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Walls Enclosing Privy Garden Immediately to South of the Inner Court of Thornbury Castle

A Grade I Listed Building in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.6135 / 51°36'48"N

Longitude: -2.5295 / 2°31'46"W

OS Eastings: 363433

OS Northings: 190656

OS Grid: ST634906

Mapcode National: GBR JT.9GG4

Mapcode Global: VH87X.3PMX

Entry Name: Walls Enclosing Privy Garden Immediately to South of the Inner Court of Thornbury Castle

Listing Date: 21 September 1952

Last Amended: 10 July 2013

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1312668

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34924

Location: Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, BS35

County: South Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Thornbury

Built-Up Area: Thornbury

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Thornbury St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester

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Garden walls, forming part of the development of Thornbury Castle by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham between circa 1511 and 1521, with later restoration and alterations, and some C19 addition.


Garden walls, partly dating from circa 1511-21, with later restoration and alterations, and partly C19.

MATERIALS: the walls are built of stone rubble, including pennant, lias and limestone, with ashlar dressings. The western portion of the walls is 4-5 metres high, the eastern portion being about a metre lower. The embattled parapet has an ashlar coping to the eastern portion of the walls.

PLAN: the walls form a rectangular enclosure on a west-east orientation, narrowing towards the west. The southern range of Thornbury Castle’s inner court (the inner court being listed at Grade I) completes the north-western portion of the enclosure. The walls immediately to the south of the south range enclose the privy garden; the eastern section, enclosing the area known as the ‘goodly garden’, is slightly lower. The walls have been subject to considerable repair and rebuilding during the course of their history, and the north-west portion of the eastern section was built following the demolition of the medieval east range and the Duke of Bedford’s lodgings which formerly occupied this area of the site. The two parts of the garden were originally divided by a two-storey timber cloister, which ran southwards from the south-east corner of the castle’s south range, and continued around the southern and eastern garden walls, meeting the south range again at its south-west corner.

WESTERN (PRIVY GARDEN) WALLS: this portion of the walls has extra internal coped buttressing, probably relating to the lost gallery. The position of the upper storey of the gallery is indicated by the window and door openings which punctuate the walls, and by the first-floor door openings at the west and east ends of the castle's south range.

In the western wall, cusped, four-centred arched windows in pairs, with a group of three pairs separated by moulded brackets to the south, and two pairs separated by a buttress further north.

A 1732 engraving of the castle viewed from the south, by S and N Buck, appears to indicate significant alterations to the south wall of the privy garden since that date. At the centre of the south wall is a triangular gable, not shown in the Buck engraving, which has been heightened. Below this, the doorway which is believed originally to have given access to the raised walkway leading across the churchyard to the church's east end. The limestone doorcase has a four-centred arch with hollow spandrels; the lower parts of the frame appear to have been replaced, and bars have been inserted in the opening. Also in the south wall, three five-light canted oriel windows, one to the west and two to the east, with a concave moulding to the lights on the inner, northern, side. The oriel to the east of the central doorway has a stone-tiled roof, whilst in those furthest west and furthest east the arches are exposed; Buck's engraving shows the openings sheltered by small roofs, but the 1832 survey drawing made under the direction of A W N Pugin of the easternmost example indicates that at that time the windows were crowned by crenellations. Below the easternmost window is a four-centred arched doorway in a moulded frame with a hoodmould. Evidence in the stonework between the central doorway and the window to its east, on the northern face of the wall, appears to indicate the presence of a blocked ground-floor opening, though there is no evidence of this on the southern face. A continuous moulded string runs along the south elevation of the south wall.

EASTERN (GOODLY GARDEN) WALLS: the lower, eastern portion of the walls abuts the southern privy garden wall at its eastern end, and continues around the area known as the 'goodly garden' to join the south range of the inner court at its eastern end, with a wide pointed-arched opening providing access between the inner court and the privy garden; this arch and its surrounding wall is thought to be C19. Immediately to the east of this archway the wall turns northwards for a short distance, before turning at a right angle to continue eastwards. Set in the short westward face is a small arched doorway with hollow spandrels, apparently belonging to the castle's early-C16 phase. However, the western section of the garden's north wall is later than the rest of the wall, having been built to fill the gap left by the demolition of the east range and its associated buildings; there is a straight joint marking the junction of the two phases approximately 18 metres to the east of the south range.

At the southern end of the eastern wall is a small door opening, which originally led to an area occupied by orchard. Set within the walls at this end of the garden enclosure are pointed-arched bee boles, approximately 1 metre above ground level and 4 metres apart. A small stone single-storey structure, with a lean-to roof, a doorway, and a small arrow-loop window, occupies the south-east corner of the walls; this is thought to post-date 1921, replacing an earlier structure. Built against the north wall, towards the west of the goodly garden, is a small timber-framed garden shelter in an Arts and Crafts style, with a lean-to roof of Cotswold stone.

WALL AT SOUTH-WEST BOUNDARY OF OUTER COURT: attached to the south-west end of the western garden wall is a lower wall, shown on the Buck 1732 engraving, which forms the northern boundary between the castle grounds and the churchyard; this extends westwards as far as the western drive, where it connects with the western churchyard wall.


