Shotwick Castle motte and bailey and late medieval garden remains


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Shotwick Castle motte and bailey and late medieval garden remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
Shotwick Park
National Grid Reference:
SJ 34935 70479

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Shotwick together with the later medieval garden remains survive well despite later ridge and furrow cultivation. The earthworks are well defined and the limited excavation of the site has demonstrated the survival of important remains of the stone foundations and other features of the construction. The monument forms part of the post- Conquest Anglo-Norman defence of the Welsh border and is one of the important series of motte and bailey castles along the line. The late medieval garden remains are of particular importance, being one example among only a handful of similar surviving sites in England.


The monument at Shotwick includes a medieval motte and bailey castle on the crest of a steep escarpment above the east bank of the former course of the River Dee. Its defensive position is enhanced by two steep sided watercourses flanking it on the north and south sides. The motte itself is a small mound, hexagonal in plan and 40m by 20m at the top. From limited excavation in the last century there appears to be the foundations of the stone keep surviving to a depth of 2.3m under the turf. The motte ditch surrounds the motte and is about 25m wide and 3m deep. This would have been flooded at high tide. To the south east is a small bailey 38m wide at the top, which reveals that it was remodelled as a part of a formal garden scheme after its function as a defensive work had ceased. The castle was built by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, during the 11th century. Under various owners the castle formed part of the defence of the borders with the Welsh until 1281 when peace was finally made with the rulers of Wales. In 1327 the manor was emparked as a royal game park for the recreation of Edward III. The manor was occupied under a series of owners acting as magistrates for the Crown until the estate was aquired by the Wilbraham family in 1627. At this time the castle appears to have been in ruins. At some date within the late medieval period the north western part of the site was formed into a series of water garden features and the bailey was sculpted into a formal garden with terraces and parterres. The moat may have been widened at the same time to make a further water feature for this garden scheme. It was this western side of the moat which used to be regarded as a quay and harbour for access to the castle from the estuary of the River Dee. Further survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has confirmed that the surroundings of the castle are indeed a garden. A wide ditch cuts off the castle from its surrounding landscape on the eastern side. This is 35m wide and 2.5m deep. The stream valley on the north west of the site was considerably altered in the medieval period to form a water feature, including three pools with walkways created over a series of dams and on a spinal bank separating the water features from the moat along the north western edge of the site. Ridge and furrow cultivation can be traced over all of the monument, including the bottom of the moat. This has obscured much of the detail of the earthworks. Post and wire fences which surround the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Stewart-Brown, R, 'Trans. Lancs. and Ches. Hist. Soc.' in Trans. Lancs. and Ches. Hist. Soc., , Vol. 28, (1912)
In Chester City Records Office, Broster, P., Letter in the Earwaker Collection. CR/3/2/133, (1810)
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)
MS 2073, Harl,
Record No. 2025/1/1, Shotwick Castle, (1989)
Turner, R.C., To SMR Record No. 2025/1/1, (1987)


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.

End of official listing