Moot Hill motte and bailey castle, and site of a medieval moated manor


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Moot Hill motte and bailey castle, and site of a medieval moated manor
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 02372 58291

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Despite part excavations carried out in the 19th century and in 1975, Moot Hill motte and bailey castle survives in quite good condition. Excavations revealed the remains of a Roman occupation dating to the fourth century AD, underlying the motte. A reference to Driffield in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle suggests that this is also the site of a rare eighth century Northumbrian palace, and the site is known to have been part of the royal demesne from the 11th to 15th centuries AD. As such it represents an integral part of the history of Driffield.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle dating to the early medieval period at Moot Hill, with the remains of an earlier moated manor and evidence for a 4th century AD Roman period occupation underlying it. Moot Hill was the site of an important royal manor from the 11th century, originating as part of the royal demesne in 1086, with a complicated history of ownership, passing between the Crown and its gift recipients, through to the 15th century. Buildings relating to this period of occupation are thought to have stood within the earthworks of the castle, whose bailey is referred to in a document of 1208 AD. Excavations at Moot Hill undertaken in 1975 demonstrated that the surviving mound was the motte of a Norman castle lying immediately to the east of the postulated site of the eighth century Northumbrian royal palace, references to which, in connection with Driffield, are found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 705 AD. The Chronicle indicates that King Aldfrith, who ruled Northumbria after the death of his brother, Ecgfrith in 685 AD, possessed a palace at Driffield. The excavations of 1975 also uncovered evidence of a Roman occupation dating to the fourth century AD beneath the motte. The surviving remains are now surrounded on every side by modern buildings, and little of the bailey now survives. The surviving remains include the motte mound which is up to 4.5m in height and 40m in diameter, partly surrounded by the remains of a ditch 15m wide and 1.5m deep. The existence of buried remains of an extensive building was originally discovered during earlier works carried out in the 19th century. These remains included wall fragments and large stone steps. It was recorded in the Driffield Observer for June, 1893 that `an elongated rectangle for the castle' was found and that hand-made files and a chalk wall foundation surrounded by a moat up to 3m deep at its west side were revealed by the excavation of a drain. J R Mortimer, the 19th century antiquarian mistakenly identified the mound as a Bronze Age round barrow. The mound had been originally much larger, both in diameter and height, before part of it was removed during gravel quarrying operations in 1856-8. During these operations, Mortimer noted fragments of medieval swords, including what is described as an Anglo-Saxon sword, and spears, a bronze celt and English silver coins. It was also believed by Mortimer to have been at one time an Anglo-Saxon Moot Mound, although there is no direct evidence for this other than its name. Modern post and wire fencing surrounding the site and associated gates, animal feed and water dispensers 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.

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Books and journals
Colvin, H M, The History of the King's Works, (1963), 923-924
Colvin, H M, The History of the King's Works, (1963), 923-924
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905), 295
Eddy, M R , 'East Riding Archaeologist' in A Roman Settlement And E Medieval Motte At Moot Hill, Gt Driffield, , Vol. Vol 7, (1983), 40-51
Eddy, M R , 'East Riding Archaeologist' in A Roman Settlement And E Medieval Motte At Moot Hill, Gt Driffield, , Vol. Vol 7, (1983), 40-51
Eddy, M R , 'East Riding Archaeologist' in A Roman Settlement And E Medieval Motte At Moot Hill, Gt Driffield, , Vol. Vol 7, (1983), 40-51


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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