Clun Castle: a motte and bailey castle and formal garden earthworks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Clun Castle: a motte and bailey castle and formal garden earthworks
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 29757 80975

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Clun Castle with its second bailey and medieval garden earthworks is one of the finest examples of its class in the county. The castle earthworks will contain valuable archaeological evidence concerning their method of construction and the nature and periods of the castle's occupation. The substantial ruined buildings which survive on the motte will contain significant details relating to the dating and function of Clun Castle and to the development of castle architecture more widely. The earthworks on the west bank of the River Clun are rare examples of late medieval gardens. They survive in good condition and provide valuable information both for the layout of individual garden features relative to each other and relative to the castle, the setting for which they provided. As they are waterlogged, they will provide rare evidence for the plants they contained, in the organic deposits in the bases of the ditches. The site, taken as a whole, also illustrates, particularly, how water was used both for practical and decorative purposes. Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed will be preserved sealed on the old land surface beneath the ramparts and in the ditch fills.


The monument includes the earthwork and masonry remains of Clun Castle motte and bailey and a series of water management earthworks situated adjacent to the River Clun below the confluence of the River Clun with the River Unk. The motte and its two baileys occupy a small but strategically strong prominence of high ground contained around the west and south sides within a meander of the River Clun. The castle was the seat of the Honour of Clun, a border barony, and is believed to have been founded between 1090 and 1110 by the Norman knight Picot de Say who fought with William the Conqueror in 1066. The castle buildings were originally of timber but these were destroyed by fire in 1196 when the castle fell to the Welsh Prince Rese, though by 1233 the castle had been rebuilt and withstood a second attack by the Welsh. In the second half of the 13th century the castle was rebuilt in stone by the Fitz Alan family. At its greatest extent it included inner and outer baileys with tower and keep, domestic buildings, a water garden and fishpond and a bridge linking the two baileys. By 1300 Clun was no longer a permanent residence, the Fitz Alans having moved to Arundel Castle in Sussex. Clun Castle, however, continued to function as a centre for the administration of the border barony and as a hunting lodge until its desertion by 1540. The castle motte lies in the north west quarter of the site with its two baileys to the east and south east. The motte has been created from a natural prominence, rather than built up. On the west side the site is protected by the river and the steep scarp slope of the hill which has been artificially steepened to enhance its defensive strength. Around the remaining sides a ditch has been cut to isolate a portion of the hill summit so forming the motte. At its base it measures some 80m north to south by 76m east to west rising 12m from the bottom of the ditch to a summit 50m by 40m. On the summit are the ruins of the castle keep: a fragment of the western curtain wall and an impressive late 13th century great tower. The latter stands 28m high built into the north face of the motte. It appears to have been built for prestige rather than defence as its position on the side of the motte makes it vulnerable to assault by undermining. It originally contained well-appointed chambers on three floors over undercrofts. An entrance to the tower in the west wall shows similar lack of regard for security, facing outwards rather than inwards towards the motte summit. The larger bailey lies to the immediate south east of the motte, separated from it by a substantial ditch 10m wide, except at its north western corner where a causeway allows access to the motte. The ditch continues around the north and east sides of the bailey. Along the south west the natural hillslope and river provide defence, the hillslope being cut back to increase the steepness of the scarp and create a berm averaging 4m wide towards the base of the slope. The level plateau-like summit of the bailey is roughly triangular in plan with dimensions of 80m north west to south east by 40m transversely. There are traces of an inner bank 0.7m high running along the eastern edge of the bailey. To the north of this enclosure and linked to it by a causeway is the second smaller bailey. It lies at a slightly lower level than the former, its upper surface being some 8m above the base of the ditch. This small roughly rectangular enclosure has internal dimensions of 42m east to west by 40m north to south. An engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck in 1731 shows that a court house was situated on this bailey. The court house was demolished in 1789 when Clun Town Hall was built. To the north of this bailey and of the motte are the remains of a strong bank. It runs for some 80m curving around the base of the bailey and motte, averages 8m wide and stands up to 3.6m high. To the north west of this bank the natural prominence from which most of the castle earthworks have been created continues as a flat topped spur running to the east of and parallel to the river course. After approximately 60m the western scarp wraps around to the east to form the northern end of the prominence, continuing for approximately 30m as a low scarp up to 1.3m high before ending on the rising ground to the east. The area between this northern extremity and the castle earthworks themselves is hollowed to an average depth of 2.5m forming a flat bottomed depression measuring some 60m north west to south east by 60m transversely. Although now dry this feature may have originally contained water in the form of a small ornamental mere or fishpond. To the west of the castle, on the west bank of the River Clun, are a series of linear earthworks believed to be the remains of garden features associated with the castle. The earthworks appear to be designed to control and manage water. At their southern extent a well defined north east facing scarp up to 3.2m high curves from the river towards the north west for 160m before turning to the west and fading out towards the modern roadway. To the east of this scarp and parallel to it, is a second, south facing, scarp 1.2m high forming the eastern side of a broad channel 6m wide. Some 80m along this channel and adjoining its north side is a sub-circular mound or platform 14m in diameter and up to 0.5m high. The central portion of this is hollowed to a depth of 0.2m and may represent the site of a building. To the north west of this feature the main channel continues bounded on its east side by a low bank. Between this and the river are a series of shallow channels up to 1.5m wide and 0.3m deep arranged in a rectangular pattern. These are bounded along their northern side by a bank with a channel 6m wide and 0.5m deep parallel to it on its north side. Further north again a roughly square ditched enclosure can be recognised. This enclosure, the full extent of which is visible on aerial photographs of the area, is orientated roughly north to south and has sides of 60m. It is crossed by a modern field drain and hedge which cuts diagonally through it north west to south east. Differential management of the two fields has resulted in the southern half, which lies in undisturbed permanent pasture, being better preserved than the northern portion. Even so substantial buried remains still survive in the northern part of this feature. The southern part of the enclosure is bounded by a well defined shallow ditch 5m wide and 0.5m deep. To the north of the hedgeline the ditch remains visible as a very slight earthwork. To the north east of the enclosure a shallow plough- spread scarp curves north towards the river. It may represent the edge of a shallow mere which would have lain in the angle of the river supplying water to the channel system to the south through a system of sluices. The bowling green pavilion on the smaller, eastern, bailey, all boundary features, notice boards and metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling though the ground beneath these features 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:
Legacy System:


Oblique AP file SMR, untitled series,
On site information,


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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