Ascott d'Oyley 12th century motte and bailey castle and associated earthworks


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.

West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 30125 19002

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 castle at Ascott d'Oyley is unusual in being one of a pair of similar monuments to occur in close proximity, a factor which contributed to the subsequent development of the surrounding settlement. The monument survives well as a good example of its class with evidence for its effect on the development of the medieval village, part of which is included within the monument, and the later reuse of the outer bailey as an area of formal gardens associated with The Manor House. Partial excavation of the site has provided support for its documented history as well as demonstrating the survival of archaeological remains relating to the monument, the landscape in which it was built and the economy of its inhabitants.


The monument includes the 12th century Ascott d'Oyley motte and bailey castle, its stone keep, the associated early bailey earthworks, later pond features and associated walkways and part of the shrunken medieval village situated around The Manor House, immediately south of the River Evenlode. The motte survives as a small earthen and clay mound measuring 32m across and standing up to 3m high. It has a 20m diameter flat summit on which can be seen the open remains of a central tower, partly excavated in 1946, and consisting of a 5m square room enclosed by walls between 2.5m and 3.5m thick. The exposed inside walls of this tower are 0.8m high and of dry stone construction. The excavations showed that the tower stands on the old ground level and that the mound is built against it rather than the more usual method of building a tower on the top of an artificial mound. A quantity of medieval pottery and two arrowheads were also found in the tower. From documentary sources, which support the excavated evidence, it is known that the castle was built between 1129 and 1150 and that the tower was deliberately demolished in c.1175. To the south east of the motte stands an interrupted platform bounded by a broad outer ditch. This has been interpreted as the remains of the original bailey. The platform stands 1m high and is cut by a 3m wide ditch which runs south from the mound. The main platform is a roughly square area measuring 28m from east to west and 32m from north to south. A spur to the north measures 35m in length and varies in width from 2.5m to 6m. To the north and west of the motte is a series of earthworks contained within an outer bank and ditch which enclose an area c.200m from south west to north east and c.150m from north west to south east. This area represents the main bailey. The inner bank of this bailey measures up to 10.6m across and stands up to 0.7m high. The surrounding ditch measures up to 10m across and, although partially infilled, is visible as a 0.3m deep feature. Beyond this is a counterscarp bank which measures up to 5m across and stands up to 0.3m high. Two ditches run from the north western and north eastern corners of the bailey to the River Evenlode, forming an enclosed meadow along a 212m length of the river bank. To the west of this bailey is a series of low earthworks which represent the house platforms of a medieval settlement outside the castle. These extend up to a well established hedge line which marks a change in the ground level beyond which the land is 0.2m lower. These earthworks represent part of the village which was divided between two manors in the medieval period with the other manor of Ascott Earl also possessing a motte and bailey castle, only c.600m to the south west. The bailey earthworks were altered at a later date to provide garden earthworks for the manor. These include 6m wide banks which provide raised walkways and a number of pond bays connected by a series of open ditches. Such water garden earthworks are often associated with later medieval and early post-medieval manors and houses. The area of the bailey immediately west of the motte has been built over by the farmyard of the later manor and includes a number of listed buildings including: The Manor House (Grade II*), a doorway in the wall to the south east of The Manor House (Grade II), the granary to the west of The Manor House (Grade II) and a fragment of the castle to the north of The Manor House (Grade II). Excluded from the scheduling are the surface of the drive to The Manor House, the boundary fences which separate the paddock and fields, the listed buildings (except for the fragment of the castle which is included) and the other standing buildings and their service trenches; the ground beneath all of the above features is, however, included in the scheduling.

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:
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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire: Volume I, (1939), p 321
The Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire, (1964), p 321
The Victoria History of the County of Oxfordshire, (1964), p 321
Jope, E M, Threlfall, , 'Antiquities Journal' in Ascott D'Oyley Castle, , Vol. XXXIX3-4, (1959), pp270-3
Jope, E M, Threlfall, , 'Antiquities Journal' in Ascott D'Oyley Castle, , Vol. XXXIX3-4, (1959)
Jope, E M, Threlfall, , 'Antiquities Journal' in Ascott D'Oyley Castle, , Vol. XXXIX3-4, (1959)
Wood, M E, 'Archaeological Journal Supplement' in Thirteenth Century Domestic Architecture in England, , Vol. CV 1950, (1950)
PRN OXON 1532, C.A.O., Motte and Bailey Castle, (1991)
PRN OXON 3190 & 3191, C.A.O., Ascott Earl Motte and Bailey Castle, (1991)
PRN OXON 3956 note 1, C.A.O., Manor House, (1991)
PRN OXON 3956, C.A.O., Manor House, (1991)
SP 31 NW 2, R.C.H.M.(E), Manor, (1976)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1976 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Sheet SP 31 NW


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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