'The Hills' motte and baileys


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010370

Date first listed: 13-Dec-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Jan-1992


Ordnance survey map of 'The Hills' motte and baileys
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Meppershall

National Grid Reference: TL 13283 35857


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

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Hills' is a very well preserved motte and bailey castle which is essentially undisturbed and retains high archaeological potential. It is one of few such monuments in Bedfordshire which have clearly documented links with historical events.


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


The castle known as `The Hills' is a motte with two baileys located to the north-east. The motte is an earthen mound about 25m in diameter and almost 5m high from the bottom of the encircling ditch. This ditch is about 10m wide and 1m or so in depth. (The motte was the central stronghold of the castle and would have held a stout wooden tower.) The inner bailey is in the form of an island, fortified by an extension of the motte ditch, and is kidney-shaped in plan, measuring 50m long by up to 20m wide. The bailey is raised to a level of 2-2.5m above the bottom of the ditch. Beyond the inner bailey, separated by a 10m wide ditch, is a second, outer bailey. This is larger and roughly triangular, measuring about 60m north-south, by 40m wide at is south end. The outer bailey is also lower, being only 1m or so above the bottom of the ditch, but is strengthened on the north-east side by a bank 0.5-1m in height. (The respective decline in height was intentional, enabling a clear line-of-sight from the top of the motte with no potential blind-spots to shield attacking forces.) The defensive ditch completes its circuit around the eastern side of the bailey and at the north-east corner is the remains of a leat which once supplied water to the ditch. This leat is about 8m long by 3m wide and 1m deep. The castle is considered to date to the reign of Stephen and to have been beseiged by him in 1138, during the seige of Bedford.

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: 20417

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
P.O. Directory, (1864)
The Victoria History of the County, (1908)
Goddard, A R, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1904)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1813)
Wadmore, B, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, (1920)
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Beds. Magazine 8, Winter 1962-3, (1962)
Ruhlicke, F W, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Beds. Magazine I, No 6, (1948)
Cambridge AP Index: LJ 57-8, (1953)
Pagination 116, Baker, D, Beds. SMR record: ref.10, (1978)

End of official listing