Clifford Hill motte castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012328

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Feb-1992


Ordnance survey map of Clifford Hill motte castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Nov-2018 at 10:47:37.


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

County: Northamptonshire

District: Northampton (District Authority)

County: Northamptonshire

District: South Northamptonshire (District Authority)

Parish: Little Houghton

National Grid Reference: SP 80603 60639


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Clifford Hill is a massive motte situated strategically beside a crossing place of the River Nene. The motte ditch on all but the south side is largely undisturbed and together with the mound of the motte has considerable potential for the preservation of archaeological and environmental evidence.


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


The motte castle of Clifford Hill lies to the north of the present village beside the River Nene. The site owes its name to its situation on a cliff, close to the old ford crossing of the River Nene from Little Houghton to Little Billing. The mound is round and stands to a height of about 14m and has a basal diameter of approximately 125m. The top of the mound is flat and about 30m across, and is surrounded by a wide, deep ditch up to 5m deep in places. On the north side of the motte beyond the ditch and alongside the river, lies a bank about 4m high which formed part of the original castle defences. The south side of the motte suffered from a series of landslips soon after it was constructed, causing the south ditch to be recut. The recutting of this ditch formed a low bank which has since been ploughed. The detailed history of the site is not known, but the present name of the site is recorded in the 13th century. The summit of the motte saw later use as a bowling green in the 17th century.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 13648

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of Archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire, (1979), 87-8

End of official listing