Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle 300m west of St John's Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle 300m west of St John's Church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Jul-2019 at 21:43:52.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 79946 20888, SP 79968 20787

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Bolbec Castle survives well as a very complete example of its class. Though the area of the bailey now forms a part of the garden of Bolbec Place House and has been landscaped accordingly, disturbance seems minimal. The main castle enclosure appears to have remained largely undisturbed since the demolition of the castle buildings in the 17th century.


The monument, which is divided into two areas, includes the remains of Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle situated on the northern end of a small spur and commanding the main north-south routeway now followed by the A413. The castle motte comprises an artificially scarped natural mound some 5m high and constructed by cutting across the neck of a natural spur to create a raised platform. It is oval in shape with dimensions of 80m north to south by 60m east to west. The top is bounded around its northern arc by a low internal bank up to 0.8m high; elsewhere it remains open. Presumably the castle itself once included a curtain wall around the summit protecting the main castle buildings. The remains of some such structures can be identified as a line of turf covered foundations which run for some 24m towards the south side of the summit. The south eastern area of the summit is level and flat and would seem to be the most likely site for the main castle buildings. There are two modern entrances to the interior of the platform, in the west and north-east, the former of which corresponds to the supposed position of an original drawbridge. Surrounding the motte is a ditch averaging some 8m wide and 0.6m deep. Although now dry, except for a marshy area around a spring in the south-east quarter, this was once filled with water supplied by the spring. The infilled sections of this moat may survive as the course of Castle Lane to the north while the western arc has been destroyed by later disturbance. The bailey lies to the north, further along the neck of the spur in the garden of Bolebec Place, and is separated from the main castle mound by Castle Lane. Though modified by later landscaping, it consists of a substantial earthen bank up to 3m high enclosing a roughly triangular area of level ground some 40m north to south by 50m east to west. The castle is believed to date from the reign of Stephen. It was recorded as being built during the time of the Anarchy and is first mentioned by Pope Eugenius who writes of `castleworks wrongfully exacted by Hugh de Bolbec in 1147', indicating that the fortification was an adulterine castle built to oppose the crown. The site served in these early years as the stronghold of the De Bolbec and De Vere families. Little is known of the subsequent history of the site, though a masonry castle is recorded as being finally demolished during the Civil War, having long been in a ruinous condition. Local tradition records a stone keep near to Market Hill Close and a drawbridge near Weir pond. All modern structures, metalled areas and boundary features are excluded from the scheduling though the ground beneath 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
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968)
Card No 0306.00.000,
Ordnance Survey, NAR (Card No. SP 72 SE 3),


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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