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were superseded by other types of castle.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 site in Cockroad Wood survives as a particularly intact and undisturbed
example of the class, and is one of a number of motte and bailey castles in
The monument includes a motte and bailey castle on the western edge of a
summit outlying the hills of the Somerset/Wiltshire border. The site would
have commanded extensive views although it is at present surrounded by conifer
The castle includes a motte lying on the east edge of the site between two
external baileys, the larger rectangular bailey on the level ground to the
south and a small sub-triangular bailey sloping down to the north-west. The
motte is a conical mound 6m-7.5m high and c.13m broad on the top, with an
uneven surface, and is ditched except on the steep west side.
The rectangular bailey has an internal area of 0.3 ha., defended by a bank
1.5m high internally and a ditch 1.5m-2m deep externally, with a counterscarp
bank up to 1m high on the south-west. The defences become a scarp and terrace
on the steeper west side. On the far side of the ramparts from the motte there
is a projecting terrace between the bank and ditch, and it is possible that
this formed an abutment for a bridge. The bailey is subdivided by internal
banks, or perhaps raised walkways, into three smaller areas, at the junction
of which is a slight platform.
The smaller bailey encloses 0.07 ha within a bank up to 1.5m high, a ditch up
to 1.5m deep, and a counterscarp bank up to 1m high.
The banks of the baileys separate them from the ditched motte. The bailey
defences adjoin on the west and run up to the motte either side of a neck of
ground. There are no obvious entrances to the castle, suggesting the use of
bridges, walkways and steps.
There is another motte and bailey castle 2.5km to the east in Wiltshire, and a
possible site at Ballands Castle 1.5km to the south-east.
The castle was in the medieval parish of Wincanton, the manor of which,
together with Castle Cary and Bridgwater (both with a castle), was held at the
time of the Domesday survey by Walter of Douai. By the reign of Henry II the
hills in which Cockroad Wood castle was situated had become a royal forest and
the castle would have been redundant.
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.