Bury Hill: a motte and bailey castle west of Castle Lane


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009307

Date first listed: 13-Dec-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 28-Jul-1992


Ordnance survey map of Bury Hill: a motte and bailey castle west of Castle Lane
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Uttlesford (District Authority)

Parish: Saffron Walden

National Grid Reference: TL 53864 38688


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Bury Hill is a well-documented example of a Norman motte and bailey castle with historical records dating from the 11th century until the present day. Limited excavations have increased knowledge about the site and confirmed the survival of further remains containing important archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the development of the castle, the economy of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Bury Hill motte and bailey castle is situated on a promontory at the confluence of two streams, the Madgate Slade and the King's Slade, commanding the valley westards to the River Cam. The low motte, which is now almost level with the surrounding ground, includes the ruins of a keep. This was 20m square in plan built of 2.5m wide flint rubble walls with coursed facing; the dressed facing stones have been removed. Two stages of the building remain including the base of a forebuilding. The entrance would probably have been on the third floor. Inside the keep is the base of a pier, which is believed to have been for a column. On the floor above are traces of a circular staircase, a well shaft and a fireplace. The keep is thought to have been part of the original castle rather than a later addition. Situated to the west of the motte is the bailey. Its original size is delineated by Castle Street, Museum Street and Church Street on the west, but on the east it followed the old road now under Castle Hill House. A transverse scarp across the bailey may indicate a dividing wall forming two wards in the bailey. There is no clear evidence about who built the castle at Saffron Walden. The first reference to it is contained in Empress Maud's first charter in 1141 when Geoffrey de Mandeville II was given permission to move the market from the neighbouring village of Newport to his castle at Walden. Geoffrey de Mandeville changed his allegiance more than once during the period of The Anarchy and in 1143 he was forced to surrender the newly built castle to King Stephen. It was restored to Geoffrey de Mandeville III in 1156. In either 1157 or 1158 the castle was partially destroyed by order of Henry II. The castle then passed, eventually, to Maud, the wife of Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. On her death in 1236 it passed to her son, Humphrey, who became the seventh Earl of Essex. In 1346 Humphrey VII de Bohun, Earl of Essex was given a licence to crenellate. The de Bohuns opposed Edward III and in 1362 the castle was confiscated and endowed to the Duchy of Lancaster. It later passed into the hands of Henry IV and remained a royal manor until the reign of Henry VIII. In 1538 the manor was given to Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor. It then passed by marriage to the Howard family. In 1797 the manor passed to Richard Aldworth Neville in whose family it remained until 1979 when the ownership of the castle passed to the Uttlesford District Council. Excavations carried out between 1911 and 1913 confirmed the location of the castle ditch surrounding the bailey. More recent excavations, in 1973 and 1975, located the northern extent of the bailey, along Castle Street, the extent of the bailey eastwards to Castle Hill House, and confirmed documentary evidence relating to the building of the castle. The museum building, paths, tennis courts, fences and air raid shelter are all excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is, however, 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: 20671

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Walden Castle, (1986)
SMR No: 411, Information from SMR (No: 411),

End of official listing