The Mote Castle mound, medieval motte castle and site of late medieval beacon


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of The Mote Castle mound, medieval motte castle and site of late medieval beacon
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. 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.

Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 53332 61284

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Beacons were fires deliberately lit to give warning, by means of smoke by day and fire by night, of the approach of hostile forces. They were always sited in prominent positions, usually as part of a group, chain or line which together made up a comprehensive early warning system covering most of the country. They were extensively used during the medieval period and some were used later, for example at the time of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685 or during the Napoleonic Wars. Beacons were initially bonfires of wood or furze, but later barrels of pitch or iron fire baskets mounted on poles were used. More unusual beacon types include stone enclosures and towers, and some beacon sites utilised existing buildings such as church towers. Despite the addition of a statue to the monument's summit in 1864, Mote Castle mound medieval motte survives reasonably well. Its defensive earthworks in particular remain well preserved. The hilltop is a rare example of the site of a motte castle which was later used as a beacon, and it will retain significant archaeological evidence of both these phases of use.


The monument includes The Mote Castle mound, a 12th/13th century medieval motte castle located on the summit of Castle Hill in Brampton which was later used as the site of a signalling beacon during the 15th century. The motte is artificially cut out of the higher end of a long ridge and consists of an oval-shaped summit plateau measuring c.36m by 18m. About 12m downslope there is an encircling ditch c.5m wide and up to 3m deep which is flanked by an outer bank measuring c.5m wide and up to 2m high. There are extensive views to the west, north and east from the summit of the hill and it is for this reason that the hilltop was later used as the site of a beacon. This system of beacons was created to warn of impending attack by Scottish invaders and was developed from the time of Henry III (1216-72). A list of beacons dated to 1468 indicates that the beacon at Brampton connected with a system of beacons which ran along the Tyne valley to the east. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these comprise the statue of the 7th Earl of Carlisle together with its plinth and concrete base situated on the summit of the hill, a wooden seat, a fence, a stile, and a stone retaining wall flanking a path leading to the hilltop; the ground beneath all these features, however, 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.

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Books and journals
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Ser.' in Castles and Towers of Cumb, West and Lancs N of the Sands, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 334-5
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Ser.' in Castles and Towers of Cumb, West and Lancs N of the Sands, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 39
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Ser.' in Castles and Towers of Cumb, West and Lancs N of the Sands, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 335
FMW Report, Crow, J, The Mote Castle Mound, (1991)
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)


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

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