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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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

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