Rockingham Castle, shrunken medieval village, moat and warrens


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010647

Date first listed: 13-Jan-1992


Ordnance survey map of Rockingham Castle, shrunken medieval village, moat and warrens
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Northamptonshire

District: Corby (District Authority)

County: Northamptonshire

District: Corby (District Authority)

Parish: Rockingham

National Grid Reference: SP 86761 91079, SP 86893 91509


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Rockingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman invasion, and remained an important royal castle used by successive kings throughout the medieval period. By the 13th century the castle was one of the seven main royal residences in the country. Extensive documentary records also show that Rockingham was a major administrative centre during this time. Successive phases of building at the site are well documented throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, and remains of a substantial village settlement are also seen around the castle. The site has a diversity of very well preserved and well maintained earthworks including those of the motte and baileys of the castle, warrens, moats, and the associated settlement. These features combine to present an exceptional and largely undisturbed medieval landscape of important historical value and with considerable archaeological potential.


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


The monument consists of the motte and bailey castle, with a moat and warrens, and of the earthworks of the shrunken medieval village with its associated enclosures. It is divided into two constraint areas which lie to the north east and south west of the Rockingham Road. Rockingham Castle is sited on an escarpment which overlooks the Welland Valley. The castle consists of a motte which lies between two baileys, one to the north and one to the south. The motte and the south bailey were altered in post-medieval times, but the motte still survives as a mound up to 3m high. Originally a stone keep stood on the summit of the mound, but the present castle stands in the north bailey. The south bailey shows traces of ridge and furrow cultivation. Both north and south baileys are surrounded by ditched outer banks. The original castle was constructed on the summit of the motte in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and was last in use as a royal residence by Henry V in 1422. The motte castle may have been refortified in 1664 at the time of the Civil War. However, in 1544 Edward Watson began to convert the castle remains in the north bailey into the present Tudor residence and this is now a Grade I listed building. Part of the curtain wall and gatehouse are dated to the 13th century and are listed Grade II*. About 450m to the south east of the castle site, and to the north east of the present driveway, lies the remains of a moat known as the Bottom moat; this consists of a small rectangular moat with four complete and waterfilled arms. To the south west, part of the Top Moat survives as a long ditch which widens to form a pond at the north eastern end. In early maps the two moats were joined together. The moats are considered to be medieval and associated with the original castle. Approximately 300m to the south east of the castle, in the south east of the park grounds, are several mounds which are the remains of medieval rabbit warrens. Three rectangular mounds about 25 to 30 metres long run from east to west and another rectangular mound further north was also part of the warren. To the north again, and running at right angles, are two mounds over l00m long which sit on top of the adjoining hill; these too are identified as rabbit warrens of medieval origin but also known to have been in use in the 17th century. To the north and north east of the castle, around the church, lies the earthwork remains of the shrunken medieval village of Rockingham; a map of 1615 shows houses still standing around the church. The church of St Leonard is a Grade II* listed building and is dated to the 13/14th centuries, with later additions. A distinctive hollow way runs north eastwards through the settlement earthworks from the area of the castle. On each side of the hollow way lie the banks and ditches of building platforms, and small enclosures which formed the settlement. To the north of the present main road there are also clear earthwork remains of the village. A further hollow way runs eastwards from the castle and is surrounded by banks of ditches of small rectangular enclosures. It is considered that these are the earthwork remains of medieval enclosures and terraces. The small size of these enclosures could indicate that they are derived from the much earlier fields of Prehistoric or Roman date, usually known as Celtic fields. All buildings on the site, including the castle and the church, and all made up roads and paths are excluded from the scheduling but all below ground remains are included. The churchyard is totally excluded from 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: 13638

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Guide Book to the Castle: Rockingham Castle, (1990)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of Archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire, (1979), 126-30

End of official listing