Information for record number MWA5379:
Medieval Dam at Kenilworth Castle

Summary The site of a dam which was created during the Medieval period to create the water defences at Kenilworth castle known as the Mere, which no longer exists. The earthwork bank is still visible and is situated to the south, west and north of the castle.
What Is It?  
Type: Defence, Dam, Ditch, Bank (Earthwork), Platform, Water Channel, Quarry
Period: Medieval (1066 AD - 1539 AD)
Where Is It?  
Parish: Kenilworth
District: Warwick, Warwickshire
Grid Reference: SP 28 72
(Data represented on this map shows the current selected record as a single point, this is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent an accurate or complete representation of archaeological sites or features)
Level of Protection National - Old SMR PrefRef (Grade: )
Scheduled Monument (Grade: 04/01/1996)
Sites & Monuments Record

Source Number  

1 A number of important earthworks exist outside the castle. Running in a SE direction for a length of about 137m is an artificial bank thrown across the valley from Mortimer's Tower to the Floodgate Tower. It is about 16.4m wide and in part 6.1m high; this was constructed for the purpose of damming up the water of streams and pools and creating water defences to the castle on the S, W and N (PRN 5380). At the SE end of the great dam was a ditch, 17m wide and 6.1m deep, which served as an overflow for the waters of the lake. Portions of the stonework of a sluice survive. This sluice controlled the amount of water in the moat around the castle.
2 Previously Scheduled as Warwickshire Monument No 1.
3 Scheduling information.
4 Revised Scheduling information. Massive dam running SE from S side of Outer Court for apx 150m, built to retain water in mere. In 14th and 15th century was further strengthened and fortified, and was again improved for tilting in 16th century. It was deliberately breached in the aftermath of the Civil War. Fragments of Medieval masonry are still visible. As well as the dam itself a 10m wide sample section of the mere floor adjacent to it is Scheduled.
5 Arch Obs took place to assist with the proposals for a flood alleviation scheme. Test pits revealed alluvial deposits, including undated waterlogged deposits. There is considerable potential for important Medieval waterlogged remains to survive adjacent to the south east end of the dam.
6 Arch survey - topographical/resistivity & radar - undertaken in asssociation with proposals for a flood alleviation scheme to place sluices across the outlet of the Finham Brook from the causeway and create an overflow at its southern end making use of an extant historic channel. The geophysical work identified the line of the channnel from the mere to the ponds and showed a bank on either side of the channel together with revetment features on the southern buried side. The topographical survey located several features including a platform surrounding the ponds, banks, masonry walls, quarry pits and rectilinear earthworks and a mound that may be structural remains.
7 Included in a resource assessment of the Mere and associated features.
8 Excavtion in advance of a new entrance building uncovered evidence of dam construction layers dating to the 12th/early 13th century. The layers appeared to pre-date the adjacent standing walls of the Gallery Tower and the Tiltyard, and were topped by a rubble surface which may have formed a strand for boats used on the mere. The remains survive at a depth of only 0.15 - 0.20m below the former ground surface over the whole of the excavated area, so that any interference below this level would disturb/destroy Archaeological material.
9 Further report to
10 Evidence of the make-up deposits for the dam and shallow foundations for the east wall of the Tiltyard were recorded during Archaeological recording of disturbance caused by a fallen tree. Two phases of wall foundations were recorded for the east wall cut into the dam make up - the earlier foundation which was possibly Medieval or 16th- century was fairly insubstantial; the later contained resused masonry, may have been late 16th-century in date although it had probably been rebuilt during consolidation work in the 1960s.

Source No: 7
Source Type: Archaeological Report
Title: Kenilworth Castle Warwickshire: A preliminary Archaeological Assessment of the Mere and Associated Features
Author/originator: Boucher, A.
Date: 2000
Page Number:
Source No: 9
Source Type: Archaeological Report
Title: Kenilworth Castle, Archaeological Resource Assessment of the Mere and Associated Features.
Author/originator: Boucher, A
Date: 2001
Page Number:
Source No: 1
Source Type: Bibliographic reference
Title: Victoria County History, vol 1, Warwickshire
Author/originator: Doubleday H A & Page W (eds)
Date: 1904
Page Number:
Volume/Sheet: 1
Source No: 8
Source Type: Evaluation Report
Title: Archaeological Evaluation at The Gallery Tower, Kenilworth Castle
Author/originator: Chris Jones
Date: 2005
Page Number:
Source No: 6
Source Type: Geophysical Survey Report
Title: Finham Brook, near Kenilworth Castle: Archaeological Survey for a New Flood Alleviation Scheme
Author/originator: Boucher, Andy
Date: 2000
Page Number:
Source No: 5
Source Type: Observation Report
Title: Archaeological Observation of Test Pits at Kenilworth Castle Mere, Warwickshire
Author/originator: Jones C
Date: 1999
Page Number:
Volume/Sheet: Report 9909
Source No: 10
Source Type: Observation Report
Title: Archaeological Recording of disturbance from a fallen tree, east of Tiltyard, Kennilworth Castle
Author/originator: Chris Jones
Date: 2007
Page Number:
Source No: 2
Source Type: Scheduling record
Title: SAM list
Author/originator: DoE
Page Number:
Source No: 3
Source Type: Scheduling record
Title: SAM list
Author/originator: DoE
Date: 1985
Page Number:
Source No: 4
Source Type: Scheduling record
Title: SAM Description
Author/originator: English Heritage
Date: 1996
Page Number:
Volume/Sheet: 21578
Source No:
Source Type: Watching Brief Report
Title: The Brays Car Park, Kenilworth Castle
Author/originator: Mould, C and Sterenberg, J
Date: 1994
Page Number:
There are no images associated with this record.  
back to top


Word or Phrase
none Scheduled Monument Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) are those archaeological sites which are legally recognised as being of national importance. They can range in date from prehistoric times to the Cold War period. They can take many different forms, including disused buildings or sites surviving as earthworks or cropmarks.

