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the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other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.
Studley Old Castle survives well and is an impressive example of a rare type
of site locally: only four motte castles have so far been identified in
Small-scale excavation at the site has confirmed that the motte and
its surrounding ditch retain important buried structural and artefactual
information about the buildings which existed on the motte and the activities
of the site's inhabitants. The importance of the site is enhanced by the
survival of related documentary information and by its close proximity to the
church, the original construction of which will have been closely associated
with Studley Old Castle.
The monument is situated 10m north of St Mary's Church in Studley and includes
the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle.
The ditch surrounding the motte has a V-shaped profile and measures 13m wide
and approximately 0.7m deep. The northern, eastern and south eastern sections
of the ditch have been infilled but will survive as buried features and are
included in the scheduling. In the northern part of the site, the ground falls
away beyond the infilled ditch.
The flat-topped mound has been artificially raised to a height of 4m above the
surrounding ground surface. It is roughly circular in plan and has a diameter
of approximately 77m across its summit with a slight extension to the mound on
its north eastern side. The northern part of the motte is partly occupied by a
timber-framed house which dates from the 16th century with later alterations,
and several modern garages. The house is Listed Grade II* and is not included
in the scheduling. The mound has a relatively level surface, perhaps due to
landscaping in the 18th or 19th centuries. An excavation at the site in 1967
recovered fragments of mid-12th to mid-13th century pottery.
The motte castle is thought to have been built between c.1135-40 and its
construction has been attributed to William Corbucion or one of his
descendants. Documentary sources indicate that fragments of standing medieval
masonry still stood at the site during the mid-17th century.
The timber-framed house, the water tank and the modern garages which all
occupy the north eastern part of the site are excluded from the scheduling;
the surface of all paths and driveways, the electricity poles and their
support cables, the walling on the motte and all fence posts are also excluded
from the scheduling; the ground beneath all these features, however, is
included in the scheduling.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.