Lidgate Castle and C16 Fortified Manorial Complex


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Located on the northern edge of the village of Lidgate, approximately 300m north of Street Farmhouse.


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

Location Description:
Located on the northern edge of the village of Lidgate, approximately 300m north of Street Farmhouse.
West Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Lidgate Castle, a C12 variant of a motte and bailey castle remodelled, probably in C16, as a fortified manorial complex.

Reasons for Designation

Lidgate Castle, Suffolk, a C12 castle and the associated C16 fortified manorial complex is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Archaeological potential:

* for the good survival of standing, buried and earthwork remains including the potential for waterlogged organic deposits, all of which can considerably enhance our understanding of the castle, and manorial complex and the place they held in the wider landscape;

Diversity of features:

* for the broad diversity of surviving features including the motte, inner bailey, outer bailey earthworks, buried archaeological deposits within these, the bailey pond and the earthwork and buried remains of the C16 fortified manorial complex;


* as an example of a C12 military site retaining evidence of key phases of development, from the variant motte and bailey form of the early castle to the remodelled fortified manorial complex of the C16;


* on account of the historical and archaeological documentation notably LiDAR images, aerial photographs, geophysical survey and a topographical survey which enhance our understanding of the site;

Group Value: * for the very strong historical and spatial group value the site holds with Church of St Mary, listed at Grade II* and Lidgate Hall, listed at Grade II.


The manor of Lidgate was gifted to Bury Abbey in mid-C11 by a colleague of William the Conqueror, Reginald Scanceler after which it was held by the service of the ‘Steward of the Liberty of St Edmund’ until the reformation. In 1086 Lidgate was documented as being an average sized village on the road from Exning to Clare. A large castle, a variant of a motte and bailey, occupies the northern edge of the village with the inner and outer bailey extending south towards The Street (the main road running through the village, now known as B1063) but little is known of the castle's history. The castle does not conform to the circular motte design of the immediate post-Conquest period and as such probably dates to the second phase of castle building triggered by the civil war during the reign of King Stephen (AD1136-53) so it is thought Lidgate was built around 1143. It would have been active in 1266 when the manor was seized from Henry de Hastings and granted to Gilbert de Clare on behalf of the king. Thereafter, the available evidence suggests strongly that the castle had been abandoned and the site was remodelled as a fortified manor. A survey of 1326 mentions a pasture called Castleyard, while a castle is not mentioned at all in a survey of 1391: instead the manorial complex comprised little more than a chamber for the steward and agricultural outhouses. The site of the castle was undoubtedly overgrown by the C15, for wood was illegally cut ‘on the ditch of the church and castle’ in 1420 and in 1474 the rector did likewise around ‘les motts and les castells’.

The settlement has been considered to be a failed fledgling town; its importance and population were swelled by the castle and those garrisoned within it and the settlement was granted a weekly market that was known to have been in use by 1279. In 1391 its tolls and stallage were valued at 3s 4d and controlled by manorial authority. A field name of Tinkers Close is marked on the 1886 Ordnance Survey (OS) map, a triangular enclosure leading from the south-west corner of the castle outer-bailey, and is understood to mark the location of the former market. The market was still being held in the early C15 when a ‘tollhous’ is mentioned and repairs were undertaken to ‘stalls in the market of Lidgate’. The agricultural nature of the vill is apparent in 1327, when the names of its tax payers emphasise its agrarian base rather than any trading function with extant court rolls rarely mentioning any trade or crafts. By the late C14 Lidgate was an agricultural community with a shrinking local market.

It would appear Lidgate’s fortunes were closely associated with the castle so the abandonment of the fortification would have seriously undermined the established trade links. The market continued until at least the early C15, but it could attract only a modest volume of trade. The tolls generated in 1391 were nominal, and for much of the C15 only three brewers were amerced annually for trading in the village. It is believed Lidgate fell within Newmarket’s local marketing hinterland, and it was unable to compete successfully for trade once the market for local produce began to contract after the plague. The population of Lidgate fell by a third in the later middle ages, from around 300 in the 1320s to around 200 in the 1520s.

Within this pattern of general decline Lidgate suffered a severe slump in economic activity in the 1420s, when the number of tenants reported for allowing their houses to dilapidate rose significantly, and the manor resorted to providing some tenants with timber for repairs. At least three burgage plots were reported abandoned or ruinous, and the manorial buildings had fallen into disrepair. A similar pattern of decline recurs in 1460 when two cottages in a prime location on ‘Le Baille’ were ruinous and the manorial buildings again needed repair. The reduced demand for land is reflected in the activities of John Yardley, who was able to acquire five burgage plots by 1462. The market probably ceased to be held by the mid-C15, and by the end of the century references to burgage plots are altogether less commonplace.

