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Mitford Castle: a motte and bailey and shell keep castle, medieval chapel, graveyard and field system

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Mitford Castle: a motte and bailey and shell keep castle, medieval chapel, graveyard and field system

List entry Number: 1017318

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: Northumberland

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Mitford

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Jul-2000

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32728

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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 comprise a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In the 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 and as strongholds. In many cases they were aristocratic residences and the centres of local or royal administration. Between the Conquest and the mid 13th century, usually during the 12th century, a number of motte and bailey castles and ringworks were remodelled in stone. In the case of mottes, the timber palisade was replaced by a thick wall to form a `shell keep'. If the tower on the motte was of timber, this may also have been replaced in masonry and, if a bailey was present, its ramparts were often strengthened with a curtain wall. Within the keep, buildings for domestic or garrison purposes were often constructed against the inside of the keep wall. Although over 600 motte castles or motte and bailey castles are recorded nationally, examples converted into shell keeps are rare with only about 60 sites known to have been remodelled in this way. As such, and as one of a restricted range of recognised post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. In view of this, all surviving examples will normally be identified as nationally important.

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre-Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and the 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status residences. Some chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment. The earthworks at Mitford Castle survive well and retain significant archaeological deposits. Despite some structural instability, the stonework of the shell keep castle and the associated ward survives reasonably well. As an example of a rare monument type which is well documented it will contribute greatly to our understanding of medieval defensive architecture. The survival of part of a contemporary field system, chapel and associated graveyard adds to the importance of the monument.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the remains of a motte and bailey and shell keep castle and parts of a medieval chapel and graveyard, situated in a prominent position on the summit of a hillock above the River Wansbeck to the north and the Park Burn on all other sides; part of a medieval field system is situated at the northern foot of the hillock. The shell keep castle, the stone walls of the outer ward and associated structures, the remains of the chapel and two medieval headstones are Listed Buildings Grade I. An adjacent World War II pill box is the subject of a separate scheduling. Mitford Castle was first mentioned in 1138 when it was referred to as the `oppidum' of William Bertram, and it is known to have been occupied by William the Lion in 1175. It was confiscated by King John in 1215 and attacked unsuccessfully by the Scots in 1217. In 1317 the castle became the headquarters of Sir Gilbert Middleton but was captured and occupied by the Scots in 1318. By 1323 the castle was reported as being so damaged that it had to be abandoned. In 1327 it was described as being `wholly burnt'. The motte, later occupied by a shell keep, is visible as a substantial earthen mound measuring 56m north east to south west by 34m, situated at the centre of the north west edge of the knoll. There are traces of a surrounding ditch visible on its northern side. An oval bailey, situated to the south and south east of the motte, occupies the entire summit of the hill and measures 150m north east to south west by 75m north west to south east. The southern half of this bailey was later enclosed by a curtain wall to create an outer ward associated with the shell keep; the northern half of the bailey was retained as an undefended barmkin with an earthen bank between 1m to 2m wide and standing 0.4m high around its edge. On the lower ground to the north and south, the bailey is defended by a series of outworks; on the south west sides these include a ditch 10m wide and up to 2m deep with a flanking counterscarp bank. A similar ditch exists on the south eastern side where it has been disturbed by later quarrying which has also removed a section from the southern part of the bailey. On the north western side, the outworks include a triangular shaped platform and an outer moat a maximum of 1m deep. A `D'-shaped shell keep was constructed around the perimeter of the motte during the 12th century, creating an inner ward. The west wall and part of the east wall of the shell keep, which are constructed of high quality squared stone, are visible, each containing the remains of an arched entrance. Within the interior of the shell keep there are the remains of a central tower of early 13th century date. The tower is visible as the lower courses of a five sided stone building which measures 11m square with walls 2m thick. The basement of the tower is divided by a wall into two chambers, each with a barrel vault. These chambers are thought to have been used as cisterns for water storage. The first floor of the tower has an entrance lobby at its south corner reached by an external stair. Immediately to the west of the central tower there are the foundations of a second building 30m square with splayed window loops; this is interpreted as an earlier tower subsequently replaced by the 13th century tower. An outer ward attached to the south side of the shell keep is visible as lengths of a curtain wall enclosing the southern half of the earlier earthen bailey. The wall, constructed of squared stone, is 7m wide and on average stands to over 20 courses high. A small postern is visible in its western side and to the south of this the foundations of a range of buildings are clearly visible. On the eastern side, the remains of at least three mural chambers and a garderobe are visible. On the north side there are the remains of a gateway giving access to the barmkin to the north. Part of the southern end of the outer ward was removed by a quarry before 1810; immediately on the edge of this quarry, there is a fragment of a small chapel of late 12th century date and an earlier graveyard. The chapel, constructed of squared stone, is visible as the lower courses of the east end of the north wall and the remains of a chancel arch. Immediately to the north and east and also underlying the chapel, there is an associated graveyard; partial excavation of this area in 1938 exposed several 12th century gravestones. Many of these stones have been subsequently destroyed but there is at least one headstone visible at the monument; a further headstone reported as having an incised cross on its surface cannot now be identified. The body slab of the latter was removed and is visible in the churchyard of the present parish church. Two recently uncovered body slabs are visible to the east of the chapel. Part of a medieval furlong or field is visible immediately north west of the outer moat of the motte and bailey on the north west side. The field is visible as the slight remains of ridge and furrow cultivation orientated north east to south west; the ridges are 5m wide and stand to a maximum height of 0.2m. All fence lines which cross the monument and the notice post situated on top of the motte are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (1992), 391-2
Honeyman, H L, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 4' in Mitford Castle, , Vol. 33, (1955), 27-34
Hunter Blair, C H, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 4' in Mitford Castle, (1937), 74-94
Hunter Blair, C H, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 4' in Mitford Castle, (1937), 74-94
Other
1:200, O'Brien, C, Mitford Castle, (1992)
NZ18NE 04,

National Grid Reference: NZ 16985 85485

Map

Map
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Nov-2017 at 07:38:03.

End of official listing