Easby castle motte


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 Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 58984 08475

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Alterations to the motte by landslip and by exploratory excavation have been slight and the site is still well preserved. The foundations of timber structures will survive on the top of the motte and evidence of the medieval environment will survive in the old landsurface buried beneath the motte.


The monument includes a Norman motte castle, situated on a bluff east of the village of Easby on the edge of the North York Moors; it lies at the southern edge of the bluff, at the top of an almost vertical, 60m high scarp overlooking the River Leven and affording an excellent vantage point with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. The motte is a horseshoe shaped mound, 45m across, being 2.5m high on the northern side but less than 2m high at the edge of the bluff, where the stronghold will have been less vulnerable to attack. The top of the motte is slightly hollowed, sloping gently to the south, and three small disturbed areas mark the location of excavation trenches opened by Howell in 1903. The southern edge of the motte is formed by the precipitous natural scarp but elsewhere a 5m wide ditch surrounds it; the northern arm of the ditch has silted up over the years, being visible only as a slight depression at the base of the mound, although where it runs to the edge of the bluff the ditch is 1m deep. The castle had timber defences; Howell's trial excavations found no evidence of stone structures. The construction of the motte is attributed to Bernhard Balliol, Lord of the manor of Easby during the civil wars of the 12th century, and its remote location suggests that it served as a watch-tower or temporary refuge in time of strife. All fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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:
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Books and journals
L'Anson, W M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Castles of the North Riding, , Vol. 22, (1913)
Fairless, K J, AM 107, (1988)
Ordnance Survey Record (Letter to R H Hayes), (1959)
Waights, E C, Ordnance Survey Record, (1962)
YAS record,


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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