Higham Ferrers Motte and Bailey Castle, with Ponds, Warren and Dovecote


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


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

North Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
Higham Ferrers
National Grid Reference:
SP 96116 68725

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Higham Ferrers is a motte and bailey castle with important royal connections in the Early Norman period. Well-documented historical evidence shows that it was major fortified location with multiple defences and occupied a powerful tenurial position over the manors of the Nene Valley. Although the original buildings were demolished the preservation of the below ground archaeological remains has not been affected by subsequent development.


William Peverel was granted the manor of Higham Ferrers at the Conquest, and built an early Norman motte and bailey castle here, probably in the late 11th century. Extensive records show that the castle was of major stone construction with an inner and outer bailey and had complex defences including inner and outer gateways and a drawbridge. Within the castle and the baileys were a considerable variety of buildings and lodgings. Documentary sources indicate that the castle had several owners and eventually was forfeited to the crown in 1266. By the 1360s the castle had passed to the Duchy of Lancaster, but in the late 15th century it had begun to fall into ruin and was demolished in 1523, although a map of 1591 shows foundations still upstanding. Today these and other features are no longer visible but remains will be preserved below ground. Early records show that the castle also had a garden, dovecote and fishpond. The well preserved remains of a dovecote, most probably the one built in 1406-7, are still present in the outer bailey area and are incorporated in part of a more modern wall. The warren which lies in the northernmost part of the site was first documented in 1313, and further records show that it was walled and had its own gateway. A water-filled ditch which lies to the east and south of the warren was constructed from two original fishponds which lay in the outer bailey of the castle. Except for the dovecote, all permanent above ground structures including the buildings, car parks, access roads and garden walls are excluded from the scheduling, but the land beneath them is incorporated.

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
Beresford, M, History on the Ground, (1957)
Kerr, W J B, Higham Ferrers and its Ducal and Royal Castle and Park, (1925)
Sergeantson, R M, The Court Rolls of Higham Ferrers, (1916)
Sergeantson, R M, The Court Rolls of Higham Ferrers, Part II, (1917)
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Past and Present' in Higham Ferrers Castle - or Otherwise, (1974)
P.R.O. DL. 42. 117 and SC 12 13 33,
P.R.O.E. 317, Parliamentary Surveys Northants 32,
Public Record Office, D.L. 42, 117 and SC 12 13 33, (1590)


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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