Richard's Castle: a motte and bailey with an enclosed settlement.


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Richard's Castle: a motte and bailey with an enclosed settlement.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)
Richards Castle (Hereford)
Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
Richard's Castle (Shropshire)
National Grid Reference:
SO 48459 70223

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Richard's Castle motte and bailey castle survives well and is one of the finest examples of its class in the county. It is of particular importance for its likely early origin, in the period immediately before the Norman conquest. The massive motte and the bailey earthworks will contain important archaeological evidence concerning their method of construction together with evidence of occupation. The standing walling on the site, although in a ruinous state, will contain valuable information relating to early castle architecture. Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed will be preserved in the ditch fill and sealed on the old land surfaces beneath the motte and the ramparts. The outer bailey enclosing the original medieval village and borough survives with both its defences and its interior largely intact and contributes valuable information concerning the size, plan and defensive arrangements of the site. Considered as a group (the adjacent parish church, castle, and the current village, which conforms to the original medieval plan with little disturbance) the site as a whole is a valuable example of an early, planned, medieval settlement.


The monument includes Richard's Castle, a large motte and bailey castle situated in a prominent position on the south western tip of a roughly east to west orientated spur of high ground. The castle includes a substantial motte with a bailey on its east side and an outer enclosure around the settlement to the east of the castle. The castle is believed to have been founded about 1050 by Richard le Scrob and was the site referred to as Auretone in the Domesday Survey of 1086, when it was held by Osbern Fitz Richard. Subsequently the castle passed into the families of Mortimer, Talbot and Pope. The castle includes an extensive series of substantial earthworks with fragmentary sections of ruined walling. The motte has a diameter of 55m at base rising 10m to a flattened summit 7m in diameter. Upon the summit are the exposed foundations of an octagonal stone keep, 12m across, with a small building on its north east side overlooking the bailey. The bailey lies to the north east and south east of the motte and is separated from it by the remains of a ditch some 12m wide, now largely silted up. The bailey has dimensions of 85m north east to south west by 60m north west to south east. Fragments of stone curtain walling stand to a height of 6m along the north west side of the bailey, continuing up the north east slope of the motte. The tower closest to the motte was excavated in the 1960s and found to contain an inserted dovecote. There are further exposed fragments of curtain wall and towers around the north and east sides of the bailey. Both the motte and bailey are encircled by a massive dry ditch averaging 6m deep and varying in width between 17m on the south west side and 24m on the north east side. Around the south west side, where the ditch cuts north west to south east across the tip of the spur, it is partly rock-cut. Although there is no distinct outer rampart around this portion of the site, spoil from the ditch appears to have been thrown outwards forming a roughly linear mound above the precipitous natural slopes, which fall steeply here to the south and south west. However, around the remaining north, north west and west sides of the bailey there is a well defined outer rampart, up to 10m in width and standing between 1.5m and 2.5m above the natural ground level. There is an original causewayed entrance crossing the bailey ditch towards the south east corner of the enclosure. Fragmentary walling flanking the causeway represents the remains of a stone gatehouse. The south west side wall of the gatehouse remains standing to a height of 4.5m; the foundation courses of the north east wall, revealed by excavations in the 1960s, remain exposed. To the east of the bailey, joined onto its outer rampart, are the remains of an extensive outer enclosure designed to protect the church and a small settlement which became the medieval borough of Richard's Castle. The site has been carefully chosen for its natural defensive strength; the outer defences of the enclosure skillfully use the natural topography of the hilltop to maximum advantage. Although disrupted in places, the boundary of the enclosure can be traced throughout most of its circuit. From the north eastern corner of the castle bailey a substantial rampart 14m wide and 3m high, with a ditch 10m wide and 1.5m deep on its north west side, runs in a north easterly direction for 50m before fading out short of the outbuildings of Church House. The line of the defences can then be recognised to the north of Church House as a steep scarp slope. It falls from the top of the plateau 5m to the level of the farm lane which curves for approximately 120m around the northern edge of the site. This lane is believed to occupy the line of the original outer ditch of the enclosure. The antiquity of this alignment is