Mountsorrel motte and bailey castle
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010188
Date first listed: 10-Jun-1970
Date of most recent amendment: 19-Feb-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Charnwood (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SK 58192 14813
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were superseded by other types of castle.
Mountsorrel Castle has been shown to contain well-preserved architectural remains and has important royal associations with Henry II.
Mountsorrel Castle is situated on a granite outcrop within the small town,
mid-way between Loughborough and Leicester. It includes a motte and a second
mound on the hill top, and the remaining part of the bailey ditch at the foot
of the hill to the south.
Two natural high points of granite on the hill have been adapted within the castle. The northern of these is the castle motte which is roughly circular and part quarried away. It stands 2-3m high above the surrounding hill and about 18m in diameter at the base. 50m south of this is a second mound, also roughly circular, which is about 2m high above the surrounding hill and about 15m in diameter at the base. On the south side of the hill is the remaining part of the bailey ditch which survives for a length of 60m. It is about 12m wide and 2m deep. The bailey originally extended to the east and west of the protected area but the degree of archaeological survival in these areas is uncertain and hence they are not included in the scheduling.
The castle was founded by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Leicester c.1080. It was besieged by the King's forces to whom it fell in 1174. Henry II retained it when the earl of Leicester's lands were restored to him in or after 1177. The tower over the walls and other buildings were repaired in the 1190's and again in King John's reign. In 1217 Henry II ordered the castle to be destroyed and it was never rebuilt. Small scale excavations in 1952 revealed granite foundations within the motte and traces of sandstone blocks and medieval building material within the second mound to the south.
The motte today is topped by a war memorial which is excluded from the scheduling. Also excluded is a stone seat on the eastern side of the hill and, stone approach steps on the western slope of the monument. The ground beneath these features is included in the scheduling.
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: 17075
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of Central Leicestershire, (1989), 10,25
Cantor, L, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Arch and Historical Society' in The Medieval Castles of Leicestershire (Volume 53), , Vol. 53, (1978), 37
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