Saxton Castle: a motte and bailey castle with a later medieval manor house and field system including a trackway and fishpond


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
Selby (District Authority)
Saxton with Scarthingwell
National Grid Reference:
SE 47708 36684

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey at Saxton includes remains of a medieval manor house which superseded the castle as the residence of the local lord and, although the defences of the bailey were subsequently altered, the motte is well preserved. The largely undisturbed interior of the bailey will contain below- ground remains of buildings associated with the castle and the manor. Because of the close association of the moat and bailey with the later manor house, Saxton Castle retains important evidence for the study of the continued development of the feudal system from its imposition after the Norman Conquest until the end of the Middle Ages.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle which has been altered by the building of a later medieval manor house in the north-eastern corner of the bailey and also by the creation of small enclosures, a trackway and a pond beside the motte. The monument is situated on gently sloping land which falls to the west. The motte is an earthen mound, 40m in diameter at the base and about 2m high. A slight 8m wide ditch surrounds the mound and there is a hollow area at the top which marks the site of the tower which was originally located there. The motte lies in the north-western quarter of a rectangular bailey which measures 180m east-west by 150m north-south. Although the ramparts have been largely altered by their incorporation into later land boundaries, the eastern side is still visible as a slight bank 20m wide and about 0.5m high running from Fircroft to Manor Farm, while to the west the limits of the bailey are respected by the line of Main Street and to the north and south by the curtilage of adjacent properties. A bank and ditch which runs just inside the eastern rampart bank is thought to be a field boundary earthwork associated with the later medieval manor house. The manor house, formerly the residence of the Hungate family, was demolished in the early 19th century but its foundations survive immediately to the south of Manor Farm. A hollow way, a disused trackway leading to the manor house, runs diagonally across the bailey of the castle at a tangent to the motte; small-scale quarrying has altered the appearance of the trackway adjacent to the motte. West of the motte and trackway are slight earthworks including linear banks and scarps which form at least three small rectangular enclosures, each about 20m across, which are the remains of gardens or house-plots. These were associated either with the manor house or with the medieval village which would have lain close by. An irregularly shaped pond lies to the south of the motte. The pond post- dates the trackway and the small enclosures and was probably constructed to collect rainwater run-off from the field. All fences are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Speight, H , Lower Wharfedale, (1902)


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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