Keep of Tote Copse castle, 400m north of Decoy Farmhouse


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012180

Date first listed: 28-Feb-1955

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Jul-1991


Ordnance survey map of Keep of Tote Copse castle, 400m north of Decoy Farmhouse
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Arun (District Authority)

Parish: Aldingbourne

National Grid Reference: SU 92279 04774


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

At Tote Copse castle, although only the foundations and lower walls of the keep of the castle and some of the motte survive, these features still retain significant archaeological potential, for example for the study of building techniques of the Norman period. The keep was at the centre of a well- documented castle site which had associations with the bishops of Chichester for several centuries.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes part of the buried remains of Tote Copse castle, the rest of which was seriously damaged (having been partially excavated) in 1962. The surviving mound measures 20m by 10m and stands some 2.4m high. It represents part of a large mound, or motte, of clay which had been raised around the base of a central building of the castle, the keep. The foundations and walls of the western side of the keep within the mound comprise shaped blocks of Mixon limestone, with more carefully carved Caen stone for the slim buttresses which strengthened the wall. The eastern corner of the keep had been robbed of its stone during the Middle Ages and does not survive. In the cellar of the keep was a well 8.5m deep, and at the south-western corner was a little-used cess pit, both integral parts of the keep. Historical evidence and artefacts from the excavation showed that the castle had been built in the first half of the 12th century by Seffrid de Escures, the Bishop of Chichester, at this site near his palace and at the hub of his Aldingbourne estate.

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: 12886

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Brewster, T C M, A, , Tote Copse Castle, Aldingbourne, Sussex, (1969)

End of official listing