Whittington motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010796

Date first listed: 17-May-1991


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

County: Lancashire

District: Lancaster (District Authority)

Parish: Whittington

National Grid Reference: SD 59953 76271


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 motte and bailey castle at Whittington is of particular importance for being one of a group of such monuments established along the Lune valley. These sites were all of strategic importance, allowing control of movement along the river valley. More importantly, however, was the role these monuments played in imposing and demonstrating the new post-Conquest order on the area. Construction of the church within the bailey, coupled with the digging of numerous graves on the site has somewhat mutilated the earthworks. However, the site is still distinctly recognisable as a motte and bailey and retains considerable information as to its original form.


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


The monument comprises a motte and bailey castle situated on a natural hillock on the lower slopes of a steep hillside overlooking the floodplain of the River Lune. It commands extensive views both down and across the valley to the S and E. The site consists of a low, oval-shaped motte c.52m dia at the base x c.3.6m high standing some 11m above the low meadows to the SE. To the E and SE of the motte is a crescent-shaped bailey that slopes gently downwards from W-E and stands a max. 6m above the meadows. The site is now occupied by Whittington Church and churchyard. The church itself has been constructed within the bailey while a sundial is located upon the summit of the motte. There are burials both on the motte and within the bailey, particularly to the N of the church. Whittington Church and the sundial in the churchyard are both Grade II Listed. Whittington Church; all graves; a sundial on the motte summit; all gravel and flagged paths, steps and handrails; and the boundary wall and railings are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these features, however, 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: 13464

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Farrer, J, Brownbill, W (eds), The Victoria History of the County of Lancashire: Volume II, (1908), 545-6
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)
SMR No. 601, Lancashire SMR, Whittington Motte, (1984)

End of official listing