A motte and bailey castle, the remains of a Benedictine priory and a curvilinear earthwork, 280m NNW of St Martin’s church.
Reasons for Designation
Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.
Despite some damage and disturbance in the past, the motte and bailey castle at Ruislip survives well. It will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it was constructed. It will provide information about the occupation of the area following the Norman Conquest. In addition the association with the Benedictine priory adds further interest.
The Benedictine Priory at Ruislip was established on the site of the castle bailey, probably after it had fallen out of use. From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 to the reign of Henry VIII, settlements of religious communities, such as monasteries and priories, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers. They lived a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. These religious houses ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders and varied considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. Many were the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule came only gradually, although over 150 Benedictine religious houses were eventually founded in England.
The buried remains of the Benedictine priory at Ruislip survive well. Partial excavation has shown that the site retains archaeological potential and will provide archaeological information and environmental evidence about the priory and the landscape in which it was constructed. In addition its association with the motte and bailey castle adds further interest.
Although the exact origin and function of the curvilinear earthwork is uncertain, it has been shown by partial excavation to contain archaeological evidence relating to the occupation of the area. Only limited excavation has been undertaken and it will thus retain potential for further archaeological investigation. Its significance is enhanced by the presence of the motte and bailey castle and remains of the priory to the south.
This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records. This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 25 March 2015.
The monument includes a motte and bailey castle, the remains of a Benedictine priory and a curvilinear earthwork, surviving as earthworks and below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated on gently sloping ground south of the River Pinn in Ruislip.
The earthworks of the motte and bailey castle are located at the southern end of the site. The motte is a mound, oval in shape, about 45m long east-west by 32m wide north-south. It rises 3m above a surrounding ditch or dry moat, which is up to 4m wide. The bailey, which is roughly rectangular in form, extends about 46m to the north, enclosing Manor Farm. It was originally denoted by a bank and ditch but landscaping has led to the levelling of much of the bank, whilst the ditch has become in-filled and survives as a buried feature. The remains of the Benedictine Priory are situated to the north of the motte. Partial excavation in 1937 and 1976-9, as well as an archaeological watching brief in 1997, recorded the remains of the priory in the area surrounding Manor Farm. These include flint foundations on the north and east sides of the existing farmhouse, 4.5m of a medieval boundary wall to the south, and stone masonry remains featuring Gothic tracery. To the north of Manor Farm is a prominent curvilinear earthwork running west to east. It is about 200m long and denoted by a ditch, 12m wide and 2m deep, with a bank on its northern side. The earthwork has been truncated by a modern roadway about half way along its length. Partial excavation of the bank and ditch in 1976-7 recovered Mesolithic and/or Neolithic worked flint, Roman and medieval pottery sherds. The exact origin and function of the earthwork is uncertain, although it has been suggested that is was part of a mill leat.
The motte and bailey castle was built on the site shortly after the Norman Conquest. The Manor of Ruislip is recorded in the possession of Ernulf de Hesdin at the time of the Doomsday Survey. In about 1087 it was granted to the Abbot and Convent of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec in Normandy. A cell was established on the site in the 12th century. Documentary evidence in the form of extents or inventories of 1294, 1324 and 1336, show that the priory was the centre of a large demesne largely devoted to arable land at this time. The priory buildings included a hall, chapel, guesthouse and three barns. The priory was dissolved in 1404 and after being passed between several owners the land became the property of Kings College, Cambridge in about 1451. In the early 16th century, the ‘Friar’s Hall’ was demolished and Manor Farmhouse, the current building occupying the site, was built.
An aisled barn, located to the south-west of the site, is the sole surviving building of the Benedictine priory and dates to about 1300. It is listed at Grade II*. Manor Farmhouse is Grade II listed.