Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1005634
Date first listed: 18-May-1951
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SU 18366 68656
Motte castle called ‘The Mount’ at Marlborough College.
Reasons for Designation
Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle. The full extent of the castle at Marlborough is not known so the motte castle called ‘The Mount’ at Marlborough College is all that is included currently in the scheduling and will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, origins, function, longevity, adaptive re-use, domestic arrangements, its social, political, economic, strategic, historic and territorial significance and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 2 July 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. As such they do not yet have the full descriptions of their modernised counterparts available. Please contact us if you would like further information.
This monument includes a motte castle situated on the summit of a ridge surrounded by a meander of the River Kennet and within the grounds of Marlborough College within a Grade II Registered Garden (2247). The motte survives as a circular mound of up to 85m in diameter and 18m high. Excavations in 1912 found layers of charcoal and antler picks which have long caused speculation as to whether this was a prehistoric earthwork which was re-used as a motte, although a survey in 2001did not prove the castle to be anything other than medieval in origin. Further excavations in 1936 found the footings for a curtain wall and the buttress for a shell keep on the summit together with 12th to 13th century pottery. Speculation of this having once been part of a much larger castle with baileys was apparently fuelled by the discovery of a V-shaped profile ditch to the north of the motte in 2000 and it has long been believed that much of the bailey extended to the south although the extent of this is not known. In 2005 further excavations indicated the spiral path which winds its way up to the summit was in existence from 1654. Marlborough was part of a royal borough which was visited often by sovereigns, there is no documentary mention of a castle prior to 1138, but it is thought significant that William I imprisoned Bishop Aethelfric of Selsey in Marlborough and that Henry I held an Easter Court there in 1110. Also, several charters were signed in Marlborough which implies the castle did already exist. The first definitive documentary record was in 1139 when it was held by King Stephen from the Empress Matilda. There was further building work during the reign of Henry II which included the ‘Great Tower’ and continued from 1175 to 1179. King John had the castle repaired and a ring wall built around the motte in 1209-11. Henry III spent £2000 on works between 1227 and 1272 which included work on two chapels, the hall, the keep, two barbicans, a curtain wall, two bridges, gatehouse, and the Queen's apartments. From 1273-1369 it formed part of the Queen's possessions as her ‘Dower House’. However, by 1403 it had deteriorated significantly and subsequently remained neglected. Allegedly the black marble font now in Preshute Church came from the castle chapel and was supposedly used to baptise King John and Edward the Black Prince. The winding path, a grotto (listed at Grade II) and a water tower on top of the motte were all landscape garden features from the 17th to 18th centuries. The grotto was originally part of a canal and cascade feature associated with the mound.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: WI 321
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Wiltshire HER SU16NE450
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