Downton motte, a motte castle 100m north west of St Giles' Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011018

Date first listed: 06-Jan-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Jul-1995


Ordnance survey map of Downton motte, a motte castle 100m north west of St Giles' Church
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This copy shows the entry on 12-Dec-2018 at 13:58:17.


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

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Downton

National Grid Reference: SO 42718 73465


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

Reasons for Designation

Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 at Downton on the Rock remains a good example of its class. It will contain valuable archaeological information relating to its construction and occupation. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed will be preserved sealed beneath the mound and in the ditch fill. The motte is one of several medieval structures and buildings in the vicinity and considered as a group they contribute valuable information on the settlement, economy and social organisation of this area of countryside during the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a small motte castle situated on rising ground on the west bank of the River Teme. It is visible as an earth and stone rubble mound 23m in diameter at base rising 3.5m to a summit 12m in diameter slightly hollowed to a depth of 0.5m. Around the west, north west and north east (uphill) sides of the motte there are traces of a ditch averaging 7m wide and up to 0.5m deep. It is believed that the castle mound was once surmounted by an octagonal stone keep and that it was originally built by the Mortimer family. The now ruinous Church of St Giles, the subject of a separate scheduling, stands close by the motte and Old Downton Farm is thought to stand on the site of the medieval manor house, indicating that this was the focus of the medieval agricultural community known as Downton on the Rock.

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: 19176

Legacy System: RSM


SMR Record 1645,

End of official listing