Castle Hill motte and bailey castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Castle Hill motte and bailey castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
Bardsey cum Rigton
National Grid Reference:
SE 36617 43334

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Castle Hill at Bardsey cum Rigton exhibits a good state of preservation and the survival over a wide area of extensive undisturbed archaeological deposits. Its unusual form reflects the diversity of this class of monument.


Castle Hill is situated on a hill overlooking the village of Bardsey cum Rigton. The monument includes the remains of the motte and part of the surrounding bailey. The motte is of an unusual form, consisting of two roughly rectangular platforms on an east-west alignment joined by a central causeway. Ditches flank the causeway which is c.8m wide. The motte itself measures c.100m long by c.30m wide and varies between 1m and 2m high. Partial excavations carried out in the late nineteenth century and in 1930 revealed the foundations of a square stone keep and pottery dating to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century. The motte is situated at the centre of a flat oval bailey whose scarped edge, in the medieval period, would have been crowned by a wall or, more likely, a timber palisade. Beyond the scarp lay a 20m wide berm surrounded by an outer ditch, part of which survives on the east side of the site. Beyond this would have lain an outer bailey but this has now largely been built over. Platforms on the east side of the site indicate the presence of ancillary buildings within the bailey. These are overlain by ridge and furrow, the remains of medieval ploughing, showing that the site was abandoned early in its history. The pottery recovered from the site, which dates only from c.1175 to c.1200, also indicates that the period of occupation was short. Almost certainly, the castle was built by Adam de Bruce, an important North Yorkshire baron, who was granted the manor of Bardsey shortly after 1175 as part-compensation for the loss of his estates around Danby. The de Bruce family petitioned continually for the return of their northern lands and were finally successful in 1201. The manor of Bardsey then reverted to the Crown and was subsequently granted to the monks of Kirkstall Abbey. The castle would have been abandoned at about this time, having been in use for only a quarter of a century. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are the stable and its concrete raft, the stiles on the Public Right of Way and the modern walls and fences around and crossing the site. The ground beneath these features is, however, 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:
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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of West Riding of Yorkshire, (1912), 25-26
Speight, H , Lower Wharfedale, (1902), 451-2
Whittaker, T D, Loidis and Elmete, (1826)
C3, 204r. Bodleian Library, Johnston, H, Man. Top. Yorks., (1669)
WY 1059/22-26 (stored at 44346363) and CUC CIA/057,


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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