The Church of St Mary, listed at Grade II* (List entry 1376756), is located at the west side of the outer castle bailey. The earliest visible fabric in the church is believed to be C13 although it is thought the church was probably built in C12 or earlier. Re-used fragments of a decorated stone baluster shaft dating to C10 have been found incorporated into two of the later buildings on the site. Less than 20m east of the church is a short stretch of flint rubble walling standing to approximately 1.5m high, believed to be part of the castle gate leading from the inner bailey. Lidgate Hall, a C16 timber-framed house, refronted and altered in the C18 and most likely part of the remodelling as a fortified manor, is located approximately 150m south-east of the castle motte. The Hall is listed Grade II (List Entry 1284453) and sits within a ditched enclosure which is thought to be an extension to the castle defences during the manorial remodelling. A timber-framed barn, 30m north of Lidgate Hall, also sits within this enclosure.

The castle was first scheduled 19 June 1967 with the focus at that time being on the motte and bailey castle earthworks.


Principal elements: Lidgate Castle survives as a series of standing, earthwork and buried deposits representing the motte and bailey castle, including both the inner and outer bailey and earthworks related to the manorial remodelling. The Church of St Mary sits within the inner bailey, immediately south-west of the castle motte and west of the principal entrance to the castle motte. Lidgate Hall, now subdivided into two dwellings, is located to the south-east of the castle outer bailey but within what is understood to be the remodelled manorial enclosure, close to a C16 timber-framed barn.

Description: Lidgate village lies mid-point between Exning and Clare, with the castle positioned on higher ground at the northern edge of the settlement surrounded on the east, north and west sides by arable fields, and to the south by the inhabited areas of the village and pasture fields. The castle is a form of motte and bailey, created by the fortification of a natural hill, the site of the keep being raised on a promontory above the 85m contour overlooking the valley of the River Kennet. The modern county boundary with Cambridgeshire lies less than 1km to the west. Today the village is essentially a linear settlement following the line of the road (B1063) for approximately 1.2km; however, the medieval settlement is thought to have extended further north between the road and the castle and possibly to the west of the castle.

Access to the castle motte was not possible at the time of the site visit (August 2018) due to the dense vegetation growth but it was possible to assess parts of the surrounding ditches from outside the bounds of the castle inner bailey and from within the church yard. LiDAR survey, aerial photographs (2018), geophysical survey (2013) and the Lidgate Castle Topographical Survey (2015) show the degree of below ground survival of archaeological features and, coupled with the visible earthworks, enables a clear understanding of the extent and scale of the castle and manorial complex.

The castle earthworks comprise two unequal enclosures defined and linked by ditches. The motte is approximately 45m square with steeply scarped ditches around it, surviving up to approximately 6m deep and 15m wide. Within this area are two sub-circular mounds, which from OS maps measure approximately 14m in length and 10m wide. On the west side an outer bank survives to approximately 3m high, a similar bank is also evident on the north and east side but here the height has been reduced to less than 1m (from the field surface), and the bank spread as a result of ploughing. The entrance to the inner motte is indicated by a causeway across the ditch on its south side; the current approach road from the village aligns with this and lies along the castle’s central axis suggesting that, as a route the approach road may have its origins in the castle and or settlement layout. A sunken lane on the east side of the castle which survives in part as an earthwork and in part as a crop mark visible on aerial photographs, implies a second approach from this side and, south of the churchyard, appears to define the south side of the outer bailey.

The outer bailey, to the south of the motte, is largely occupied by the Church of St Mary and the parish graveyard. Within the graveyard, to the east of the church, is a stretch of flint rubble walling which survives to approximately 2m high and represents the only known standing remains of the castle. The wall is aligned with the main entrance to the castle and is thought to be part of a gatehouse. The outer bailey is also occupied by farm buildings and cottages associated with the C16 Lidgate Hall. The outer bailey ditch extends south along the west side of the churchyard and curves towards its southern end where it corresponds with a sunken track running east to west. The slope of this southern boundary is evident in the gardens of Wood Cottage and Church Hall cottages and to the rear of an open fronted cart shed.

To the east of the outer bailey earthworks, immediately north of Lidgate Hall, is a clear crop mark showing evidence of a wide, curving feature, extending from just north of Lidgate Hall and terminating in a rounded end approximately 20m short of the outer bank of the castle defences. This cropmark represents the infilled ditch which is depicted on the 1st edition OS map of 1886 filled with water, and including the area of the current pond just north of the hall. It is suggested that this crescent-shaped feature was part of the remodelling, to fortify the manor.

