Motte and bailey castle 100m south east of Bell Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014545

Date first listed: 19-May-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle 100m south east of Bell Farm
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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 31224 41661


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey at Dorstone is a well preserved example of this class of monument, and the unusual arrangement of the two baileys increases interest in the site. The motte mound will retain details of its method of construction, including post holes for revetments and palisades, and for the tower which surmounted it. Evidence for structures such as a bridge will be preserved in the ditch deposits, which will also retain environmental evidence for the activities which took place at and around the castle during its construction and subsequent use. The ground surface sealed beneath the motte will retain evidence for land use immediately prior to the castle's construction. Within the baileys, evidence for buildings and other structures will survive as buried features, and artefactual and environmental evidence for activities taking place within the enclosure will also survive in post holes and storage or refuse pits. Around the top of the bailey enclosure, evidence for its timber defences, including gateways, will survive in the form of post holes. Guarding the Golden Valley route into Wales, Dorstone Castle is one of a concentration of early castles in the Marches, and forms part of the wider picture of the medieval defences of the county. When viewed in association with other examples it contributes to our understanding of the political and social organisation of medieval Herefordshire. The castle is a prominent local landmark, clearly visible from the road, and has public access along the footpath which passes immediately to the south.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey castle situated on floodplain near the head of the Golden Valley. It sits on the south bank of the Pant-y-Weston Brook, near its confluence with the headwaters of the River Dore. The remains include a substantial motte mound whose surrounding ditch was originally filled with water diverted from the brook. Two baileys adjoin the motte, one roughly kidney shaped enclosure extending north eastwards, and the other extending to the south west. The earthen motte mound has a roughly oval plan with a maximum diameter of 60m at the base. The motte is steep sided and rises up to 10m above the bottom of the surrounding ditch, to a flat top with a diameter of 32m-38m. Material for the construction of the mound will have been quarried from the ditch which averages 12m wide and survives in some areas to a depth of 3.5m. The ditch, now dry, is almost completely infilled in the north west quarter, north west of which the ground level drops away to the brook. A low earthen bank roughly 4m wide flanks the ditch in this area. The markedly squared north east end of this bank probably housed a sluice which regulated the water level in the ditch, although evidence for this feature only survives below ground. In the north east quarter the ditch narrows to c.6m, and is crossed by a causeway from which a broad curved path has been terraced into the side of the mound, representing the original access to the motte. There is a slight external or counterscarp bank around the south west edge of the ditch. There are now no surface indications of the tower which would have surmounted the motte, and the absence of stone at the site suggests it was of timber construction. Some stone, however, is visible amongst tree roots below the summit of the motte, which may therefore have been revetted with a stone rubble wall. The north eastern bailey is an artificially levelled platform, raised up to 1.3m above the surrounding ground level, and measuring c.65m south west-north east by c.80m south east-north west. The north west and north east sides of the bailey are clearly defined, however to the east the construction of a barn, and more recently public lavatories and associated sewerage, has cut away sections of the platform. The bailey extends south eastwards to the adjacent property boundary, beyond which it has been modified by modern landscaping. The remains of its southern edge can be seen as a low scarp running westwards from the property boundary to the east edge of the motte ditch. The south western bailey is also a level platform, the edge of which can be seen extending westwards from the motte ditch. Its straight western edge is defined by a ditch up to 6m wide, the northern end of which opens out into a marshy area close to the brook. This ditch has been reused as a post-medieval field boundary, and has become infilled to the south. The southern edge of the bailey platform can be seen as a low scarp running eastwards into the adjacent field boundary, beyond which it is not visible as a surface feature. Further north east a low scarp running west from the property boundary towards the east side of the motte ditch marks the north eastern extent of the south western bailey, running parallel to and roughly 12m south of the southern edge of the north eastern bailey. There is no evidence that the baileys were ever defined by a stone curtain wall; their edges will have been enhanced by timber palisades. Dorstone Castle is believed to have been founded by De Brito, one of the murderers of Thomas a Beckett, and was later the main holding of the Solers family. At Domesday Dorstone, then known as Tordestone, was one of three holdings granted to Thurston de Solers by Bernard de Newmarch, conqueror of Brecknockshire, and although not specifically mentioned in the survey it is likely that the motte and bailey was already in existence. The castle guards the vulnerable valley route into Wales, and is one of a chain of medieval sites defending the Golden Valley, its nearest neighbour being the castle at Snodhill some 1.5km to the south west (the subject of a separate scheduling, SM27509). The monument is clearly visible from the road and a footpath passes immediately to the south, public access being via the gate next to the barn (outside the scheduled area). All fences are excluded from the scheduling but 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: 27514

Legacy System: RSM


held on SMR, Kay, RE, Dorstone Castle, (1952)

End of official listing