Easby castle motte
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1008208
Date first listed: 27-Oct-1970
Date of most recent amendment: 18-Feb-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Hambleton (District Authority)
National Park: NORTH YORK MOORS
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were superseded by other types of castle.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
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: 20534
Legacy System: RSM
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)
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