Motte and bailey castle, fishpond and associated earthworks, SW of Isfield Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle, fishpond and associated earthworks, SW of Isfield Church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1013222 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 15-Oct-2019 at 10:50:37.


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

East Sussex
Wealden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 44271 18031

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The example at Isfield is unusual in its lowland siting. It illustrates an alternative defensive strategy to the high motte and, because of the absence of later disturbance of the site, it retains high archaeological potential.


This unusual motte and bailey castle occupies a low-lying area at the former confluence of the Rivers Uck and Ouse. It comprises a low mound or motte surrounded by a circular moat, a ditch leading eastward from the moat, another dog-legged ditch leading north-eastwards and a broad east-west ditch and bank defining the northern edge. The site was made defensible by the diversion of the River Ouse and the creation of an island 200m by 112m on which the castle was located. This diversion involved the digging of a channel 13m wide between two natural meanders of the rivers on the NE and NW sides. Within the island, another channel was cut taking water from the Ouse around the circular motte and out to rejoin the main stream of the river. In so doing, the island was raised above the level of the floodplain and was divided into a western inner bailey and an eastern, much larger, outer bailey. The central feature of the castle was the motte, which measures 22m in diameter and is raised 1.4m above the level of the surrounding land, or 3m above the base of the surrounding moat. The motte is stepped on the eastern and southern sides owing to a landslip in relatively recent times. On the southern edge of the castle is the site of a rectangular fishpond, 23m by 10m in size and with a drainage leat on the SW side. The dog-legged ditch is interpreted as a later addition to the monument since it is both deeper and more steeply embanked than the other channels. Its purpose is unclear, but it may be connected with the artificial lake created to the north, to which the 1.6m high bank alongside the east-west channel belongs. The post and wire fencing around the site is excluded from the scheduling.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Hope-Taylor, B, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavation Of A Motte At Abinger In Surrey, , Vol. 107, (1950), 15-43
Montgomerie, D H, 'Sussex Arch Collections' in , , Vol. 75, (1934), 207-8
Dennison, E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Fishponds, (1988)
Motte and bailey classification, Leach PE, Motte and Bailey Castles, Monument Class Description, (1988)
TQ41 NW1,


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].