A PRIMARY school near Ross-on-Wye had quite a surprise when an ancient stone castle was unearthed during work to two of its classrooms.

English Bicknor Primary school had been sitting on a rare early example of a stone castle, and Andy Boucher, one of the archaeologists heading up the dig, said it tells us a great deal about the site.

“This is a very exciting discovery,” said Mr Boucher, regional manager at Headland Archaeology.

“It shows this was in fact a 'keep and bailey' castle which are usually very early in date.

“In this case it seems to have had a gatehouse keep, and the remains we found could have been the base of one of two towers flanking the gate.”

The discovery came about when work was being done to replace two of the school’s classrooms – and the contractors, Pod Space, have been able to come up with a new design that preserves the remains.

It had been long known that English Bicknor was the site of a ‘motte and bailey’ castle, but the two-metre-high tower base suggests a much more significant settlement.

Mr Boucher said: “It is known that William FitzNorman – who was born in the Forest of Dean prior to the conquest – was lord of the manor here in 1086, and this may have been his castle.”

This is not the first major find Headland Archaeology, who are working with English Heritage on the project, have made in the area.

The archaeology firm had previously undertaken survey work on one of the country’s earliest castles at Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire.