Annesley motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Annesley motte and bailey castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Ashfield (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 50968 51879

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Annesley motte and bailey castle is a well-preserved example of an earthwork castle built to control a royal forest. Although both the motte and the two baileys have been partially disturbed by afforestation, a sufficient amount remains intact for the structure of the motte to be preserved and also the buried remains of buildings and ancillary features. The monument is also important for its historical associations.


The monument includes the motte and two baileys of Annesley motte and bailey castle. The motte is on the south side of the monument and built on the edge of a deep gully so that, although from the north it stands only some 3m high, on the south side it drops sharply to the bottom of the gully c.30m below. It is a roughly circular mound with an average diameter of 42m. A palisade would have enclosed the top and wooden buildings would have occupied the interior. At a number of examples of this class of monument, the palisade was replaced by a stone shell keep in the later Middle Ages, but there is as yet no evidence that this occurred at Annesley. On the south side, the motte relied largely on the steep natural slope for defence and is unusual in that there is no trace of a ditch around it. On the north side it was protected by the bailey which comprises a sub-rectangular area measuring c.120m from east to west by c.150m from north to south. There is no trace of a rampart round the edge of the bailey which is instead demarcated by the natural slope and would also have been enclosed by a palisade. Outside the palisade, the slope has been scarped to create a 10m wide berm or terrace which can be traced most clearly on the south-west side and the north-east corner of the monument. The entire enclosure was divided in two so that there were, in effect, two baileys which would have had different functions and would have contained a variety of ancillary features including domestic and garrison buildings and corrals for stock and horses. The line of this division can be traced from the west side of the monument where a 1.5m high bank extends for c.50m and ends approximately midway across the bailey. It is not yet clear whether the fence or wall that surmounted this bank then continued in a straight line to the east side of the bailey or whether it turned at right-angles towards the motte. The latter is more likely because a second bank, roughly parallel with the first and starting on a line with its east end, can be seen running eastward from near the foot of the motte to join the east side of the bailey. Although much lower than the first, this bank is of a similar width, being c.5m wide, and would also have been surmounted by a wall or palisade. This palisade would have connected the two banks across the gap between them, creating a small highly defensible inner bailey in the south-west quadrant of the monument. It is not known precisely when the castle was built, as a reference to the construction of a house in Sherwood Forest by Regnald de Annesley in 1220 may alternatively refer to the Norman hall half a mile north- west of the castle and incorporated into the present Annesley Hall. That the castle was built to control the forest is almost certain, and it would have commanded any road through the forest on the line of the current Annesley Road. There is also evidence to suggest that it was held by Philip Mark, who is believed to have been the inspiration for the Sheriff of Nottingham of the Robin Hood legends.

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.

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Books and journals
Perambulation, (1300)
The Victoria History of the County of Nottinghamshire: Volume I, (1906), 305


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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