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were superseded by other types of castle.
Stafford Castle survives well and is a good example of a motte and bailey
castle with two baileys. Partial excavation of the site has indicated that the
castle retains important structural and artefactual evidence for the
history of the castle's construction and for the economy of its inhabitants.
The wealth and importance of Stafford Castle is reflected in extensive
documentary records dating from the mid 14th century to the site's abandonment
in the mid 17th century. The remains of the 19th century reconstructed keep
represents an important early example of Gothic Revival architecture.
Field survey and partial excavation of the medieval settlement remains have
indicated that important archaeological deposits will survive undisturbed
within the settlement site which will provide evidence of building plots and
field and property boundaries, allowing an interpretation of the layout and
date of the settlement and of its relationship in date and function to
The monument is situated 60m north west of St Mary's Church on the western
outskirts of Stafford and includes the standing and buried remains of Stafford
Castle, an associated medieval settlement and an early 19th century Gothic
Revival reconstruction of the castle keep. The motte and two baileys are
arranged on a north west-south east alignment and the settlement is situated
to the east and south east of the lower bailey.
The motte and double bailey castle, known as Stafford Castle, is thought to
have been constructed towards the end of the 11th century or in the early 12th
century by Robert de Stafford or one of his successors. The castle occupies a
commanding position at the north west edge of an elevated ridge. It is
surrounded and strengthened by a ditch which measures up to 22m wide. The
south west side of the outer bailey is defended by the natural hillslope.
Along the northern, western and southern sides of the motte and bailey castle
is a counterscarp bank. Part of the north east section of this outer bank has
been removed by a post-medieval quarry. The motte is situated at the north
west corner of the site and has been artificially raised on the site of a
natural hill. The ditch between the motte and the bailey has been infilled but
a geophysical survey has indicated that it survives as a buried feature. The
flat-topped motte measures 90m north west-south east and 70m north east-south
west across its base.
In the mid 14th century a stone keep was constructed on the summit of the
motte by Ralph, Earl of Stafford. The rectangular keep measures 34m north
west-south east and 14m north east-south west and there are octagonal towers,
9m across, at each corner. A fifth tower was added to the south wall of the
keep between the mid 14th and early 16th centuries and, although it is not
visible on the ground surface, it will survive as a buried feature. In 1984,
an excavation at the base of the north west tower uncovered the foundations of
an earlier octagonal tower. The standing remains of the medieval keep are
Listed Grade II and are included in the scheduling.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1642, Stafford Castle was held by Lady
Isabel Stafford for the Royalist cause. In the following year, the castle keep
was demolished by the Parliamentarians and it remained a ruin until the early
19th century. During the early 19th century the Jerningham family of Norfolk
attempted to reconstruct the medieval keep of Stafford Castle, using the
earlier building's foundations. This 19th century structure, which has been
built in the form of an elongated rectangle with an octagonal tower at each
corner, was never completed. The eastern end of the keep was occupied for a
period of time but, by the 1950s, the building had been abandoned. The remains
of this Gothic Revival castle, which has recently been consolidated, are
Listed Grade II and are included in the scheduling.
The two baileys are separated by a 20m wide ditch. The inner bailey is
crescent-shaped and contains an area of approximately 0.4ha. There is a slight
earthen bank along the edge of the inner bailey and it is thought that the
bailey was originally defended with a timber palisade. A resistivity survey
along the line of the bailey rampart has indicated the remains of stone
structures beneath the ground surface. These may mark the positions of stone
mural towers. A small area within the western part of the bailey has been
destroyed by a 19th century quarry. Excavations within the inner bailey have
recovered evidence of a number of medieval structures of a variety of types. A
number of post holes with connecting beam slots were thought to represent the
remains of a bridge connecting the motte with the bailey. The outer bailey has
an oblong plan and contains approximately 1.7ha.
Access into the castle is by means of a causeway across the the central part
of the south east outer bailey ditch. It is aligned with a causeway across the
inner bailey ditch and is thought to mark the site of the original entrance to
the castle. There is a second entrance across the outer bailey's southern
defences and a modern access road runs northwards along the western edge of
the castle's defences towards the motte.
Immediately to the south east of the outer bailey are the earthwork remains of
a medieval settlement associated with Stafford Castle. The north west
boundary to the settlement remains is defined by the defences of the outer
bailey. An earthen bank forms the southern, eastern and north east edges of
the settlement site. Much of the south east boundary bank has been
incorporated into private gardens and partly terraced, but it remains clearly
visible. It can also be traced as an intermittent earthwork at the eastern
and north east edges. There is no surface evidence for the boundary bank at
the western edge of the site but this area is now occupied by the modern
access road to Stafford Castle. A resistivity survey has indicated that a
ditch defines the western boundary of the settlement to the north of the
access road. A hollow way is visible running north west-south east from the
entrance to the outer bailey, across the central part of the settlement site,
towards Castle Church church. This earthwork is thought to represent the
original approach road to Stafford Castle. An excavation within the central
area of the settlement site revealed a complex series of features relating to
medieval occupation, including a number of hollow ways and the remains of
timber buidings. Finds recovered during excavations of the site support
documentary evidence that the settlement was occupied between the 12th and the
mid 15th centuries.
The surfaces of all paths and driveways, display boards, floodlights, the
flag-pole, wooden benches, modern floor surfaces, litter bins, concrete steps,
modern walling and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling but the
ground beneath these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.