In 1066 it was recorded that the manor of Thornbury was held by Beorhtric, son of Aelfgar, although by Domesday it was in the hands of King William. The manor has changed hands many times during its history, being held by the Crown at intervals. In the C12 and C13, it was part of the earldom of Gloucester; the de Clare family was responsible for the foundation of the borough of Thornbury in 1243, to the south of the church and manor house. A major fire in 1236 destroyed the manor house, following which Henry III ordered that the Constable of St Briavels supply 20 oak trees from the Forest of Dean for its rebuilding. The house came to Hugh Audley on his marriage to Margaret de Clare in 1317, passing to Audley’s son-in-law, Ralph Stafford, in 1347. It is understood that a licence to crenellate was granted in the C14, and early-C14 and C15 financial accounts provide evidence for an extensive complex in which an inner court, entered through a central gate, gave access to a hall, orientated north to south, with kitchen offices to the west and a chapel, begun in 1340 and completed in 1435, to the east of the hall. Accounts also record an outer courtyard containing a range of service buildings.

The manor house was forfeited at the execution for treason of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, following the Rebellion of 1483, but was restored to the family and inherited by his son Edward, 3rd Duke, in 1498, who made it his principal seat. Plans were laid for the creation of an ambitious fortified house and a licence to fortify, crenellate, and embattle the manor house was granted in 1510. With the hall and chapel of the existing manor house forming the east range of an inner courtyard, Buckingham set about building an elaborate palace-castle, which demonstrated the involvement of masons of the highest quality, and was apparently modelled on Richmond Palace, at that time England’s most splendid royal residence. To complement his bold plans for the castle, Buckingham enclosed 1500 acres of parkland between 1510 and 1517. In 1514 the Duke obtained a licence to found a college of priests attached to the adjacent parish church of St Mary; the project was not realised.

Thornbury Castle's pleasure gardens lay to the south and south-east of the castle, surrounded by a high stone wall. In the survey made in 1521 (see below) the entire enclosure was referred to as the 'privy garden', whilst the area immediately to the south of Buckingham's principal range of apartments was described as a 'proper garden', but in a late-C16 inventory of the estate this area is identified as the privy garden, the name it retains to this day. There is both physical and documentary evidence that a two-storey timber gallery, roofed with slate, enclosed the privy garden, entered from the apartments; such galleries had featured in the gardens at Richmond. On the south side of the garden, the gallery gave access to a raised walkway crossing the adjacent churchyard, and leading directly to the ducal pew (now lost) at the east end of the church (the church is listed at Grade I). C16 tiles have been found in the north-east corner of the privy garden, and it has been suggested that these may have lined the walkways, though they are more likely to be associated with the demolished Duke of Bedford's apartments in this area. The eastern portion of the walled garden enclosure was described in the 1521 survey as being 'a goodly garden to walk in', and is known as the 'goodly garden' today; this area originally communicated with a large orchard, to the east.

Edward, Duke of Buckingham, was executed on the orders of Henry VIII following an investigation for treason in 1521 – the Duke's ostentatious behaviour and wealth, as evidenced by his lavish building programme, having exacerbated the suspicion with which he was viewed – and the estate was confiscated, remaining in Crown ownership until 1554. Henry sent surveyors to make a record of his new acquisition shortly after Buckingham’s death, and their account provides a detailed description of the castle and estate. Although works were not recommenced, the buildings were maintained and periodically used; Princess Mary visited during the 1520s, and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stopped on a royal progress in 1535. Thornbury Castle was restored to the Staffords in 1554 when it was granted to Buckingham’s son, Lord Henry Stafford, by Queen Mary. The upkeep of the castle proved too expensive, however, and it fell into ruin, eventually coming into the ownership of a branch of the Howard family in 1637 and remaining in their hands until the 1960s.

The east range, comprising the original medieval hall and chapel, was demolished at some point before 1732. No pictorial representations survive of the range, which is described in a detailed estate inventory made in the late C16; archaeological investigation has demonstrated the survival of this part of the castle as a buried feature. Although part of the castle – principally the section of the west range to the south of the gatehouse – served as lodgings and a farmhouse in the C18 and early C19, much of the building was ruinous, and it was not until the C19 that it was brought back into use as a high-status residence. In 1803 the local architect Francis Greenway exhibited designs for 'Thornbury Castle restored […]', and he may have been commissioned to work on the castle in 1809-11. In 1849 Henry Howard commissioned Anthony Salvin to restore the castle for his private accommodation; the gardens were re-designed in a C19 interpretation of Tudor style. The castle is now (2013) a hotel and restaurant.

Reasons for Listing

The garden walls to the south and south-east of the inner court of Thornbury Castle are listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* Historical interest: the walls form part of the complex created from 1511 for Edward Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, which remained unfinished at his execution for treason in 1521; the site as a whole represents the height of architectural taste and craftsmanship;
* Architectural interest: for the elaborate high-level openings, and the evidence they give of the lost cloister which once provided a link between house, garden and church;
* Rarity and intactness: despite some alteration and restoration, the walls survive as a complete and integral part of an exceptional early-C16 domestic complex;
* Group value: the inner court buildings have strong group value as part of the Thornbury Castle site, which includes the inner and outer court buildings, also listed at Grade I, the castle landscape, registered at Grade II, and the scheduled remains of the medieval manor house and C16 privy garden, and the two Grade II-listed lodges. The Church of St Mary the Virgin, listed at Grade I, stands immediately adjacent to the site.

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