Motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014542

Date first listed: 15-Mar-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar
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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: Dorstone

National Grid Reference: SO 27841 41029


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 230m north west of Nant-y-bar is a well preserved example of this class of monument. The motte mound will contain details of its method of construction, including post holes for revetments and palisades, and foundations for its wooden or stone tower. Evidence for structures such as a bridge will be preserved by the material which has accumulated in the ditch, and in the form of masonry remains within the mound and counterscarp bank. The ditch deposits will contain environmental evidence relating to the activities which took place at the motte and for land use in the surrounding area. The buried land surface beneath the mound and bank will preserve evidence for land use immediately prior to the motte's construction. The bank itself will retain evidence for its construction and for any defensive enhancement which may have surmounted it.

In its commanding position on the ridge, 500m from Mynydd Brith motte and bailey (scheduled separately), Nant-y-bar motte castle forms part of a larger group of the medieval defences of Herefordshire. When viewed in association with the many other defensive sites in the area it can contribute to our understanding of the medieval political and social organisation of the county. Clearly visible from the road, the motte is a prominent local landmark.


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 the eastern tip of an east-west ridge, near the head of the Golden Valley. The ridge slopes steeply down to tributaries of Pont-y-Weston Brook to north and south.

The remains include an earthen motte mound of circular form, c.32m in diameter at the base, whose steep sides rise c.3m to a top of roughly 22m diameter. An earthen bank runs around the rim of this otherwise flat top, barely visible in the eastern quarter but standing to a height of c.0.6m and c.2m wide to the west. This bank will have supported a timber palisade around the motte to enhance its defences. The motte is surrounded by a ditch which is now mostly infilled, but is clearly visible as an almost continuous circle of thicker and darker grass up to 4m wide. Around the north and west it remains as a depression c.0.3m deep, and is narrower around the south and east where the ground slopes steeply away. Where the ground slopes less steeply to the north, north east, and westwards along the ridge, an earthen bank has been cast up outside the ditch, to improve the defences of these more vulnerable areas. To the north west and east this counterscarp bank is visible as a slight rise some 3m wide, but to the north it survives up to 0.5m high, probably due to its incorporation into a later field boundary bank. To the ENE the ditch is interrupted by a causeway which continues as a hollow up the side of the mound. A small amount of masonry is visible in this hollow, at the foot of the mound to the right of it, and in the counterscarp bank near its junction with the causeway. This causeway probably represents the original access to the motte, the masonry perhaps being the remains of stairs or footings for a bridge.

The motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar is part of a concentration of medieval defensive monuments in the area. It commands impressive views in all directions, and is most closely associated with the separately scheduled motte and bailey at Mynydd Brith, only 500m to the NNE.

The monument is currently fenced off from stock, and this fence and gate, and the field boundary fence to the north, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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: 27510

Legacy System: RSM


quoted on SMR record, Brown, Sterling , Preliminary Results Of Castle Survey, Herefordshire Archaeological News, (1988)

End of official listing