'The Castles' motte and bailey


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)
Barrow upon Humber
National Grid Reference:
TA 06577 22571

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Although the monument has been altered by agriculture and building work, the motte and bailey castle at Barrow Haven survives reasonably well. Limited excavations have confirmed that the monument will retain evidence of the structures which stood within it and of the manner and duration of its usage.


The monument includes a medieval motte and bailey castle overlooking the River Humber and the stream known as The Beck which flows into it. It comprises an earthen motte and a series of earthwork enclosures including bailies and stock-pens. These enclosures are subdivided by a complex water-management system which was originally fed by The Beck which lies to the south of the monument. The motte stands up to 3m above ground level and is surrounded by a dry moat 2m deep and 15m wide. To the north of the motte, in this moat, is an earthen bank 20m long, 15m wide and 2m high which would originally have supported the wooden bridge between the motte and the bailey which lies to the north. This bailey is 100m wide from east to west and 70m long from north to south. It is enclosed by an earthen bank, up to 2m high and 10m wide, and a moat. The western arm of the moat has been in-filled and the bank almost levelled, surviving only as a slight rise up to 1m high and 35m wide. The construction of a farm house has disturbed part of the defences here. A second bailey, triangular in shape, lies to the south east of the motte. It is enclosed by a moat 7m wide and 1.5m deep which has a bank up to 2m wide high and 10m wide around its inner side. This bailey was later bisected from north to south by the digging of a further moat 10m wide and 1.75m deep. The greater part of this bailey is low-lying and waterlogged, the digging of this latter moat is thought to be related to the abandonment of the water-logged south eastern corner of this bailey. This abandonment is thought to have motivated the construction of the large northern outer bailey in response to a need for further enclosed space. This bailey is defined by an earthen bank and moat. Subsequently it was bisected by the construction of Hann Lane. To the south of Hann Lane, the moat which defines the northern bailey is 1.5m deep and 10m wide, and is a continuation of the moat which bisects the south eastern bailey. The bank is 1.5m high and 10m wide. To the north of Hann Lane the moat has been in-filled and the rampart levelled. Access to the castle was via an entrance cut through the eastern rampart of the outer bailey. No causeway crosses the moat and it is thought that access was provided by a wooden bridge. On the eastern side of the site, outside the moat, there are three earthwork enclosures interpreted as stock pens. They are 15m long, north-south, and 10m wide and are defined by earthen banks 0.5m high and 5m wide. The northern enclosure has been truncated by the construction of Hann Lane. The moats were water-filled during the Middle Ages and were filled from the tidal Beck which flows into the River Humber. Two channels to the west of the motte originally fed the moats. At their eastern ends these channels are up to 0.7m higher than the bottom of the moat which surrounds the motte, so allowing water into the moat at high tide, but not allowing it to flow out when the tide was low. The Beck is currently channelled and its water level is controlled by sluices. In the Middle Ages it would have been much wider and would have lapped against the southern defences of the castle. The Beck would have defended this side of the monument and the earthwork defences are not so strong to the south of the motte. The castle's builder is thought likely to have been Drogo de la Beuvriere, a follower of William the Conqueror, who was granted large parts of Holderness and north Lincolnshire in 1071. Some of these lands, including Barrow, were known Saxon estates belonging to Earl Morcar and it is possible that the existing castle replaced a manor of the earl. In 1087 the lands passed to Odo of Champagne whose son was the first of the Counts of Aumale, founders of Thornton and Meaux abbeys. The castle controlled the southern landing place of the Humber ferry. A charter of 1189 lists the castle at Barrow as belonging to Thorton Abbey. "The Castles" has suffered limited disturbance in the past, including excavation for the construction of an air-raid shelter in 1939 and treasure hunting in the 1940's. In 1964 W Varley carried out archaeological investigations at the monument. He found timber foundations and pottery which ranged in date from the 11th to the 14th century. This latter date is unusual for a monument of this type since motte and bailey castles which were not substantially rebuilt before the 14th century tended to be abandoned. It is thought that "The Castles" continued in use into the 14th century because of its role as a landfall for the Humber ferry. In 1982 the Humberside Archaeology Unit surveyed the monument and walked the fields around it. An area of the northern outer bailey which was under plough was also walked. A few medieval artefacts from the 11th and 12th centuries were recovered, while the great volume of finds dated from the 17th to the 20th century. This suggests that this bailey was abandoned during the late 12th century and was used as a pasture until it was ploughed in the post-medieval period. The modern surface of the road and all modern buildings are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
English, B, The Lords of Holderness, (1979), 7
Williams, A, Medieval Humberside, (1989), 5
Atkins, C, 'Lincs. Hist. & Arch.' in The Castles, Barrow On Humber, , Vol. 18, (1983), 91-93


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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