Castle Neroche: a motte and bailey castle and earlier defences above Castle Plantation


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1008252.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 03-Mar-2021 at 17:34:17.


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

Somerset West and Taunton (District Authority)
South Somerset (District Authority)
Buckland St. Mary
National Grid Reference:
ST 27202 15708

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Castle Neroche survives as a fine example of its class and is of interest as excavations have shown its development from an earlier Norman ringwork and perhaps originally from an Iron Age or Saxon fortification.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle associated with multi-phase defensive enclosures on a spur of land protruding from the Blackdown escarpment. The site commands extensive views northwards over the Vale of Taunton Deane. Partial excavation has identified four phases of construction. The outer defence consisting of a rampart 1.6m high and a ditch c.0.5m deep is undated but considered to be earliest, part of either an Iron Age hillfort or perhaps an Anglo-Saxon work. The second phase was the construction of a ringwork, probably early Norman, within this enclosure. The ramparts of this have been heightened by later works. An unfinished outer work associated with it, consisting of a rampart 1m high and a ditch 0.7m deep, was seen by the excavator as an attempt to reduce the area of the old enclosure. The next phase saw the construction of a motte and ditch over the north edge of the ringwork, the remainder of which was heightened to form a bank 3m-4m high and became a sub-rectangular bailey. At some stage a second line of ramparts 1.3m high with ditches 1.7m deep was added around this, creating three lines of ramparts. One corner of the bailey was subdivided to form a barbican. Down the north tip of the spur in an area not investigated by excavation, below the motte, are two lines of scarps, with a lobed or sub-rectangular bailey at the foot. This bailey encloses 0.18 ha., with an internal bank dividing it into two, and is defended by a steeply scarped face up to 2m high with a bank 0.5m high on top, a ditch 0.5m deep at the bottom, and a counterscarp bank 0.5m high outside the ditch. In the final phase a stone shell keep and curtain wall were added to the top of the motte, and the ruins of these were noted in 1854. There is a pillow mound - a low linear mound for keeping rabbits - within the outer defences. The construction of the ringwork took place soon after the Norman Conquest and it may have been used in the suppression of local disturbances in 1067-9. The later building of the motte and bailey castle is likely to have taken place under Robert de Mortain, a major landowner in the west country from the Conquest to 1103. The castle seems to have passed out of use by the early C12 but was refurbished for a time, probably during the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign, by the construction of the curtain wall and keep on the motte. Excavations within the castle have produced evidence of cobbled building footings, post-holes and local pottery of northern French style. In the 19th century, a farm was constructed within the inner bailey, and this continues in use today. Sand diggings have left deep hollows in the outer areas of the site, which on the surface can be confused with the castle ditches. The extent of the area of the scheduling is indicated on the mapped depiction, and includes a 10m wide strip in the field on the south-west. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern buildings, structures, fences and posts, though the ground beneath 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Davison, B K, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat.Hist. Society' in Castle Neroche, , Vol. 116, (1972), 16-58
Davison, B K, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat.Hist. Society' in Castle Neroche, , Vol. 116, (1972), 16-58
Davison, B K, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat.Hist. Society' in Castle Neroche, , Vol. 116, (1972), 16-58
Castle Neroche 43844,


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].