Cropton Hall Garth: a motte and bailey castle including later medieval manor house, a medieval trackway and a pond


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Cropton Hall Garth: a motte and bailey castle including later medieval manor house, a medieval trackway and a pond
© 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.

North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SE 75487 89292

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey at Cropton includes remains of a medieval manor house which superseded the castle as the residence of the local lord and, although the defences of the bailey have been slightly altered to accommodate the manor house and by modern forestry, the castle is well-preserved and is known to contain well-preserved foundations of medieval buildings. Because of the close association of the motte and bailey with the later manor house, Cropton Hall Garth retains important evidence for the study of the continued development of the feudal system from its imposition after the Norman Conquest until the end of the Middle Ages.


The monument includes the Norman motte and bailey castle containing a later medieval manor house complex which is situated immediately to the west of St Gregory's church, at the top of the steep scarp known as Hallgarth Hill. The motte lies in the western corner of the bailey, close to the brow of the hill; it comprises a mound 45m in diameter at the base and rising 6.5m to a flat top which is up to 18m across. At the centre of the mound there is a roughly circular depression 2m deep by 5m across and, although it has been suggested that this is the result of an unrecorded excavation by 19th century antiquarians, this may well be the remains of a collapsed undercroft of the wooden tower which originally stood on the motte. A ditch originally encircled the motte but has been partially infilled by material gradually eroded from the mound and also deliberate levelling in the area of the medieval manor house to the east of the motte. The bailey is roughly triangular, measuring 125m east-west by 105m north-south and occupying the whole of a natural plateau with the steep scarp of the hill on the north-west and south sides. An earthen bank up to 1m high runs along the eastern side and at the edge of the scarp on the north-west side as far as the western side of the motte; in places the bank has been partially altered and revetted by a modern dry stone wall. On the southern side the bank is no longer visible as an earthwork as it was levelled to make way for the later manor house complex. An outer ditch, 8m wide by 1.2m deep, is visible to the north of the bailey and is thought to have continued down the eastern side, although here it has been altered by the construction of a modern Forestry Commission track, a modern causeway at the site entrance and a circular pond. To the west the bailey defences were strengthened by artificially altering the natural scarp of the hill; 12m beyond the edge of the bailey a terrace was constructed to increase the steepness of the slope above and there are slight indications of an outer bank on the outer edge of the terrace. The entrance to the castle is thought to have been located on the eastern side where a slight hollow way leads into the bailey from the modern causeway; this also lines up with a footpath to the north of the churchyard. Building foundations, surviving as turf-covered stone wall footings, low banks and platforms, are visible in the bailey; most belong to a manor house founded in the 13th century, although some structures may originally have been part of the castle. The main building complex, which lies to the east of the motte, comprises a rectangular range 60m long by 18m wide, with adjacent outbuildings and walled enclosures. One such enclosure, measuring 80m east-west by 75m north-south lies to the south-east of the manor house and spans the earlier bailey defences to enclose a triangle of sloping land to the south; this enclosure continued in use after the demise of the manor house and is depicted on the 1848/9 Ordnance Survey map. To the east of this enclosure the land falls sharply towards Church Lane, a deeply eroded hollow way, and a number of old inter-twined trackways rise up this slope, joining to form a single trackway. This trackway dates to the medieval period and once ran along the eastern bailey ditch before continuing north for 650m towards Lady Keld Spring, although it has now been altered by the modern Forestry Commission trackway. A circular pond, which lies to the east of the bailey and north of the modern causeway, is relatively modern and is not depicted on the 1848/9 Ordnance Survey map. Cropton is recorded as a royal manor in Domesday but the castle was probably erected by Robert de Stuteville (nicknamed 'Frontdebos') who received the manor from William Rufus. In the 13th century, the manor passed by marriage to Hugh Wake whose grandson John, Lord Wake, built the manor house between 1290-5. All fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
L'Anson, W M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Castles of the North Riding, , Vol. 22, (1913), 344-5
Swan VG, Cropton Castle RCHME unpublished survey, 1986,


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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