Canfield Castle and associated moated enclosure


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.

Uttlesford (District Authority)
Great Canfield
National Grid Reference:
TL 59430 17893

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Canfield Castle remains essentially undisturbed and is a fine example of a motte and bailey castle with several associated enclosures. It will retain archaeological information relating to the occupation and development of the monument and environmental evidence for the economy of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived. The castle has a documented history dating from the 11th century.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle and an associated moated enclosure situated on low ground, close to the River Roding, adjacent to Great Canfield church. The motte survives as a flat topped mound 14.5m high, 85.5m in diameter at the base and 18m in diameter at the top. There is a distinct berm 3m wide on the mound but it does not run symmetrically around the slope. On the summit is a small mound 10m in diameter and about 1m high. The motte is surrounded by a moat which is between 10m and 20m wide and has a maximum depth of 4m. It is only water-filled along the eastern side, where it is occupied by the stream. There is no access to the motte across the surrounding ditch. South of the motte is a horseshoe-shaped bailey, measuring 80m north- south by 82m east-west, and enclosed by the remains of a substantial double rampart and ditch. The inner rampart is up to 25m wide and 3m high; the ditch is partly water-filled, 3m deep and measures a maximum of 30m from the crests of the two ramparts. The outer rampart is best preserved on the eastern side and measures 15m wide and 1.5m high. The outer ditch is only visible as a slight undulation in the field to the east of the monument. A causeway 6m wide at the north-eastern corner of the bailey gives access to the monument. Another enclosure, contiguous to the motte and bailey surrounding the present hall (which is a Listed Building Grade II), is represented by the ditch along the churchyard wall. The large pond south-west of The Hall and a linear hollow running from the pond to the bailey, are considered to be a homestead moat. Foundations of an earlier house are believed to exist on the island. A third enclosure, represented by the ditch to the north of the church, once enclosed the church and churchyard as part of the castle complex. The third enclosure containing the churchyard is, however, still in use and is therefore not included in the scheduling. A fishpond which is visible as a shallow hollow 25m NE-SW by 10m NW-SE and c.0.4m deep is situated within the moated site. In 1086 Aubrey de Vere held two hides as tenant-in-chief and two and a half hides as tenant of Alan of Brittany. The castle is known to have been held by the de Veres for many years. The house, driveway, greenhouses and outhouses, which occupy the western part of the site, are all excluded from the scheduling though the ground beneath all these features 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
The Victoria History of the County, (1903)
The Victoria History of the County, (1926)
Gould, I C, The Victoria History of the County, (1908)
070250, Information from SMR,


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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