Family owned the castle but didn’t use the caste as their primary abode.
  • 1572: William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, is the last of the Poulet line to own the castle.
  • 1577: Richard Prater bought the castle, and historians credit Prater with extensive remodelling during his occupation of the castle.
  • 1660: George Prater took back control of Nunney castle.

Images of Nunney Castle

Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle
Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Nunney Castle Image

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Nunney Castle Facts

  • In 1887, local records claim the defence of Nunney failed due to the betrayal of a deserter. Local documents state that the occupants repeatedly harassed the same pig each day to lead their Parliamentarian besiegers to believe they had ample food. 
  • Much of the damage evident on Nunney Castle wasn’t a result of the Civil War siege but by plunderers removing valuable structural floor and roof timbers.
  • Restorers worked extensively on the castle moat in the early 20th century. The original moat would have been far more substantial and have extended to the castle walls.
  • In his book, Secret Frome, Andrew Pickering suggests historical truth to local lore that Nunney Castle was the setting of several witch trials. Local legend still endures, including ghostly apparitions of these 'witches’ and around the castle site.

Nunney Castle Q&A

What Kind of Castle Is Nunney Castle?

Nunney Castle is a medieval castle and dates back to the 1370s. Although the castle embraces defences features, the position and size make it more likely that Sir John de la Mare intended to display power and wealth rather than a military stronghold.

John de la Mare has served time-fighting on behalf of the English in the Hundred Years War in France and attained Royal honours. Returning from war and recently knighted, de la Mare created an imposing four towered castle as a luxury residence befitting his new social status and wealth. 

How Big Was Nunney Castle?

Nunney Castle was relatively small by medieval standards, and builders closely placed the four corner towers. Built in 1373, the role of this smaller castle was more a show of wealth and power and a residence befitting the status of its inhabitants than a military fort.

Nunney castle's stone keep measured 18 metres by 7 metres (60 ft by 24 ft) and the keep walls 2.4 metres (8 ft) thick. The tower had an entrance reached by a drawbridge that lay across the closely encircled moat.

The bailey walls were only 3.6 metres high (12-foot), but the moat had a substantial depth of 3 metres (10 ft) deep.

How Old Is Nunney Castle?

John de la Mare built Nunney Castle in 1373 to symbolise his status and a reflection of his royal favour. After serving the Crown in the Hundred Years' War, Edward III knighted de la Mare, who also held the titles of Constable of Sarum Castle and Sheriff of Somerset.

Richard Prater substantially modified the castle in the 1600s to reflect the more modern needs of the time. 

Location of Nunney Castle

Nunney Castle ruins stand in the centre of the village of Nunney, in the English county of Somerset. John de la Mare built the castle on the west bank of the Nunney Brook, a tributary to the River Frome. The fact that de la Mare chose a lower position in the valley rather than a raised area points towards the construction of comfort and residence rather than a military stronghold.

 Although Richard Prater extensively modernised the castle in the late 1500s, the location remained unchanged from the original build. The castle comprises a four-story rectangular building with closely spaced circular towers crested by a parapet and surrounded by a drum turret. A substantial moat circled the castle closely and reached the castle walls in the original build. 

Other Places To Visit Near Nunney Castle

Longleat

Longleat is an early example of an Elizabethan prodigy house built after the Longleat Priory fire in 1567. The stately home occupies an extensive estate owned by the Thynn family, who hold the title of Marquess of Bath since the late 1700s.

The attractions around the house include:

  • The world's largest hedge maze
  • Petting Zoo
  • Dr. Who Exhibit
  • Adventure castle
  • Butterfly gardens.

 

The most significant draw at Longleat is the drive-through Longleat Safari Park that was the first safari park outside of Africa in 1966. The reserve stretches through grassland and woodland settings and offers guided drives or animal viewing from the river. The reserve includes animals such as:

  • Big cats
  • Timberwolves
  • Elephants
  • Camels
  • Deer 
  • Zebras
  • Rhinos. 

Hardington Bampfylde, St Mary's Church

The Church of St. Mary Bampfylde dates from the 11th century and is a Grade 1 listed building. The church boasts a well-preserved Norman tower, one of the smallest complete church towers in England.

Inside the church are some exquisite Georgian furnishings, box pews, pulpit, and altar railings. The church also contains:

  • Memorials to the 15th Century Bamfylde family.
  • Wall paintings.
  • The Royal Arms of Charles I.

Farleigh Hungerford Castle

The once-grand Farleigh Hungerford Castle stands in the River Frome valley, where it has stood since the 14th century. The Hungerford family once called this home, and visitors can enjoy some gruesome tales about the family from the graphic panels and free audio tour. 

The site boasts a chapel with medieval paintings, family tombs, and historical displays. There’s also a crypt for brave visitors with human-shaped lead coffins on display. English heritage charges a fee of £6.50 for adults and £3.90 for children below 17. 

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow

The Stoney Littleton Chambered Long Barrow is one of the finest examples of a Neolithic chambered tomb that is open to view. The stone structure is about 30 metres (98 ft) long and has a 12.8-metre gallery (42 ft) with three pairs of side chambers and an end chamber and dates back to around 3500 BC. 

Excavations in the early 19th century uncovered bones from several individuals. These chambered burrows marked an important step in the evolution of prehistoric society and may have played a more important role than mere tombs. These barrows may have provided a place of communion which aided the living with communicating with their ancestors and Gods. 

Evidence of human interaction with these barrow mounds long after their use as a burial point suggests use went beyond the role of burial rites. Visitors may access the English heritage site for free in reasonable daylight hours. 

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