Benington Castle: a motte and bailey castle west of Church Green
- 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.
- East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TL 29714 23658
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were superseded by other types of castle.
Benington Castle is a well-documented example of a Norman motte and bailey castle with a tower keep. Its historical records date back to the 11th century. Despite landscaping to the west of the monument the castle survives in good condition and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the development of the monument, the landscape in which it was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants.
Benington Castle is situated on a south-west facing slope immediately north of
the parish church. It includes a large square mound, or motte, which measures
45m across and c.6m in height. The remains of a rectangular tower keep, of
flint rubble construction, stand on the east side of the motte. The keep, a
listed building Grade I, measures 13.5m by 12.5m externally with walls about
2.2m thick and up to 2.5m high. The south wall is reduced to its footings.
Also situated on the motte is Benington Lordship, a Grade II* listed Georgian
house, the summerhouse, Grade II listed, and the curtain wall and gatehouse
both of which were built in about 1832 and are also listed Grade II.
Surrounding the motte is a ditch c.6m deep and nearly 19m wide in some places.
The bailey forms a semicircle to the north-east of the motte and was
surrounded by a curtain wall, fragments of which have been found. A second
bailey surrounds the church and churchyard which are situated to the south of
the motte. This area is not included in the scheduling as both church and
churchyard remain in use by the parish.
A third bailey is believed to have existed to the west of the motte. The
stream marks the western extent of this bailey. This area has, however, been
subject to land improvement including the construction of garden terraces and
ponds. It is therefore not considered well enough preserved to be included in
The earthworks are considered to have been built by Peter de Valognes who was
sheriff of the county in 1086. His son Roger erected the masonry castle in
1136. In 1176-7 one hundred picks were purchased for the demolition of the
castle but it appears that this was never carried out as the castle was still
strongly garrisoned in 1193. It was passed on shortly afterwards to Robert
Fitzwalker on his marriage and was destroyed in 1212 on his outlawry.
The house, the summerhouse, curtain wall, gatehouse, driveway, paths and
fences are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these
features 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
Renn, D, Medieval Castles in Hertfordshire, (1971)
Nar No: TL 22 SE 10, Information from NAR (TL 22 SE 10),
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