Reasons for Designation
Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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
and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from
most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as
motte castles. 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the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other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 castle known as Leafield Barrow forms the dominant feature on the
hill around the southern side of which the village of Leafield is situated.
The motte itself forms the centre of a series of earthworks which include
evidence of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation as well as a possible
The monument includes a motte castle situated on a small hill, around the
southern and eastern sides of which lies the village of Leafield. The site
provides a commanding view in all directions and is 220m north west of the
Church of St Michael and All Angels.
The motte measures 38m across and stands up to 4m high. It has a flat, oval
summit which measures 19.9m from north west to south east and 12m from
south west to north east. A square feature measuring 10.9m across with an
internal depression 7.5m square and 0.3m deep is believed to be the remains of
a stone keep, similar to that at Ascott d'Oyley.
There is no evidence of a ditch around the base of this motte, the eastern
side of which has been disturbed by the construction of a water reservoir.
The water reservoir and the ground beneath it are not included in the
scheduling. The ordnance datum trig point is excluded from the scheduling as
is the reservoir boundary fence; the ground beneath these features, however,
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.