Motte castle and associated occupation and agricultural remains at Mynydd-Brith


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014881

Date first listed: 15-Mar-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Motte castle and associated occupation and agricultural remains at Mynydd-Brith
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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 28049 41477, SO 28101 41433


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Mynydd-Brith is a well preserved example of this class of monument, and the survival of the associated agricultural and settlement earthworks 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. The associated earthwork and buried features belonging to the adjacent settlement will preserve information relating to the development of this small agricultural complex. The building platforms will retain details of the design and function of the structures, and environmental evidence relating to the activities which took place there. The ridged cultivation remains will have retained evidence of the agricultural practices and for the species under cultivation, while the hollow ways demonstrate the development of the communication routes serving this small settlement. The close association of these remains with the castle enhances interest in the monument as a whole. When viewed in association with the other defensive sites in the area, the monument contributes to our understanding of the political and social organisation of medieval Herefordshire. 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 a steep north east facing slope above the Pont-y-Weston Brook, some 3km west of Dorstone village. The castle is associated with the earthwork and buried remains of a number of hollow ways, building platforms, and an area of medieval cultivation remains, which are protected in a second area to the east. The castle remains include an earthen motte mound, oval in plan and measuring roughly 31m east to west and 28m north to south at the base. It has steep sides which rise 5m on the east side and 2.5m on the west, to a flat summit up to 18m in diameter. A low stone wall runs part way round the rim of the mound; although largely of modern construction this wall is believed to directly overlie the remains of earlier structures. A path cut into the north side of the motte probably represents an original access to the summit. The outer edge of the path is revetted by a stone wall, the lower courses of which survive above ground although its full extent is obscured by vegetation. The remains of a surrounding ditch, from which material for the mound's construction would have been quarried, survive as a shallow depression up to 8m wide to the south of the motte, becoming less well defined in the eastern and western quarters. To the north west the ditch is replaced by a gently sloping area which continues round to the north, and to the east it has been truncated by the construction of Mynydd Brith House and gardens. The ditch has a south westward extention in the form of a hollow which widens as it meets the southern boundary of the site, just to the west of the current gated access from the lane. This is probably the remains of a hollow way, which provided access to the motte from the lane. In the field on the opposite side of the lane, in the second area to the south east of the motte, are the earthwork and buried remains of a number of hollow ways, which have worn up to 1.5m into the high ground in the west corner of the field. These narrow, curved lanes are not wide enough for wheeled transport, but were created by pack animals negotiating the rather steep slope in this area. However, a wider cart track descends the slope further south, continuing east then north east around the base of the north facing slope. To the west these tracks have been truncated by the construction of the adjacent farm. One of the hollow ways runs north east, roughly at right angles to the cart track, and leads to the buried remains of three buildings terraced into the slope against its north west side. Upslope are the foundations of two stone structures which measure roughly 6m north west-south east by 4m transversely. Downslope of these is the platform of a larger timber building 9m by 9m. To the south east of the hollow way, and bounded on the south and east by the cart track, is a small enclosure of linear earthworks, aligned roughly east-west. These are the remains of small-scale ridged cultivation, perhaps an orchard, which would have contributed to the economy of the settlement associated with the castle. In the north west corner of this `close' are the buried cill-beam foundations of a post-medieval building, which appears on the 1974 Ordnance Survey map but has since been demolished. The timber posts of a now vanished gate near the north end of the hollow way suggest this track continued in use during the post-medieval development of Mynyddbrydd Farm. A settlement at Mynydd-Brith is mentioned in Domesday, and the castle was probably built by William fitz Osbern or one of his followers, in the 11th century. In its strategic position overlooking the Pont-y-Weston Brook and the Dore Valley, it is one of a number of medieval defensive monuments in the area. The two telegraph poles, two wooden gate posts, and all modern garden equipment in the field to the south east of the motte 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27544

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jackson, R, Survey of a motte and bailey castle at Mynydd-Bryth, Dorstone, (1994), 1-17
Jackson, R, Survey of a motte and bailey castle at Mynydd-Bryth, Dorstone, (1994), 1-17
Kay, R S, Mynydd Bryth Tump, (1952)
Kay, R S, Mynydd Bryth Tump, (1952)

End of official listing