Castle Toll Saxon burgh and medieval fort


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Ashford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 85229 28351

Reasons for Designation

The significance of the Castle Toll monument is considerably enhanced by the unusual superimposition of two well-preserved defensive sites which illustrate the differing response over time to a comparable military threat. Burghs were defended settlements which were established as part of a widespread scheme of defence against invading Viking armies during the reigns of King Alfred and his successors during the 9th and 10th centuries. Some, such as the example at Castle Toll, were new foundations while others involved the reorganisation of existing towns, such as at Winchester. Thirty-three burghs are named in Wessex - the main concentration of such monuments - in a document known as the Burghal Hideage. Burghs are a very rare class of monument nationally and show a wide variety of plan and design. They mark a significant stage in the development of the English town (representing the first of a number of periods in which towns were created under direct royal patronage) as well as illustrating the strategy adopted by Alfred to combat the Vikings. The smaller defensive site at Castle Toll illustrates the response made later to the same need for defence of the main river channels. This enclosure is well-documented archaeologically, having been partially excavated.


The monument at Castle Toll includes two defensive sites of different dates. The earlier of the two has been identified as a burgh, or defended settlement, belonging to the 9th century AD. This burgh took the form of an 8 hectare enclosure on a low peninsula which was defended primarily by the marshland of the former River Rother on three sides and by a broad bank and ditch on the southern side. Partial excavation of this southern ditch in 1971 showed that it was not completed in its intended form but was reduced in scale and remained unfinished. For much of its circuit, the ditch is now visible only as a shallow depression 8-10m across, the feature having been infilled by repeated ploughings between 1965 and 1988. One of the documentary sources for this period, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, describes the storming of an unfinished fort by Viking raiders in 892, and it has been suggested that the unfinished fort was that at Castle Toll. Set within this larger enclosure is a smaller but much stronger defensive work some 100m square with banks up to 2.3m high and a 2m deep ditch on the southern side. Part of the circuit of banking on the north side has again been lost to agricultural activities but over three-quarters of the circuit survives. A broad elevated platform of earth at the north-east corner of this enclosure is interpreted as the site of a look-out post. Evidence recovered during partial excavations in 1965 suggested that this was a fort dating from the early to mid-13th century, positioned to deter French raids up the River Rother. The fencing within the protected area is excluded from the scheduling.

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.

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Books and journals
Davison, B, 'Medieval Archaeology' in The Burghal Hideage Fort of Eorpeburnan, , Vol. 16, (1972), 123-7


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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