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were superseded by other types of castle.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 castle at Chipping Norton survives well and the later
alterations to its plan contribute to our understanding of changes and
developments in defensive and aristocratic architecture. It will contain
archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction,
occupation and the landscape in which it was built.
The associated fishpond provides evidence of the medieval economy. It is one
of the best examples in Oxfordshire.
The monument includes the remains of Chipping Norton motte and bailey castle,
and an associated fishpond to its west, situated on the south east side of a
shallow valley immediately north west of the present town of Chipping Norton.
Two distinct phases in the layout of the castle can be recognised in the
present earthwork remains. The earliest castle included a motte, now known as
the Mount, and a large bailey to the east which encloses the whole area in
which the later castle earthworks were built. The motte has been altered by
modern landscaping but remains clearly visible as a conical mound with a flat
top c.30m in diameter. This stands c.6m above the meadow to the north west and
c.2m above the top of the natural slope outside the present castle. The bailey
has been partly levelled by the building of the later castle but survives as a
low rampart bank c.4m wide and 1.5m high enclosing an area c.196m from west-
east and 108m from north-south. It is surrounded by a ditch, part of which has
been reused for the later castle and the remains of which are partly infilled.
However it can be seen at the east of the monument where it survives as a
shallow feature c.10m wide. The original entrance appears to have been in the
south east corner where the later castle entrance was also located.
The later castle had two enclosed areas or `wards' of which the one to the
north east was the smaller. They were formed by levelling part of the valley
slope and building high ramparts with deep ditches on all sides, except the
north west where the rampart is supported by a natural slope. The enclosed
area is 164m by 82m, divided into two wards by a north west-south east ditch.
The ramparts stand up to 5m high and measure up to 8m across. The surrounding
ditches vary in width and depth depending on the topography but are up to 8m
deep and measure as much as 20m across on the south side.
Internally, the wards are sub-divided by a series of low banks which are
believed to represent the lines of walls, and a number of building platforms
have been recorded, including a possible gatehouse.
To the north west of the castle lies a broad meadow, bounded by the stream
which runs through the valley to the north, and the base of the castle
earthworks to the south. This meadow may originally have been a fishpond and
certainly provided grazing for horses. This is not included in the scheduling.
To the west of the castle lies a fishpond measuring 70m across and 150m long.
This has partly silted up over the years and is now dry although often
waterlogged after rain. Its south west end is defined by a large 15m wide bank
c.4m above the base of the valley.
The castle is known from documentary sources to have been built by the
Fitzalans of Clun during the 12th century. This refers to the later visible
earthworks and the earlier motte and bailey must belong to the period
immediately after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. The castle is believed to
have later been used as a seasonal hunting lodge by the Fitzalans, as were
other castles around the royal hunting lodge at Langley in Wychwood Forest.
The castle appears to have still been inhabited in 1268 but had gone out of
use and was in ruins by 1566.
When the house known as the Mount was built, in 1869, a number of finds were
made which were said to show ..`beyond a doubt that the beautiful new mansion
of H F Wilkins Esq formed part of the ancient castle.'
Excluded from the scheduling are the house known as The Mount, all boundary
fences crossing the site, all existing telegraph poles and lamp stands and the
modern surface of the Mount driveway and that to Spring Hill, although the
land beneath all of the above is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.