A topographical survey (2015) in the gardens of Lidgate Hall and in the pasture field south of the church, adds considerable evidence to the suggestion that a manorial enclosure was added to the south of the castle's outer bailey during the remodelling of the manorial complex. A defensive ditch which defined the west side of the manorial enclosure still exists as a substantial linear depression, measuring approximately 17m wide and up 1.5m deep at the north end but shallower towards the south. The ditch appears to have silted up or has been deliberately backfilled creating a shallower profile, but its original depth is predicted to be close to 4m. To the east of the ditch, inside the enclosure, there is a complex of earthworks defining a sequence of terraced platforms, upon which smaller flat platforms suggesting building platforms are recorded. This contrasts with the landscape to the west of the ditch, outside the enclosure, where the meadow gently falls away to the west and south. The northern end of the ditch appears to have been infilled to allow for the trackway from the west to cross into the enclosure although a crossing here in some form is likely to have been part of the castle’s original design. The infilling of the ditch may have been to enable vehicular access to what had previously been a pedestrian causeway. At its southern end the track has eroded out to an open funnel shape but appears to be the corner of the enclosure and the southern extent of the ditch which aligns with the northern edge of the Bailey Pond to the east. Field walking along the line of a trench dug for the laying of cables, on the southern edge of what is considered to be the manorial enclosure revealed pottery, tile and animal bone. The pottery dates towards the end of the medieval period suggesting the material is associated with the manorial site rather than the castle's occupation. Landscaping of the garden to the south of the ditch, to create a relatively level lawn, has severely compromised any evidence of the southern defensive ditch.

The garden of Lidgate Hall (west side) is laid to lawn which slopes southwards to the Bailey Pond. The topography here is relatively smooth when compared to the field west of the access track although three changes of incline are recorded and align in part with the sequence of terraced platforms to the west. The garden is bounded on its east side by a ditch which, at its northern end, terminates just south of the east wing of Lidgate Hall and at its southern end turns to exit into the ‘Bailey Pond’. The ditch is 10m wide and 1.2m deep and overgrown by mature trees so its depth has been reduced by accumulating leaf mould and silts but this will aid the preservation of the buried parts of the ditch. On the inside edge of the ditch is a low bank 3m wide and 0.4m high which can be seen on the edge of the landscaped garden area and continues into the wooded copse at the south eastern corner where the bank turns and joins with the edge of the pond. The second edition OS map shows a path which seems to follow the line of the bank.

The east end of Lidgate Hall (now a separate dwelling) sits upon a very clearly defined platform surviving to approximately 1m high with a right angle corresponding to the south-east corner of the hall building suggesting the platform was created when this wing of the hall was built. Given its alignment with the ditch on the east side of the adjacent garden it could help to explain the termination of the ditch at the northern end.

With the use of map regression it is clear that Bailey Pond has retained its shape and definition and shows little evidence of alteration. The pond therefore has a high archaeological potential for the preservation of organic material and artefacts which could, if analysed scientifically, provide important clues to the use of the site and the wider contemporary landscape context of the castle and manorial complex.

Extent of Scheduling: the scheduling, in two separate areas of protection, aims to protect the buried and earthwork remains of Lidgate Castle and the features associated with the C16 remodelling of the fortified manorial complex. Starting in the south-west corner the line defining the scheduled area follows the western outer edge of the ditch that marks the fortified manorial complex, and then continues north along the outer edge of the inner and outer castle bailey earthworks. The line turns to follow along the northern edge before turning to the south along the eastern side of the castle. After approximately 50m the line turns to the south-east to include the infilled ditch which is now (2018) clearly evident as a crop mark but showed as an earthwork on the early OS maps. Around the west, north and east side of the castle earthworks the area of protection includes a buffer of 10m around the castle earthworks to ensure the spread of the outer bank is included. A buffer is also considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. The line then runs eastwards following the northern edge of the infilled ditch, crossing a small north to south track before turning south through a small wooded area to the track leading to Lidgate Hall. Here it follows the northern edge of the track to the west, south of the pond, before turning south and running 5m east of the field boundary to east of Lidgate Hall. It continues to follow this line along the east and south side of the garden to Lidgate Hall (west wing) until it meets Bailey Pond. The 5m buffer here is to ensure the support and preservation of monument. The line then runs around the southern edge of the pond before crossing the road leading to the castle and following the field boundary around the southern side of the field containing the terraces, building platforms and the remnants of the southern enclosure ditch of the fortified manorial complex. A second, small area of protection in the graveyard of the Church of St Mary's, covers the standing remains of the castle gatehouse.

Exclusions: there are a number of standing buildings within the scheduled area including Lidgate Hall and its associated barns, Wood Cottages and Church Hall Cottages all of which are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these buildings is included. All modern path and road surfaces and fences are also excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath is included. The churchyard to Church of St Mary remains active and is therefore excluded from the designation.


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

Legacy System number:
SF 125
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Victoria County History of the county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, (1911), 600-601
Foreman, Anthony, LIDGATE. Two Thousand Years of a Suffolk Village, (2016)
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Suffolk, (1974), 333
Renn, D, Norman Castles in Britain, (1973)
Norman, Scarfe, 'Medieval and Later Markets' in , Dymiond and Martin, Historical Atlas of Suffolk, (1999), 76-77
Lidgate Castle East Report 2013. Geophysical surveys by Archaeology RheeSearch Group
Lidgate Castle topographical survey LDG018 by David Gill, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Services 2015 for UK Power Networks
Suffolk County Council HER Events ESF 22752, ESF22791, ESF22445
Urban decline in late Medieval Suffolk by Mark Bailey, A paper given at a conference on Urban Decline 100-1600 at University of Birmingham 1996


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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