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were superseded by other types of castle.
Despite some erosion of the ramparts and motte, the Langthwaite motte and
bailey castle survives well with its archaeological remains substantially
undisturbed. Uniquely amongst South Yorkshire motte and bailey castles, the
ditches are waterlogged and provide conditions in which organic and
palaeoenvironmental material is likely to survive. Importantly, the monument
is part of a group including Radcliffe moat, which superseded it, and the
now deserted village of Langthwaite.
The monument comprises a 4m-5m high motte with a kidney-shaped inner bailey
to the north and a sub-rectangular outer bailey to the east. The inner
bailey is c.30m across and the outer c.70m x 40m. On the west side, between
the motte and inner bailey, a 2m high oval mound forms the end of a rampart
circling the motte to the south west and has been interpreted as a defended
approach to the monument. The surviving rampart is at its highest at this
point, rising c.2m above the ditch round the motte. Following the lane
east, then turning north round the outer bailey, it flattens to c.1m high
but widens to c.7m, dropping c.2m into the outer ditch. Traces are hard to
find on the north side, but a separate 1.5m high rampart surrounds the inner
bailey, double in places with a ditch between. The complexity of the
earthworks suggest it was a monument of some importance. Certainly it
commanded the manor of Langthwaite (later Hangthwaite), one of six held by
Nigel Fossard in 1086 from the Count of Mortain. In the later Middle Ages,
it was superseded by Radcliffe moat c.500m to the ENE. Between the two are
faint earthworks marking the village site. The monument would also have
dominated the approach to the village along what is now Langthwaite Lane.
Neither the lane nor the village earthworks form part of the scheduling.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.