Motte and bailey castle south of Scotland


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 78373 61347

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Acklam represents a type of motte and bailey whose configuration has been specifically adapted to suit the natural topography of its location. Although its northern and eastern edges have been altered by modern terracing or by road construction, the majority of the monument is well-preserved; below- ground features associated with the occupation of the castle and foundations of its timber structures will survive.


The monument includes a type of motte and bailey castle adapted to suit its location on a promontory projecting from the lower scarp of the Wolds. The castle lies near a hamlet known as Scotland, on the south side of Acklam Beck, about 350m south-west of the parish church. The steep-sided promontory offers a naturally defensive position requiring only slight additional fortification but, while this means that the motte and bailey earthworks are not massive, the essential elements of this type of castle, a main stronghold and one or more outer courts, can be identified. To the west and south of the promontory the steep scarp was not greatly modified, although a wooden palisade will have been constructed at the top of the scarp and the trenches or pits dug to accommodate the timbers will survive as buried features. Along the northern side the scarp is less steep and here a ditch with an outer bank was constructed; despite recent terracing of the hillside to the south of the modern poultry houses, the ditch is still visible as a 5m wide linear depression over most of its length and the western part of the bank survives as a 1m high, 5m wide earthwork in the corner of the field to the north-west of the castle. The spine of the promontory rises gradually to the west and its highest point has been artificially shaped to form a slight knoll approximately 15m in diameter; this will have served as the motte, originally the site of a stout wooden tower. On the western side of the motte the ground falls away gradually, providing a gentle sloping plateau surrounded by the steeply scarped edge of the promontory. This plateau, which measures at least 20m north-south by 30m east-west, was used as a western bailey of the castle. The eastern side of the motte was strengthened by an 8m wide ditch across the spine of the hill, dividing the motte from the relatively level ground to the east. This area, measuring 40m east-west by 20m north-south, served as a second bailey and was bounded on its eastern side by an artificially terraced scarp which was 1m high with a slight ditch at its foot. The flat area between the outer edge of the eastern bailey and the modern road leading up Pasture Hill was the site of a third, outer bailey. The eastern rampart of this bailey will have lain adjacent to the road and, as it will have been altered over the years by its incorporation into the field boundary, the rampart is no longer visible as an earthwork. The motte and bailey at Acklam is very similar, in form and topographical location, to the nearby castle at Mount Ferrant in Birdsall, although the latter is built on a much larger scale. It may be that Acklam was an outlying stronghold of the Fossard family. The original timber castle may have been rebuilt in stone. All fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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
Moorhouse, S A, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 42, (1968)


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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