Motte and bailey castle called Cardinham Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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

Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:

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. 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. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 surface stone quarrying, partial early excavation and limited cultivation, the motte and bailey castle called Cardinham Castle survives comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, strategic, military, social and political significance, domestic arrangements, abandonment and overall landscape context.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle, situated on the summit of a step ridge, overlooking the valley of a tributary to the River Fowey. The motte survives as a circular steep sided mound standing up to 4m high with an irregular profile. It is surrounded by a partially buried outer ditch. The bailey lies to the south east and is roughly rectangular in plan. It measures approximately 80m by 60m internally and is defined by a rampart bank and ditch. Beyond this, a counterscarp bank surrounds much of the perimeter.

Cardinham Castle was the seat of the most powerful barons in Cornwall after the Norman Conquest. The 'Honour of Cardinham' comprised 71 Knights fees, scattered throughout Cornwall with Cardinham near the geographical centre of these lands. There are no known early documents regarding the castle, only later traditions and histories. Therefore it is uncertain if it was built in the 11th century by Richard Fitz Turold, steward and tenant-in-chief of Robert of Mortain (the Count of Mortain between 1066 and 1086) and first holder of the 'Honour', or by William Fitz Richard, his son, or by Robert De Cardinham, the first of Richard's descendents to adopt the name `de Cardinham' in around 1180. The de Cardinham line died out in 1256 with Andrew de Cardinham, and the castle may have been abandoned at this time. The first partial unrecorded excavation was in about 1870. A lime-mortared stone wall was revealed when stone was being quarried from the south side of the motte. Built into the wall were bones, shell, pottery and pieces of dressed stone. Human remains in graves were found when digging for stone on another part of the castle. Henderson, in the 1920's considered that the motte had been used as a quarry for centuries. Although he saw no masonry, he noted plenty of building stone and the odd piece of dressed Pentewan stone. Part of the rim of a cooking pot of 12th or 13th century date was found on the surface in 1938.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-432594


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

Legacy System number:
CO 455
Legacy System:


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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