Holwell Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Devon (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 66978 44594


Motte and bailey castle known as Holwell Castle.

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 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. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.

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motte and bailey castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Holwell Castle survives well and will contain important archaeological and environmental evidence within its buried layers and deposits relating to its construction, use and landscape context. Its strategic location, the presence of a nearby settlement and field systems attest to its importance throughout the historic past.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 27 October 2015. 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 monument includes a motte and bailey castle known as Holwell Castle situated on the spur of a hill overlooking the River Heddon. The monument survives as a large circular mound (motte) surrounded by a partially buried outer ditch with an additional D shaped enclosure (the bailey) to the north-west defined by a rampart and ditch. The motte stands up to 6.2m high and is approximately 40m in diameter with a 2.7m wide outer ditch. A linear hollow on the motte summit is probably the site of a documented 1905 excavation. A resistivity survey indicated a square keep on the top of the motte and a number of postholes, whilst parchmarks have revealed the positions of wingwalls on the motte slopes. The bailey measures up to 43m by 30m internally, has an entrance to the north west and is defined by a rampart measuring up to 2.4m high and a wide partially buried outer ditch. There are traces of at least five building platforms within the bailey. Martin de Tours, the first Lord of Paracombe or Robert Fitzmartin built Holwell Castle.

Broadly contemporary field systems survive within the vicinity of the monument, but these are not included within the scheduling because they have not been assessed.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 104
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:- 34709


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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