Motte and bailey castle on St Ann's Hill, Midhurst


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


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle on St Ann's Hill, Midhurst
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SU 88889 21474

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-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and the centre 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 or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As such, and 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Norman castles which evolved beyond the use of timber for their defences often have a rigidly regular enclosed area on the motte - a shell keep - unlike the enclosure wall of the example on St Ann's Hill which has been tailored to fit the mound. This example, therefore, adds to the known diversity of shell-keeps in the South East. It holds considerable archaeological potential, especially in the areas of the dry ditch and the bailey, despite the disturbance caused by tree-roots and by former partial excavations. The importance of the castle is increased by its proximity to the manor house at Cowdray 300m to the north-east which superseded it.


The monument includes the earthworks and ruined walls of a castle dating from the 12th century. The central area of the castle is the artificial mound, or motte, an existing natural prominence which was heightened using rubble. On the motte was built a roughly oval enclosing wall up to 1.7m thick which defined an area 65m north-south by 50m east-west. Backing on to the wall were a number of chambers used for living quarters, kitchens and storage, as well as a small chapel dedicated to St Denis. The motte was defended on the south and east sides by steep slopes. On the north side a dry ditch was dug measuring over 10m wide which has now been largely infilled by eroded soil although it is still over 3m deep at the northern end. On the west side the defences were pierced by an arched entrance, probably the front part of an otherwise wooden gatehouse. To the north-west of the motte, and still within the defences, is a second raised area which is likely to have been the site of ancillary buildings such as stables and granaries. This bailey area measures 78m north- east/south-west by 15-25m north-west/south-east. The foundations of many of the stone walls of the castle were traced during partial excavations by Sir W.St John Hope in 1913. The walls were partly reconstructed so that they stand to ca.0.8m, the original stone having been taken for other Midhurst buildings after the site's abandonment in favour of the nearby Cowdray mansion in the Tudor period. The two sets of steps and all of the modern fences and walls 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


County Monument No 1162,


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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