Aldford motte and bailey and shell keep 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.

Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 41896 59542

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey castle at Aldford is one of a group of early post-conquest motte and baileys forming a defensive system, the aim of which was to curb Welsh raids on the rich farming areas of Cheshire. Its earthworks are well preserved and the monument is the best surviving example of a Norman castle in Cheshire. It will retain considerable detail of its original form and the buildings which lay within it. Additionally it is a rare example in the county of a motte and bailey later modified in stone as a shell keep castle.


The monument at Aldford is a motte and bailey castle modified by the later addition of a shell keep castle. The site is stratigically situated 500m south of a crossing point of the River Dee that has been in use since Roman times, and includes a sub-rectangular flat-topped motte measuring 35m by 33m that is surrounded by a substantial dry ditch, up to 40m wide and 5.8m deep. South of the motte ditch is a triangular bailey that includes an area of 4250 sq.m. The bailey is flanked by a dry ditch up to 19m wide and 2.5m deep which remains visible on the eastern and western sides. Upcast from this ditch has been used to create banks either side of the bailey's eastern ditch and adjacent to the largely infilled southern arm. An outer bank also flanks the ditch east of the motte. Foundation stones of the curtain wall of the later shell keep castle are exposed just below the crest of the motte on the southern and eastern sides and there are small mounds of rubble at the south-east and north-east corners of the motte. The motte and bailey was constructed in about the mid 12th century. Robert de Aldford subsequently refortified the castle in stone just before or during the reign of Henry II (1154-89). The castle passed to the Ardene family in the early 13th century and then to the Stanleys in 1464 before being purchased by Sir William Brereton during the early 16th century. By the 18th century the castle had fallen into decay and passed to the Grosvenor family who made a landscape feature of the earthworks by planting trees, filling the motte and bailey ditch with water, and constructing a cistern house or bathhouse in the bailey ditch. All walls and fences are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath them, however, is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Chambers, J F, The Motte and Bailey Castles of Dodleston, Pulford and Aldford, (1990), 57
Chambers, J F, The Motte and Bailey Castles of Dodleston, Pulford and Aldford, (1990), 57
Sale, B, Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985), 2
Sale, B, Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985), 4
Sale, B, Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985), 1
Ormerod, G, 'History Of Cheshire' in The History of Cheshire, (1819), 757-8
Ormerod, G, 'History Of Cheshire' in The History of Cheshire, (1819), 757-8
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Shell Keep Castles, (1988)
SMR No 1836/1, Sale, B and Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985)
SMR No 1836/1, Sale, B and Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985)
SMR No 1836/1, Sale, B and Turner, R, The Motte and Bailey at Aldford, (1985)


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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