Pinxton Castle motte and fortified manor with moated site and five fishponds


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010025

Date first listed: 25-Feb-1994


Ordnance survey map of Pinxton Castle motte and fortified manor with moated site and five fishponds
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Derbyshire

District: Bolsover (District Authority)

Parish: Pinxton

County: Derbyshire

District: Bolsover (District Authority)

Parish: South Normanton

National Grid Reference: SK 45954 56881


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

Reasons for Designation

Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Pinxton Castle motte is reasonably well preserved and sufficiently intact for archaeological remains relating to the structures on the motte to be preserved and its relationship with the later medieval fortified manor to be determined. Fortified manors were the residences of the lesser nobility and richer burgesses and date from the late 12th century and throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. Generally they comprise a hall and residential wing, domestic ranges, and fortifications such as a moat or crenellated wall or both. The site at Pinxton is fairly unusual in that the moat is located inside a larger fortified enclosure. In addition to the tower and perimeter wall, extensive building remains will survive as buried features throughout the monument. Around 6000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally waterfilled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings, or, in some cases, gardens, or orchards or fishponds. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was between 1250 and 1350, but many remained in use for much longer than this and some are still occupied today. By far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England, but they exist in most other areas and exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in rural areas. The example at Pinxton survives well and illustrates not only the diversity of form of this class of monument but its longevity. In addition it is associated with five well preserved fishponds, one of which is waterfilled and retains conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains and environmental evidence.


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


The monument known as Pinxton Castle, or sometimes Wynn Castle, includes the motte of a 12th century earthwork castle and a later medieval fortified manor. Remains include a moated site and five fishponds along with a range of perimeter earthworks. The motte comprises a 3m high conical mound whose level summit has a diameter of c.20m and would have been the site of a shell keep, a type of early castle keep in which timber buildings were arranged around the inside of a circular palisade or wall. In addition to the motte, there would originally have been a bailey or outer enclosure in which further domestic and service buildings would have existed together with corrals for stock and horses. It is possible that the bank extending along the north-west side of the later fortified manor originated as a bailey rampart. The motte is believed to have been associated with Roger de Wynn who held the manor of Pinxton from 1120. The motte is situated at the north-west corner of the fortified manor site and appears to have been reused in the later medieval period as part of the perimeter defences. This is inferred from the existence of a level, 10m square platform at the base of the motte to the north. This platform was the site of a building, possibly a gatehouse. The perimeter bank extends north-eastwards from the platform and measures c.2m high by 6m wide at the base. Together with the banks along the north-east and south-east edges of the enclosure, which are of similar dimensions, it would, in the later Middle Ages and after, have been the site of a wall. Most likely, this wall was crenellated. This would explain why the site continued to be called a castle. Along the inside of the north-west bank there is a 10m wide berm or terrace. Parallel with this, a pair of rectangular fishponds extend from north-west to south-east and are connected by a sluice. Both ponds are c.1.5m deep and 7m wide, but the one nearest the motte measures 13.5m long while the other is c.15m long. They are set 5m apart and the sluice, formerly the site of wooden gates used to control the flow of water and fish between the two ponds, is 2m wide and 1m deep. At its north end, the larger fishpond is connected via a 5m wide channel to a third rectangular fishpond which extends south-eastwards from the north corner of the site. This channel is currently partially filled-in by a rubble causeway which is assumed to be relatively modern although it may be on the site of an original bridging point. This is indicated by a break in the outer bank and the existence of a flat-topped sub-rectangular mound overlooking the causeway to the north. The mound measures 12m by 6m and stands c.1.5m high. It is interpreted as the site of a tower incorporated into the perimeter wall of the manor. The third fishpond is c.2m deep and measures 40m long by 15m wide. To the south-west is a level area which would have been the site of buildings and other features associated with the manor. Also, 10m to the south-east, there is a fourth fishpond which is now largely filled-in and measures 30m long by 15m wide. To the south-east of this, in the east corner of the monument, is a level area measuring c.25m square which would have been the site of further buildings and structures. Along the south-east edge of the site, a fifth fishpond extends for 40m at 7m wide then opens out, at the south corner of the site, to form a pool measuring c.10m square. There is no outer bank along the south-east edge of the monument, though a raised feature indicates that the wall continued at least part of the way along this side. The pond along this side remains waterfilled and is connected to the south corner of the moat by a 2m wide sluice. This indicates that the moat itself probably also served as a fishpond. The moated site comprises a 1.5m high platform, measuring c.30m by 40m, surrounded by an 8m wide partially waterfilled moat which is up to 2.5m deep on the north-west and north-east sides, 2m deep on the south-west side and 1m deep on the south-east side. This variation is caused by the moat having been dug into a south-facing slope. Partial excavations were carried out on the platform in the 1950s by the Pinxton Archaeological Society. Unfortunately, the records of this work have been lost but it is assumed that the society was responsible for uncovering the overgrown building remains which are currently visible and include the level floors of rooms or small structures, wall footings and trenches, sandstone rubble and pieces of brick and roof tile. These remains appear to be of a post-medieval building and overlie the buried evidence of the earlier timber buildings which would originally have occupied the site.

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: 23295

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Monk, G E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations at Castle Wood, Pinxton, (1951)
Monk, G E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations at Castle Wood, Pinxton, (1951)
Stevenson, W, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Pinxton Castle, , Vol. 40, (1918)

End of official listing