Conger Hill: a motte and bailey castle
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010059
Date first listed: 13-Dec-1929
Date of most recent amendment: 09-Sep-1994
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2019 at 19:22:35.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 01122 28905
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were superseded by other types of castle.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 at Conger Hill is well preserved and although the ramparts have been altered to some extent by infilling and encroachment of adjacent buildings, a substantial area of the bailey survives. The monument retains conditions favouring the preservation of building remains in the bailey and on the motte and the recovery of environmental evidence from the fills of the ditches and from the old ground surface beneath the motte.
The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on a ridge of the
Chilterns some 100m east of St George's Church. The motte is a steep-sided
earthen mound 40m in diameter surrounded by a ditch which is between 8m and
12m in width. The ditch is about 2.5m in depth and the mound rises some 5m
from the base of the ditch. The mound is conical in profile with a flattened
area 20m across at the top. An irregular depression 0.3m deep at the east side
of this area indicates the remains of the buildings on the motte. The motte
was surrounded by an outer defended court or bailey. Although partially built
over to the west and south, the eastern rampart of the bailey is still visible
as a bank and outer ditch running at a north/south tangent to the motte and
curving slightly to the south west. The rampart is very slight in contrast to
the size of the motte but it is thought that over the years the ditch has been
partially infilled with material from the bank. The bank is now 2m wide by
about 0.5m high and the ditch is 6m wide by 0.5m deep. Although the extent of
the bailey to the north, west and south is not proven, it is thought that the
bounds of the bailey correspond approximately with the modern field boundary
and that the area contained within the field west of the rampart has potential
for the preservation of below-ground remains of buildings associated with the
The castle is identified as the stronghold of Sir Paulinus Pegure in the 13th
century. The name Conger Hill is recorded from 1597 and it has been
considered that the name is a corruption of an earlier Celtic British name.
The mound was used in the 16th century as a rabbit warren. There is a local
Shrove Tuesday custom associated with the castle in which the village children
assemble at the monument to listen for a witch frying pancakes beneath the
Excluded from the scheduling are the made surfaces of the asphalt footpath
along the western boundary, the metalled track, the concrete slabs, the
hardstanding and the shed at the north of the monument, although the ground
beneath these items 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: 20439
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Beresford, M, History on the Ground, (1957)
Blundell, J H, Toddington, its Annals and People, (1925)
Fisher, , Colls. History, Genealogy and Typography of Bedfordshire, (1812)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1806), 43
'The Observer' in The Observer, , Vol. 03/03/63, (1963)
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