Fineshade motte and bailey castle and abbey


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009601

Date first listed: 01-Jun-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 17-Feb-1993


Ordnance survey map of Fineshade motte and bailey castle and abbey
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Northamptonshire

District: East Northamptonshire (District Authority)

Parish: Duddington-with-Fineshade

National Grid Reference: SP 97270 97697


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The monument at Fineshade is also of significance as an Augustinian monastery and below ground remains are considered likely to survive of the buildings which housed the community of monks and lay brothers who occupied the site from the 13th century until the Dissolution in the 16th century. This was one of some 700 or so post-Conquest monasteries in England, of which some 225 belonged to the Augustinian order. Fineshade Abbey has a very well documented history covering successive phases of occupation and use, as a castle and then as a monastery, for well over 500 years. The site is largely unaffected by modern development and will retain archaeological evidence showing the evolution of the use of the site throughout this period. As the site is essentially undisturbed by modern development the monument will retain archaeological evidence of structures showing the evolution of the buildings on the site throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods.


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


The monument known as Fineshade Abbey consists of the earthworks of the motte and bailey known as Castle Hymel and of the priory which replaced it when the castle was demolished in about 1200. The motte lay on the higher ground to the east and the bailey lay on the western side of the site. There is no trace above ground of the priory but it stood on and around the location of the later house to the north of the site. The peripheral bailey of the castle was a semi-circular area lying to the west and north-west of the motte and now survives as earthworks. A long, curving bank up to 2.5m high running along the western edge of the site, above a steep valley, defines the extent of the bailey and below the bank the river runs into a large lake just north of the site. Within the bailey, platforms and depressions indicate the presence of former buildings. The priory was situated to the north of the castle motte within the northern area of the bailey. The priory church is known to have been located close to the site of the later house as skeletons and foundations were discovered in this area in the 18th century. In 1720 an arch of the original priory was still standing. Records indicate that Castle Hymel belonged to the Engayne family and that the castle was demolished in about 1200 to allow the building of the Augustinian Priory of St Mary which was founded by Richard Engayne. The priory was dissolved in 1536 and the buildings were converted to a residence. In 1749 the residence was demolished and replaced by a large Georgian mansion, remains of which can still be seen on the site today. Stables were built on a platform cut into the motte mound. Most of the 18th-century house was pulled down in 1956 and only the southern part of the house and the stables remain. The stables and coach house, listed Grade II, have recently been substantially renovated and the site is under grass. All made-up roads and pathways, all buildings on the site, including the stables and coach house, the remains of the 18th-century house and several large barns, are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath all these features 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: 13649

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , Archaeological Sites in North East Northamptonshire , (1975), 38-9

End of official listing