evidenced by the position of the county boundary which here follows the outer edge of the lane. To the south of the junction between the farm lane and the public road, the perimeter of the enclosure follows the top edge of the plateau, above a steep-sided combe which lies to the north east. The southern scarp of the combe has been cut back 5m from the top to steepen the slope and create a berm 4m wide before falling a further 5m to the valley bottom. The berm, where it survives undisturbed, continues the alignment of the farm lane to the north west suggesting that it is an original defensive feature. However, later quarry activity has cut into the upper scarp of the slope towards the south creating vertical quarry faces and disrupting the level of the berm. After some 130m the upper scarp decreases in size to 2m high before curving southwards and ending. The berm also fades out and an outer scarp 1.6m high runs across the slope for 50m, overlapping with the inner scarp to form an original defended entrance to the enclosure at its easternmost point. A causewayed trackway climbs from the valley floor to the north west parallel to the outer rampart ending on the hillslope in the vicinity of the entrance. Around the southern side of the enclosure, south of the present road and south west of Green Farm, the perimeter defences are less clear but their alignment can be followed. Green Farm and its garden stand on top of the plateau some 2m above the farm buildings to the south and separated from them by a substantial modern stone wall revetment. Although the scarp has been cut back and the wall rebuilt, the alignment remains that of the original defensive circuit. The alignment continues to the west from the edge of the wall as a pronounced scarp 2.6m high running for a further 70m before curving outwards and ending on a causewayed trackway which climbs from the valley bottom to the south west. From this point on the edge of the enclosure is less well defined but appears to curve in towards the churchyard wall then turn west. The scarp forms the southern edge of the churchyard and is surmounted by the earlier portion of the churchyard wall for 30m. From the corner of the wall it continues as a pronounced scarp 1.6m high separating the earlier and later portions of the churchyard before joining with the outer rampart of the inner bailey at the north east corner of the bailey. In the north east part of the plateau, situated at approximately 30m, 45m and 60m south east from the roadway which cuts through the northern side of the enclosure, are three roughly semicircular mounds which project out from the plateau edge. The southern two of these features show evidence of coursed stone walling facing outwards towards the valley floor. The better preserved is the most southerly which has exposed walling standing up to 1m high on its north east side and can be traced around its remaining sides as a circular platform 5m in diameter and 0.3m high. This feature was partially excavated in the 1960s when it was described as having walling 4ft thick surviving three courses high and was interpreted as the remains of a dovecote. The existence of the second and possible third sub-circular masonry base to the north suggests the alternative interpretation that these features represent part of the defensive circuit of the outer enclosure, perhaps the remains of a curtain wall with stone towers which ran along the edge of the plateau. The parish church of St Bartholomew occupies an irregular platform at the western end of the enclosure, between the settlement and the castle. Its earliest visible fabric dates from the 11th or early 12th century, but it remains in use and neither the church nor the burial ground are included within the scheduling. Within the enclosure, where the land surface is undisturbed by later occupation, traces of the earlier medieval settlement can be recognised in the form of linear scarps and platforms. In the field to the east of Church House a series of low scarps 0.2m high lie parallel, orientated north east to south west; they are probably the boundaries of small medieval crofts. In the permanent pasture east of the roadway a series of four pronounced scarps with lesser intermediate scarps run parallel across the gentle upper slope of the plateau. These also lie orientated north east to south west and appear to represent the boundaries of small medieval plots. All buildings, including those at Church House, the Old Church Cottage, Green Cottage and Green Farm are excluded from the scheduling along with the ground beneath them. All fences and other structures and metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling though the ground beneath is included. The septic tank at SO48467033 is excluded from the scheduling, as is the ground beneath.

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.

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Books and journals
Curnow, P E, Thompson, M W, Excavations At Richard's Castle, (1969), 105-27
Curnow, P E, Thompson, M W, Excavations At Richard's Castle, (1969), 105-27
'Herefordshire' in RCHM Herefordshire, , Vol. III, (1934), 172
Curnow, , Thompson, , 'JBAA' in Excavations At Richard's Castle, (1969), 32,105
RCHM, Herefordshire, RCHM, RCHM, Herefordshire, (1934)
SMR Record 1661,


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

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