Cuckney motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Cuckney motte and bailey castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1010909 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 20-Oct-2019 at 05:02:49.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bassetlaw (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 56582 71405

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Cuckney motte and bailey castle is a reasonably well-preserved example of an adulterine fort built to command a river valley. Although the motte and inner bailey are partially disturbed by modern burials, a sufficient amount remains intact for the structure of the motte to be preserved and also the relationship between these areas and the outer bailey. The outer bailey itself has suffered little disturbance and so will retain the archaeological remains of ancillary features such as garrison buildings and corrals for stock and horses. The defensive earthworks associated with both the inner and outer baileys also survive well.


The monument includes the motte, outer bailey and part of the inner bailey of the twelfth century motte and bailey castle at Cuckney. Originally, the inner bailey extended further east into the area now occupied by the parish church of St Mary and the churchyard to the south. Although archaeological remains will survive here, these areas are not included in the scheduling as they are in current ecclesiastical use. The outer bailey may also have extended further south into the built-up area south-west of the church. This area is not included in the scheduling as the extent and state of preservation of the remains is not sufficiently understood. The inner bailey is a sub-rectangular platform orientated east to west. It measures 90m from north to south and 150m east to west. Only the western 80m are included in the scheduling. The motte occupies the north-west corner of the inner bailey and consists of a flat-topped oval mound, 4m high and measuring 45m from north to south by 20m east to west. Both the motte and the scheduled part of the inner bailey are occupied by the now disused graveyard associated with the church. The perimeter wall of the graveyard occupies the inner edge of a 10m wide ditch that encircles the west side of the motte and encloses the inner bailey on the north side. Originally, it would also have enclosed the south side of the bailey but has been filled-in to the south of the church so that, on this side, only the area south of the motte remains open. The remainder will survive as a buried feature in the unscheduled part of the inner bailey. The ditch does not appear to have extended along the east side of the inner bailey, which also lies in the unscheduled area. This indicates that the original entrance would have occupied this side. Encircling the inner bailey on the north and west sides is a 40m wide ribbon of open ground which functioned as an outer bailey. This is partially encircled by a double bank and ditch which lies roughly parallel with the River Poulter and is approximately 15m wide. The river would have formed another line of defence on this side and, in addition, could be commanded from the castle. The castle was built by Thomas de Cuckney during the reign of King Stephen (1135-54), which was a time of civil strife between Stephen's supporters and those of the Empress Matilda (Maud), daughter of his predecessor Henry I. The castle may therefore have been an adulterine fort; that is, one built without the king's permission. During the underpinning of the church in 1951, up to 200 burials were found which antedate the building of the church in c.1200. They occupied three or four communal graves; that is, trenches dug north to south so that the bodies could be laid with their feet to the east. No associated finds have been recorded, neither have the remains undergone scientific analysis. However, it is assumed that the bodies were casualties from a skirmish associated with the Maudian rebellion. After their discovery, the skeletons were reinterred in a fresh communal grave. Excluded from the scheduling are the boundary walls crossing the monument and the graves on the motte and within the scheduled part of the inner bailey, although the ground beneath these exclusions is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968), 161
'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Account of church underpinning, , Vol. 55, (1951), 26-28


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].