Motte and bailey castle 400m south east of Bishopton


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.

Darlington (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 36670 20898

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Bishopton survives in an exceptional state of preservation. Additionally, it is a complex monument which retains valuable information about its origin and development. It will greatly add to our knowledge and understanding of the Norman Conquest of northern Britain.


The monument includes an exceptionally well preserved Norman motte and bailey castle situated on low lying land beside the Bishopton Beck. The motte is conical in shape with a near circular top; it stands to a height of 11.5m and measures 55m across at the base and is surrounded by a moat 10 to 15m wide and 1.4 to 3.5m deep. Immediately to the north west of the motte there is a bailey which measures 80m north east to south west by 40m north west to south east. Its north west side is bounded by a ditch 16m across and 2.7m deep, its north east side by a bank 0.4m wide and 0.4m high and its south west side is bounded by a trivallate earthwork 25m across. The western boundary of the site consists of a double ditch system which runs parallel with the Bishopton Beck. Within the eastern part of the bailey there are the remains of a rectangular building measuring 28m by 9.5m, and the remains of a second building abutting the northern wall of the bailey. The motte and the bailey is surrounded on the east by a substantial moat, crossed by two raised causeways 1.3m high; the moat is up to 70m wide and is 1.5m deep and was fed with water, by a series of artificial channels, from the Bishopton Beck. Little is known of the history of the monument but a reference in AD 1143 referring to the fortification of a castle by Roger Conyers may refer to Bishopton. It is not known if there was a previous castle on the site. The telegraph poles which cross the site are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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:
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Books and journals
Gould, I C, The Victoria History of the County of Durham: Volume I, (1905)
NZ 32 SE 01,


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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