Motte castle at Abinger Manor.


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


Ordnance survey map of Motte castle at Abinger Manor.
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Oct-2019 at 19:39:26.


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

Mole Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 11395 45975

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte at Abinger is of especial importance as the site of the first modern-style excavation of such a monument and hence it formed an important stage in the evolution of thought on the origin and use of these mounds. Waterlogging in the base of the ditch holds high potential for the survival of normally-perishable organic remains such as timber. The monument has been laid out to be easily understood and is excellently maintained. It is therefore of high amenity value.


The monument, a motte castle of the early Norman period dating to around 1100-1150AD, is adjacent to the later Manor House. It includes not only the prominent earthen mound but also the partially-excavated moat which surrounds it and, to the north and west of the mound, a low outer bank of earth. The flat-topped mound measures some 30m in diameter at its base and stands to a height of nearly 4m above the level of the surrounding land. The mound was originally surrounded by a substantial moat which provided defensive strength as well as the earth for the motte itself. This moat was deliberately infilled in antiquity and is now only visible in two areas. To the south-east, where it was excavated in 1949, it features a natural step left unquarried by the moat diggers to provide sound footings for an access bridge. To the north- west of the mound the position of the moat is marked by a pond considered likely to have been dug into the upper part of the moat relatively recently. Only on the north-east side does an outer bank to the moat survive, this bordering the footpath. The excavations demonstrated that a timber look-out tower, surrounded by a palisade fence, had stood on the mound during the first half of the 12th century. The postholes of both were marked with concrete once dug. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern buildings and other lengths of walling (but not the ground beneath them), the areas of paving or Tarmac (but again not the ground beneath them), all fences and the existing spotlights with their supply cables.

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:
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Books and journals
Cathcart-King, D J, The Castle in England and Wales, (1988), 39,48
Hope-Taylor, B, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavation Of A Motte At Abinger In Surrey, , Vol. 107, (1950), 15-43
Surrey Ant. No. 51,


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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