SAMs are protected by law from unlicensed disturbance and metal detecting. Written consent from the Secretary of State must be obtained before any sort of work can begin, including archaeological work such as geophysical survey or archaeological excavation. There are nearly 200 SAMs in Warwickshire.
source SAM List Scheduled Ancient Monument List. A list or schedule of archaelogical and historic monuments that are considered to be of national importance. The list contains a detailed description of each Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and a map showing their location and extent. By being placed on the schedule, SAMs are protected by law from any unauthorised distrubance. The list has been compiled and is maintained by English Heritage. It is updated periodically. back
technique Earthwork Earthworks can take the form of banks, ditches and mounds. They are usually created for a specific purpose. A bank, for example, might be the remains of a boundary between two or more fields. Some earthworks may be all that remains of a collapsed building, for example, the grassed-over remains of building foundations.

In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky than during the other seasons, earthworks have larger shadows. From the air, archaeologists are able to see the patterns of the earthworks more easily. Earthworks can sometimes be confusing when viewed at ground level, but from above, the general plan is much clearer.

Archaeologists often carry out an aerial survey or an earthwork survey to help them understand the lumps and bumps they can see on the ground.
technique Test Pit A small, exploratory excavation that helps archaeologists to find out how deep below the ground surface the archaeological layers extend. They are also dug to discover whether the topsoil contains particular concentrations of artefacts. Test pits are dug before a large excavation to determine a site's depth and contents. back
period Medieval 1066 AD to 1539 AD (the 11th century AD to the 16th century AD)

The medieval period comes after the Saxon period and before the post medieval period.

The Medieval period begins in 1066 AD.
This was the year that the Normans, led by William the Conqueror (1066 – 1087), invaded England and defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex.
The Medieval period includes the first half of the Tudor period (1485 – 1603 AD), when the Tudor family reigned in England and eventually in Scotland too.

The end of the Medieval period is marked by Henry VIII’s (1509 – 1547) order for the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the years running up to 1539 AD. The whole of this period is sometimes called the Middle Ages.
more ->
monument POOL * A small body of water, either natural or artificial. back
monument CIVIL * This is the top term for the class. See CIVIL Class List for narrow terms. back
monument LAYER * An archaeological unit of soil in a horizontal plane which may seal features or be cut through by other features. back
monument SITE * Unclassifiable site with minimal information. Specify site type wherever possible. back
monument BUILDING * A structure with a roof to provide shelter from the weather for occupants or contents. Use specific type where known. back
monument LAKE * A large body of water surrounded by land. back
monument ARCH * A structure over an opening usually formed of wedge-shaped blocks of brick or stone held together by mutual pressure and supported at the sides; they can also be formed from moulded concrete/ cast metal. A component; use for free-standing structure only. back
monument FLOOR * A layer of stone, brick or boards, etc, on which people tread. Use broader site type where known. back
monument FEATURE * Areas of indeterminate function. back
monument TOWER * A tall building, either round, square or polygonal in plan, used for a variety of purposes, including defence, as a landmark, for the hanging of bells, industrial functions, etc. Use more specific type where known. back
monument POND * A body of still water often artificially formed for a specific purpose. Use specifc type where known. back
monument MOAT * A wide ditch surrounding a building, usually filled with water. Use for moated sites, not defensive moats. Use with relevant site type where known, eg. MANOR HOUSE, GARDEN, etc. back
monument CASTLE * A fortress and dwelling, usually medieval in origin, and often consisting of a keep, curtain wall and towers etc. back
monument PIT * A hole or cavity in the ground, either natural or the result of excavation. Use more specific type where known. back
monument WELL * A shaft or pit dug in the ground over a supply of spring-water. back
monument DEFENCE * This is the top term for the class. See DEFENCE Class List for narrow terms. back
monument CAUSEWAY * A road or pathway raised above surrounding low, wet or uneven ground. back
monument PLATFORM * Unspecified. Use specific type where known. back
monument CAR PARK * A place where cars and other road vehicles may be parked and left. back
monument DITCH * A long and narrow hollow or trench dug in the ground, often used to carry water though it may be dry for much of the year. back
monument SLUICE * A dam which can be raised or lowered to regulate the flow of water. back
monument REVETMENT * A wall or masonry construction built for the purpose of retaining or supporting a bank of earth, wall, rampart etc. back
monument WATER CHANNEL * An artificial watercourse for the conveyance of water. back
monument TILTYARD * A long, narrow yard used for jousting. back
monument QUARRY * An excavation from which stone for building and other functions, is obtained by cutting, blasting, etc. back
monument STREAM * A natural flow or current of water issuing from a source. back
monument MOUND * A natural or artificial elevation of earth or stones, such as the earth heaped upon a grave. Use more specific type where known. back
monument WALL * An enclosing structure composed of bricks, stones or similar materials, laid in courses. Use specific type where known. back
monument EARTHWORK * A bank or mound of earth used as a rampart or fortification. back
monument DAM * A barrier of concrete or earth, etc, built across a river to create a reservoir of water for domestic and/or industrial usage. back

* Copyright of English Heritage (1999)

English Heritage National Monuments Record