Motte and bailey castle 600m north of Castle Combe


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle 600m north of Castle Combe
© 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.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Castle Combe
National Grid Reference:
ST 83878 77922

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey at Castle Combe is particularly important as it is an outstanding example of its class, survives well and has potential for the recovery of archaeological remains. The importance of the site is enhanced by the wealth of historical documentation available and by the possible association with an earlier Iron Age promontory fort.


The monument includes a motte with four associated baileys set on a steep promontory overlooking By Brook, a tributary of the River Avon. The earthworks are orientated SW-NE and follow the line of contours making the monument appear ovoid in plan. The motte is close to the steep SW-facing slope and is 8m high. Traces of a wall around the top of the motte are visible while in the eastern corner the walls of the rectangular tower survive to a height of 3.5m. The baileys vary in size, are separated from each other by banks and ditches and tend to radiate out from the motte towards the north-east end of the monument. In three of the baileys there are the remains of a total of around seventeen buildings while the largest bailey, covering some 1.5ha at the NE end of the monument, contains two linear pillow mounds aligned NE-SW across the centre of the bailey, probably associated with a rabbit warren recorded in 1416, and a dry pond on the SE side. Although never excavated, finds from the monument include iron arrowheads, bucklers, spurs and a few Saxon coins. The whole of the monument is defined by a single bank and a ditch with a counterscarp. The ditch averages 5m wide and 2m deep and the bank up to 3m high. The location of the site and the survival of an outer bank at the NE end of the monument suggest the site may have been built on the site of an earlier promontory fort, dating probably to the Iron Age. The building of the castle may be ascribed to the de Dunstanvilles at around 1140. The family line ended in 1270 and the castle and barony transferred to Lord de Badlesmere in 1313.

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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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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