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were superseded by other types of castle.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,
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.