Motte castle with associated courtyard and mill leat, 130m NW of Chanstone Mill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014108

Date first listed: 19-May-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Mar-1996


Ordnance survey map of Motte castle with associated courtyard and mill leat, 130m NW of Chanstone Mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Vowchurch

National Grid Reference: SO 36568 35904


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 motte castle at Chanstone is a well preserved example of this class of monument, and its association with the moated site, pond and related features to the south east enhances its interest as an indicator of status and wealth in medieval Herefordshire. The motte mound will contain details of its method of construction, which may include postholes and foundations for its wooden or stone tower. Evidence for structures such as bridges will be preserved by the material which has accumulated in the ditch, and other bridges or causeways may survive in the courtyard ditch or across the mill leat. All these ditch deposits will contain environmental evidence relating to the activities which took place at and around the motte during its period of occupation. The buried land surface beneath the mound will preserve evidence for land use immediately prior to the motte's construction. The spur to the north will retain structural and environmental evidence for the function of the buildings, and other structures which stood in the courtyard.

In its strategic position guarding a river crossing, the motte castle at Chanstone forms part of the wider picture of the medieval defences of Herefordshire. Its association with the moated site and related features on the opposite bank of the Dore enhances interest in both monuments, and increases our understanding of the medieval political and social organisation of the county. Clearly visible from the road, the motte is a notable landmark in the valley.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle, situated on level ground on the east bank of the River Dore, near the head of the Golden Valley. The remains include an earthen motte mound, of circular form, c.42m diameter at the base. It is surrounded by a ditch from which material for the mound's construction will have been quarried. The motte's steep sides rise c.4m above the bottom of the ditch, to a flat top c.25m in diameter. A slight scar on the north east side of the motte may be the result of early investigation of the site. The ditch surrounds the motte from the north west quarter round to the south, being absent on the river side. It is also steep sided, 1.2m deep and c.8m wide. North of the motte the earthwork and buried remains of a rectangular building and roughly triangular courtyard area occupy a spur of land which projects south west towards the river. A series of shallow ditches define a building platform which is roughly 12m south west to north east by 9m transversely. The ditches marking the long edges of this building continue for c.40m towards the road, enclosing a courtyard area, the third side of which is defined by a contour leat running south east to Chanstone Mill. The leat has been infilled in this area, but is visible as a slight depression with darker grass cover; a slightly raised area just south of its junction with the eastern courtyard boundary may be the remains of a causeway. Further north, and fenced off from the rest of the field, the leat continues as a ditch running north west along the field boundary. It is heavily overgrown, but can be seen to be U-shaped, c.2m deep and c.3.5m wide. Its western edge is defined by a bank 2m-3m wide and visible in some places to a height of 1.5m. A masonry lining survives in some parts of the ditch, and the southern end of the bank, where the leat becomes infilled, is built up with a quantity of masonry blocks which may represent the remains of a weir. At right angles to this masonry feature, and 10m south east of it, an old track, or hollow way, is visible in the hedgeline against the road. This feature represents the remains of the original access to the motte and courtyard complex, and is 15m wide and 1m deep.

The motte is associated with a moated site and related features on the west bank of the river, the subject of a separate scheduling (SM27504), which would have provided the agricultural focus for the defended lordly residence. The intention behind the design of these earthworks was that most of the area would be surrounded by water, presumably provided by damming the river; an arrangement which would also have filled the ditch of the motte. By the post- medieval period the motte complex will have gone out of use, as the focus of occupation shifted to nearby Chanstone Court.

The fence across the mill leat and along its bank is excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath it is included. The fence along the eastern edge of the leat, and the hedge along the roadside, are 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: 27497

Legacy System: RSM


Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site Source Date: 1950 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: held on SMR, author unknown
Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site Source Date: 1950 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: held on SMR, author unknown
Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site Source Date: 1950 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: held on SMR, author unknown

End of official listing