Oakham motte and bailey castle and medieval gardens


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010702

Date first listed: 08-Feb-1915

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Jan-1992


Ordnance survey map of Oakham motte and bailey castle and medieval gardens
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Rutland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Oakham

National Grid Reference: SK 86176 08946


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Oakham castle played a central role, not only as a medieval defensive fortification, but also as the administrative centre, initially of the manor of Oakham, and then in the formation of the county of Rutland. The diversity of features incorporated in the monument, including well documented medieval gardens, make it a site of exceptional historical value.


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


Oakham castle occupies a central position in the former county town of Rutland, now part of Leicestershire. The castle complex comprises a standing great hall and the remains of a motte or mound inside a square inner bailey. To the north of this is a large rectangular outer bailey known as Cutts Close which contains dry fishponds and garden earthworks. The inner castle bailey measures approximately 140 x 140m in overall dimensions. The great hall is situated close to its western boundary, and consists of an aisled building measuring 20 x 13m internally, and is built of ironstone rubble with cut stone dressings. The inner bailey is delimited by a curtain wall dating to the 13th century. On the inside, a bank, consisting of grassed-over collapsed stone and rubble, slopes up to the wall and the remains of two towers or bastions can be identified on the western side. In the south east corner is the castle motte adjoining the enclosure wall at its highest point. It stands to a height of about 6m and has a surrounding ditch which is up to lm deep and 8-10m wide. The ground surface of the bailey is uneven, signifying the foundations of buildings, many of which are known from documentary evidence. The gateway on the south side, is still in use, although it has been rebuilt many times. To the north, the outer bailey known as Cutts Close contains earthworks of gardens and fishponds which are mentioned in 14th century documents. A substantial bank, up to 2m high, surrounds the perimeter of the outer bailey and also forms the fishponds. Oakham was the administrative centre of the manor of Oakham, with its courts and system of self government, and also the emerging county of Rutland. The hall of Oakham castle is listed in Domesday book and would have been represented at that time by a wooden building. The stone-built hall which survives today was built by Walkelin de Ferrers between 1180 and 1190. A 14th century document describes the castle in detail with a garden, fishponds and a moat. The period 1372-1386 is particularly rich in recorded detail with accounts of work done and grants made, but by 1521 the castle appears to have been in decline with much except the hall, which was used as a law court, in ruin. An engraving of 1684 shows the hall freestanding inside the castle enclosure, as it is today. There have been a number of archaeological excavations, that of 1953 confirming that the inner bailey was moated. In 1989 an archaeological evaluation of Cutts Close indicated that the south west bank was pre Norman. The castle site today is in the care of Leicestershire County Council, and Cutts Close is a grassed public recreation area. The great hall is a grade I listed building and is excluded from the schedule, as are the buildings adjoining it and the metalled driveway and car park in front of it. Also excluded in Cutts Close are: a bandstand, a disused paddling pool, childrens swings, the metalled pathways and a public shelter. The ground beneath all the above mentioned structures is included in the scheduling. A Second World War gun emplacement at the north east corner of Cutts Close and a 19th century garden folly in the eastern wall of the castle are both 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: 17018

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of Rutland, (1983), 30/32
MckClough, T H, Oakham Castle, (1987)
Gathercole, P W, 'Transactions of the Leics Archaeological & Hist Society' in Excavations at Oakham Castle, Rutland, , Vol. 34, (1958), 17-38
Sharman, J, Sawday, D, 'Transactions of the Leics Archaeological & Hist Society' in An Archaeological Evaluation of the Outer Bailey at Oakham Cast., , Vol. 64, (1990), 88-95

End of official listing