Leafield Barrow: a motte castle 220m north west of St Michael and All Angels Church


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 31601 15412

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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


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, 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
Jope, E M, Threlfall, , 'Antiquities Journal' in Ascott D'Oyley Castle, , Vol. XXXIX3-4, (1959), pp270-3
PRN 2278, C.A.O., LEAFIELD BARROW, (1983)
SP 31 NW 10, R.C.H.M.(E), Leafield Barrow, (1973)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Source Date: 1973 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
With A.J. SCHOFIELD & K. CHILDS, JEFFERY, P.P., On site discussion of the features present, (1993)


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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