West Derby motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Liverpool (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 39725 93463

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Despite the monument's present levelled appearance, the base of the motte, the bailey and enclosing moats at West Derby castle remain reasonably well preserved. Limited excavations have confirmed that significant archaeological remains survive at the site. These include ditches and an outer rampart around the bailey. The excellent survival of waterlogged material, including major timbers, in and adjacent to the moats are especially noteworthy. Further similar remains will survive across the monument.


The monument is the motte and bailey castle at West Derby. The site includes a flat open area bounded on all sides by roads. Within this open area lie the buried remains of the castle which include the western half of the motte, the bailey, a double ditch separating the motte and bailey, the outer ditch flanking the bailey, and remains of an outer rampart. The remainder of the motte and surrounding ditch originally lay to the northeast of the scheduled monument in the area crossed by Parkside Drive and the houses and gardens beyond this. This area is not, however, included in the scheduling as the extent of survival of archaeological remains here, if any, is uncertain. The monument was built by the Norman baron Roger de Poitou about 1100 and was subjected to repairs in 1197 and 1202. Between 1199 and 1216 it was known to be defended by 140 footman and 10 knights and crossbowmen. Between 1218 and 1227 considerable expenditure was incurred by repairs to the drawbridge and garrison quarters in the bailey. The castle had been abandoned by 1297 and the site levelled in 1817. Limited excavation of the monument in 1927 located well preserved timbers in the outer ditch that were interpreted as the drawbridge supports. Late 13th-14th century pottery, metal, leather and horn or bone was also recovered. Further limited excavation in 1956 and 1957 located in situ timber consistent with the position of a palisade around the bailey. Well-preserved organic material was also encountered in the ditches between the motte and bailey. All pavements, paths and kerbs, the ornamental feature at the centre of the open area, and all lamp posts, telegraph poles, service pipes and ditches are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these features, however, 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
Droop, J P, Larkin, F C, 'AAA' in Excavations At West Derby Castle, Liverpool, , Vol. 15, (1928)
Eames, J.V.H., A Short report on the excavations at West Derby Castle, 1957, L'pool Univ School of Arch. (Pag 1-6)
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)


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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