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were superseded by other types of castle.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which superseded the castle as the residence of the local lord and, although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
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.