DORSET: Sherborne Old Castle

Sherborne Old Castle lr VIDEOS

By Tim Saunders

Contacts are helpful in life.

That’s certainly what Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury found. His friend just so happened to be Henry, whose father was a certain William the Conquerer. When Henry became King Henry I he looked favourably upon Roger, who was promoted to King’s representative in Wiltshire. Such a position saw him acquire great wealth allowing him the indulgence of building Sherborne Old Castle at around 1120. This grand castle was built on an earlier cemetery. It is surrounded by lovely Dorset countryside and it is possible to see the trains on the railway as we walk around the site.

Of course as Bishop he had to have a chapel and the castle community were expected to attend it throughout each day starting at 7am and ending at 8pm. There are still some decorations present, if you look carefully although today, the castle is very much a ruin. However, there is still a small section that is under cover.

Castles are wonderful things, especially for children to run around and explore. We enter via a bridge across the moat. “This originally would’ve been a drawbridge,” says Harriett (10) knowledgeably and excitedly imagining the water beneath. We later find out that the water around the moat would have had fish in it and that guests could catch them. We spy a bench and picnic. The only drawback with this attraction is that there are no toilets on site, which means we have to get back in the car and drive to the town’s car park where there are toilets but sadly they’re not very nice.

Back at the castle we are able to walk along the moat, which today is covered in grass. This should be a wonderful and relaxing stroll deep in the Dorset countryside and Caroline and I are able to walk some 25 paces in blissful solitude when we realise that the children are no longer with us. We retrace our steps to find Henry nursing a stinging nettle sting on his leg and bitterly complaining. So time for another piggy back.

It is quite amazing to imagine what life would have been like all those hundreds of years ago.

We notice that pigeons have made their home at the entrance and like to walk in and out of the narrow windows.

Much later Sir Walter Raleigh was able to persuade Queen Elizabeth I to give him the lease on the castle. He set about improving it but gave up once he decided to build what is now Sherborne New Castle, behind in 1594.

We leave feeling happy to have visited and having learnt something. It’s not far from Sherborne town centre and so we park on the side of the road and mooch about. There’s a lovely old world feel and there are pleasingly still some shops in the high street although you can’t help noticing that even Sherborne has suffered the effects of recent times.  

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