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the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other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 at Howe Hill survives well and significant remains of the structures
on top of the mound and the encircling bank and ditch will be preserved. Due
to its restricted location on a small natural knoll there is no bailey. This
motte castle appears to have been in use for a comparatively short period of
time and was abandoned when its usefulness as a military feature was outlived.
It offers important scope for understanding the construction of the castle,
its domestic and military arrangements and the role it played in the history
of the area.
The monument includes the remains of a motte castle known as Howe Hill,
located in low lying land in the flood plain of the River Wiske.
The motte is an artificial mound built on the top of a natural rounded knoll.
It is a flat topped mound 65m in diameter at the base and 25m across on the
top. It stands 4.5m high above the top of the knoll. The base of the motte
is surrounded by a ditch with an outer counterscarp bank. The ditch is partly
infilled in places, leaving a level terrace, although elsewhere, particularly
around the south east side, both the ditch and the counterscarp bank survive
as earthworks. There are traces of an entranceway through the bank and ditch
at the north side.
Originally there would have been a timber structure on the top of the motte
and a further timber pallisade fence protecting the outer bank. Access to the
motte would be via a timber superstructure leading from a strongly built
The motte was probably built during the reign of King Stephen between 1135 and
1154. During this period there was political unrest throughout England and
forts capable of garrisoning a small force of troops were established to
maintain order. This motte commanded the crossing of the River Wiske by the
old High Road from Northallerton to Catterick and Richmond. It was probably
suppressed by Henry II during the late 12th century.
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.