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were superseded by other types of castle.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
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
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
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
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.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.