Lavendon Castle: a motte and bailey and associated enclosures at Castle Farm


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.

Milton Keynes (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 91684 54341

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Lavendon Castle survives well with the original plan of the castle complex and, unusually, associated subsidiary enclosures intact; as such it is a particularly fine example of its class. Apart from the visible earthworks, below ground archaeological remains will survive across the site, including the interior of the main bailey which is largely undisturbed and in the area in which subsidiary buildings would have been located. There is further potential for the survival of environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the monument was built; this will survive in the old land surfaces sealed beneath the various elements of the earthwork. Historical references link the site to the nearby Lavendon Abbey and an associated park; together these various sites help to illustrate the organisation of the medieval landscape in the area.


The monument includes Lavendon Castle, a motte and bailey castle with two associated lesser enclosures. The motte has been reduced and modified from its original form so that today it survives as a low flat-topped platform some 80m in diameter and up to 1.4m high: the proportions suggest that the motte was never of great height. The perimeter scarp of the platform remains intact around its southern and western arcs only, the north and east sides being disturbed and overlain by 17th century farm buildings. Sections of a once surrounding ditch are visible around the northern and southern quarters of the platform, the former in the shape of a small pond 30m long by 10m wide. The main bailey lies adjacent to the north-eastern side of the motte, though details of the actual junction are today obscured by modern farm buildings. The bailey comprises a rectangular enclosure with internal dimensions of some 130m north-west to south-east by some 70m north-east to south-west. This is bounded by an internal rampart of massive proportions which stands up to 4m high along its eastern side. Outside this rampart is an equally substantial ditch up to 2.9m deep and 10m wide which may have linked with that surrounding the motte at its north-western and south-western corners; ponds exist today in both of these areas. The interior of the bailey is approached by an original and slightly inturned entrance midway along its south-eastern side. A second possible entrance, modified by later mutilation, links the interior of the main bailey to a secondary enclosure adjacent to its north-western side. This secondary enclosure has dimensions of 160m north-west to south-east by 90m transversely. It is non-defensive in nature and, though an integral part of the medieval complex, post-dates the main bailey, abutting onto its western side. It is enclosed around its uphill north side by a low bank 0.9m high and around its southern side by a scarp 2.5m high. Apart from the entrance to the main bailey a second simple entrance is located midway along the north-western side. A roughly circular mound 15m in diameter and up to 1m high lies immediately outside of this enclosure at its north-western corner and may be associated. A third enclosure lies adjacent to the northern side of the motte, the southern side being formed by the motte itself. It measures some 110m south-west to north-east and is up to 50m wide, bounded by a bank up to 2m high with an outer ditch 5m wide and 0.5m deep; it is contemporary with the other elements of the complex. Other lesser earthworks in the form of linear banks, surface undulations and an old hollow way lie in the field to the immediate south and are probably associated. Little is known of the history of the site though a castle at Lavendon is recorded as early as 1192 when the occupier was Henry of Clinton. It is believed to have been built by the baronial family of Bidun, who held the manor in the 12th century before later passing into the hands of the Pevers. A reference in 1231 mentions a chapel on the site with the abbot of Lavendon Abbey being responsible for services twice weekly. The castle seems to have been demolished by the 1530s. All farm buildings, including the 17th century farmhouse, structures, access roads and boundaries 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire: Volume IV, (1927)
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968)
Cantor, L M, Hatherly, J, 'Records of Bucks' in The Medieval Parks of Buckinghamshire, , Vol. 20, (1977)
NAR Card No. SP95SW8,


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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