Ascott Earl motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016562

Date first listed: 17-Aug-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Ascott Earl motte and bailey castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Ascott-under-Wychwood

National Grid Reference: SP 29686 18454

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Ascott Earl is unusual in being one of a pair of similar monuments in close proximity, a factor which contributed to the subsequent development of the surrounding settlement. The majority of the motte and the adjacent bailey survive despite some later alteration and are visible as upstanding earthworks. The infilling of much of the bailey ditch will, in association with the water-logging from the adjacent river, have enhanced the survival of archaeological and environmental deposits which will provide a source of information relating to the construction, function and occupation of the site as well as the earlier landscape on which it was built. Limited excavation has shown the existence of earlier settlement remains beneath the mound of the motte. These remains will almost certainly also survive beneath the rampart banks of the bailey and quite possibly below the bailey interior as well, providing evidence for earlier precursors of the medieval settlement.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of Ascott Earl motte and bailey castle and earlier Iron Age settlement evidence beneath the castle earthworks. The castle is situated immediately south east of the River Evenlode with its bailey extending to the north west to enclose the land between the river and the motte at the edge of the flood plain on a slight natural spur. A second motte and bailey castle lies less than 1km to the east and is the subject of a separate scheduling. The two castles are linked by the linear development of Ascott-under-Wychwood and Ascott Earl along the Shipton Road. The motte has a base diameter of approximately 56m and stands 3.5m high above the present bailey interior. It has a flat summit which measures 45m from north east to south west and 30m transversely. The top of the mound is believed, from excavated evidence, to have had a rampart around its edge, and a short section of this survives as a visible earthwork 4m wide and 0.6m high on the north side of the motte. This feature now forms part of a modern property boundary. The bailey is crescent shaped with its interior measuring approximately 70m north to south by 30m from east to west. It is bounded by a rampart bank which varies in width from 3m to 4.5m wide at its base and stands up to 1.7m high in places. Beyond this, enclosing the bailey and all but the east side of the motte, is a largely infilled outer ditch which measures between 12m and 20m wide. The motte is separated from the bailey by a ditch approximately 10m wide and although partly infilled, this is still open to a depth of 0.8m in places. It was crossed by means of a 4m wide causeway which can still be seen to the south west of the motte. To the east of the motte, later changes to the village have obscured the exact nature of the castle, but it would seem likely that access to the castle from the Shipton Road might have been possible along a natural spur from the motte itself. Limited excavation work and other observations since the castle was first identified in 1946 by Jope, indicate that the castle lies on the site of earlier settlement including Iron Age and possibly Saxon activity. In addition, the excavations have identified pottery and other artefacts relating to the occupation of the castle as well as physical evidence of the nature and construction of the motte and the castle walls which has been dated to the 11th or early 12th century. Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and walls, ornamental garden features and standing buildings, although the ground beneath these features 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: 21806

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Aston, M, '1972 Newsletter CBA Group 9' in Motte And Bailey Castle, , Vol. N/L 2, (1972)
Jope, E M, Threlfall, R I, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Ascott Earl Motte And Bailey, (1959), 239
Jope, E M, Threlfall, R I, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Ascott Earl Motte And Bailey, (1959), 239
PRN 1532, C.A.O., Motte and Bailey Castle, (1994)
PRN 3190, C.A.O., Motte and Bailey Castle, (1976)
PRN 3191, C.A.O., Iron Age pottery, (1976)

End of official listing