Moat Hill, motte and bailey castle and earlier ringwork


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013819

Date first listed: 10-Sep-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Moat Hill, motte and bailey castle and earlier ringwork
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Nov-2018 at 10:01:53.


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

County: Cumbria

District: South Lakeland (District Authority)

Parish: Aldingham

National Grid Reference: SD 27795 69876


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

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprise a small defended area containing buildings, which was surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. Despite some destruction by the sea, Moat Hill motte and bailey castle and ringwork survives reasonably well and remains largely unencumbered by modern development. Its earthworks in particular remain well preserved. It is a rare example, confirmed by excavation, of a motte and bailey castle which developed from an earlier ringwork. Excavation in 1968 was not total and the monument will retain significant archaeological evidence.


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


The monument includes the earthwork remains of Moat Hill, the 12th/13th century Aldingham motte and bailey castle, together with the early 12th century ringwork upon which the motte was later built. It is situated on a cliff top on the most prominent headland, other than Humphrey Head, on the northern coast of Morecambe Bay. It includes an earthen mound, the motte, which measures approximately 30m in diameter across its flat summit and stands about 5m high. Surrounding the motte is a substantial ditch 7.5m wide and up to 3m deep. On the seaward side of the monument, coastal erosion has destroyed part of the ditch and mound. To the north and north east of the motte and ditch there is a bailey which is protected by a ditch, now partly infilled, but measuring c.3.7m wide by 3.5m deep on the north east side. Limited excavation of the motte in 1968 as a response to erosion revealed three periods of occupation. The first consisted of an early 12th century ringwork measuring c.40m in diameter which was defended by an earth rampart c.3m high. Later in the 12th century the site was converted into a motte and bailey by infilling and heightening the ringwork to form a motte 4m high and by adding the bailey. In the late 12th/early 13th century the motte was further heightened and defended with a vertical timber revetment. The site appears to have been abandoned in the 13th century probably when the moated site at Moat Farm, which was home to the le Fleming family until they moved to Gleaston Castle, was built. All fences and gateposts are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

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.

Legacy System number: 27682

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Trans Lancs & Chesh Antiq Soc.' in Proceedings, , Vol. III, (1885), 212-3
'Trans Lancs & Chesh Antiq Soc' in Proceedings, , Vol. III, (1885), 212-3
Wilson, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain In 1968, (1968), 258-9
Wilson, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain In 1968, (1968), 258
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Ringworks, (1988)

End of official listing