Cranmer's Mound: motte castle, prospect mound, moated fishponds, enclosure, hollow way and ridge and furrow


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Cranmer's Mound: motte castle, prospect mound, moated fishponds, enclosure, hollow way and ridge and furrow
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Rushcliffe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 74432 40181

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Cranmer's Mound is a well-preserved example of a small motte which was later re-used as a prospect mound to overlook an extensive complex of fishponds and islands. All the earthworks survive well and have not been disturbed since the site went out of use. The remains of a variety of associated features will therefore be retained, and will include the buried foundations of buildings.


The monument includes the motte known as Cranmer's Mound or Mount, which was later adapted to become a prospect mound, the enclosure to the west of the mound and the hollow way leading southwards towards it, a series of fishponds which are linked together to form moats round five islands, and a block of ridge and furrow which lies north of the fishponds. The name of the mound derives from its traditional association with Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry VIII, who is said to have climbed the mound in order to listen to the bells of Whatton church whilst visiting his brother who resided at the family home in Aslockton. If this story is true, it indicates that the mound was already in existence in the first half of the sixteenth century. This would make it somewhat earlier than most purpose-built prospect mounds, which were garden landscape features dating primarily to the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, some prospect mounds were adapted from earlier features, such as the earthwork castles of the Middle Ages. Cranmer's Mound is interpreted as a small medieval motte or castle mound which originally stood some 5m high and was surmounted by a stone or timber tower. The tower could never have been substantial, since the level area at the top of the motte is only 4m by 6m, but it is possible that an enclosure known as a bailey extended from the foot of the motte and contained additional buildings and ancillary features. In fact, later documents call the field in which the monument is situated Bailey Close, as if there had been a tradition of a bailey associated with the motte. However, it is not known when the name originated and, as the enclosure of the field clearly post-dates the ridge and furrow within it, and the ridge and furrow itself post-dates the motte, the name may not be of much significance. The west face of the motte drops directly into a 9m wide ditch which is c.2m deep and also extends round the south side where it widens to 10m. This section is deeper and more substantial than the rest of the water-management complex and is believed to have been part of an original circular ditch round the base of the motte which was later recut to form two sides of a square. To complete the square, shallower ditches were dug round the north and east sides, and it can be seen that the older and newer sections do not join up,being at different levels. By the addition of these two new ditches, a platform was created round the base of the motte on its east side so that it now appears to occupy the west half of a rectangular island measuring 35m from east to west by 25m from north to south. It is not known precisely when these alterations were carried out, but it would have been after the motte went out of use. Most likely it was in the late medieval or early post-medieval period, and would have been contemporary with the use of the motte as a prospect mound. To the west of the motte is a rectangular enclosure formed by a bank measuring 0.75m high by 3m wide. From north to south it measures 26m and, from east to west, 34m. There is a 5m wide entrance at its north-west corner which is approached from the north by a sunken track or hollow way. This hollow way flanks the head of a block of linear earthworks representing the grassed over remains of ridge and furrow ploughing. There are six ridges running west to east, all except for the southernmost measuring c.11m wide and divided from the next by a 1m deep furrow. The southernmost is slightly narrower at its west end, though it widens out to the east, and is higher at 1.5m. This ridge forms the north boundary of the moated fishpond complex and indicates that the fishponds and ridge and furrow are broadly contemporary. The ridge and furrow has been cut by the modern field boundary to the east, but a broad headland east of this boundary shows where the block ended and the plough turned. East of this headland, the south ridge continues to the end of the fishponds while, to the north of it, faint earthworks indicate a second block of ridge and furrow approaching from the north at right-angles to the first. This block is far less well-preserved, however, and has been ploughed out to north and east. South of the enclosure which lies west of Cranmer's Mound is a roughly rectangular fishpond which measures 24m from west to east by 7m from north to south. It is enclosed at its west end but only partially enclosed at its east end where a 2m wide sluice connects it to the ditch round the south and west sides of the mound. This sluice would have controlled the movement of water between the two and, after it was recut, the motte ditch probably also served as a fishpond. It is enclosed to the north but, at the south-east end, there are two sluices connecting it to other parts of the water-management complex. The southernmost is another 2m wide channel linking it to the pond along the south side of the second island, while the northernmost is a narrow drain connecting it to the ditch dividing the second island from the first. A narrow earthwork measuring 12m by 3m extends from west to east in the ditch immediately west of these sluices and will have been a water-management feature. The ditch between the first and second islands is 3m wide and formed a single fishpond with the ditch round the north side of the motte. The second island measures 33m from east to west, by 22m from north to south. In addition to the main platform, there are earthworks projecting from the north-west and south-west corners which form the sluices controlling the junctions between the ditches round the two islands. On the platform itself, extending north to south along the west side, there is a rectangular sunken area measuring 4m by 19m. This may also be a fishpond though, as it does not connect with the other features, it could prove to be the cellar or sunken floor of a building. The ditch to the south of this island is 10m wide and 2m deep, while the ditch to the north is 8m wide and 1m deep. Both the north and the south ditch continue in an unbroken line past the remaining three islands, though the width of the north ditch varies in accordance with the dimensions of the islands. The ditch between the second and third island is 8m wide but is partially blocked towards its south end by a sub-circular mound measuring 7m by 6m. This mound is less than 1m high and would have been the site of a bridge-support or sluice-gate. Both the first and second islands are roughly 2m high but slope at 45 degrees out of the surrounding ditches so that the platforms are substantially smaller than the base measurements. The third island slopes to the same degree but is slightly higher than the others at 2.5m. It measures 27m from north to south and 35m from east to west and, like all the islands, has a level, featureless platform. The ditch to the east of the third island is 8m wide and is planted with the same boundary hedge that cuts through the ridge and furrow. Beyond this later boundary, the north and south ditches begin to draw together round the fourth and fifth islands, growing shallower as they do so. The fourth island is of a similar height and gradient to the others but smaller and rhomboidal in shape. Its west and east sides measure 22m and 14m respectively while, from east to west, it measures 15m. Further to the east lies the fifth island which is only 1m high and roughly square with a diameter of 7m. In addition, a very low 3m wide mound can be seen to the east of this, in the sunken area where the north and south ditches join. This sunken area forms a crescent shaped pond c.18m long which curves to the north-east. At its tip, the ridge forming the north boundary of the site ends and, 5m beyond this, there is a final shallow sunken area measuring 5m from north to south by 9m from east to west. A faint sluice joins this pond to the main system. At the eastern limit of the site there is a raised trackway which leads to a stile in the north field boundary but ends suddenly on the east field boundary. The age of this trackway is uncertain, neither is it known whether it is associated with the monument. It is therefore not included in the scheduling. Excluded from the scheduling are the field boundaries crossing the monument though the ground underneath these 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Nottinghamshire: Volume I, (1906), 305-6
Allcroft, A, Earthworks of England (1918), (1918), 405-6
'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Transactions of the Thoroton Society: Volume 1, 1897, , Vol. 1, (1897), 24


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.

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