Haughton decoy and motte and bailey castle


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.

Bassetlaw (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 68186 71778

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 of Haughton castle is well-preserved and exceptionally large for this region, being rivalled only by the motte at Laxton. Although partially disturbed by the creation of the decoy and by later tree-planting, significant remains of the attached bailey will survive. Decoys of a simple type have been in use in England since the Middle Ages. Decoy ponds proper, however, originated in Holland and were introduced to Britain during the 17th century. The word 'decoy' derives from the Dutch 'eendenkooi' which means duck cage. The main period of use was in the 18th and 19th centuries when large numbers of decoy ponds were built. Some remained in use till the 20th century and a number have been restored and are still being worked. However, the majority fell out of use due to the increase in popularity of duck-shooting. They are a relatively common class of monument but to date none have been excavated. Haughton decoy is very well- preserved and, being partially water-filled, will retain valuable organic remains. It is reputedly the oldest decoy in the country and was certainly in existence by 1709 when it appeared on a panoramic view of Haughton.


The monument includes an 11th or 12th century motte and bailey castle and a duck decoy which originated in the 17th century though it remained in use until relatively recently. The castle is situated to the south of the decoy and has a steep-sided conical motte or castle mound with a ditched bailey to the south. The decoy, which is still largely water-filled, is a roughly square pond measuring c.200m per side. It is partially embanked and associated with a variety of ancillary features. The motte is approximately 11m high and has a base diameter of c.40m. The summit is flat and c.12m wide and would have been the site of a timber tower which may have been replaced by a stone tower-keep at a later date. Unusually, there is no ditch evident around the motte. The bailey to the south is roughly 100m wide and would have been the site of garrison and ancillary buildings and enclosures for stock and horses. On the south side it is enclosed by a bow-shaped ditch which is c.18m wide across the top and c.9m wide across the bottom. Causeways at either end separate the ditch from the decoy and may mark the sites of original entrances into the bailey. However, older Ordnance Survey maps which show the water in the decoy to have at one time surrounded the motte suggest that the creation of the decoy disrupted the northern part of the bailey. Archaeological investigation would therefore be needed to clarify the precise relationship between the ditch, the bailey and the decoy. The remains of a curving channel which appears to have entered the bailey ditch at its west end indicate that the ditch may have been re-used in connection with one of the pipes emerging from the decoy. The pipes of a decoy are the channels extending from the edges or corners of the decoy pond down which waterfowl were enticed and trapped by nets stretched over hoops. They are generally curved and, including the one already noted which is on the south side of the monument, there are three clearly evident at Haughton and there may have been more which have been disturbed or filled in by later forestry activity. The second is on the north side of the decoy pond and the third is on the west side. In each case, the mouth of the pipe is c.6m wide and then the channel becomes progressively narrower and shallower as it extends inland so that, at the closed end, it is no more than 1m wide and 0.5m deep. To the north of the western pipe there is a straight-edged platform jutting into the decoy pond, and this is one of the 'landings' onto which the ducks were enticed so as to be at a suitable distance for decoying along the adjacent pipe. Similar but less distinct landing exist on either side of the northern pipe which is also flanked by a small square brick structure which may have been constructed as a hide in a later phase of the decoy's use. Both the northern and western pipes have been incorporated into later drainage systems. In addition to the hide noted above, there are the footings of brick walls flanking the north side of the decoy pond and also a brick sluice at the north-east corner. The sluice is shaped like a double funnel and the remains of a wooden sluice-gate are still in place. Within the decoy pond are two islands. The westernmost is featureless and was probably always a nesting island. The easternmost, which is also featureless, may also originally have been for nesting but appears to have undergone a change of use in the 19th century. This is illustrated partly by Ordnance Survey maps, which show it at one time to have been connected to the mainland by a jetty or bridge. Flanking the centre part of the island on the west and east sides are 5m wide brick-lined channels which are open at both ends to the surrounding pond. The westernmost contains several iron hoops long enough to have extended over the channels. These will have carried an awning which will have sheltered rowing boats berthed inside the channels. It is not certain whether these would have been pleasure boats or whether they were associated with the use of the pond as a decoy. The lower courses of a rectangular stone building or enclosure lie on the far west of the island. The bridge to the island no longer exists but the remains of any timber piles will survive well in the waterlogged silts round the edges of the decoy.

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
Panoramic view of Haughton (1709), (1709)
The Victoria History of the County of Nottinghamshire: Volume II, (1910), 401
'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Transactions of the Thoroton Society: Volume 35, , Vol. 35, (1931), 6-7


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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