Motte castle 20m west of Great Somerford Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013224

Date first listed: 09-Apr-1957

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Feb-1992


Ordnance survey map of Motte castle 20m west of Great Somerford Church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Great Somerford

National Grid Reference: ST 96384 83099


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The Great Somerford motte survives well and is one of few such monuments surviving in the south of England. The importance of the site is enhanced by the likelihood of the survival of below-ground waterlogged and organic remains, as a result of its location on the floodplain of the River Avon. These remains will give a detailed insight into the economy of the people who inhabited the site and the environment in which they lived.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a motte castle set on low-lying level ground immediately south of the River Avon. It survives as a steep-sided earthen mound 3.4m high and 40m in diameter with a flat top 25m across. Excavations on the mound in 1811 and again in 1910 produced medieval pottery and the remains of a 12th century building comprising walls and semi-circular arched windows; a quantity of charcoal and ashes suggests the building was destroyed by fire. A ditch, from which earth was quarried during the construction of the monument, surrounds the motte. This has become largely infilled over the years although traces are still visible as a low earthwork to the east of the mound. The motte could be one of three castles known to have been built near Malmesbury in 1144.

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: 12282

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Wiltshire Notes and Queries' in Wiltshire Notes and Queries, , Vol. 2, ()
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine: Volume 45, , Vol. 11, ()

End of official listing