Motte and bailey castle on Haw Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle on Haw Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Oct-2019 at 09:02:47.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 19973 85640

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 limited excavation in the mid-19th century the motte and bailey castle on Haw Hill survives reasonably well and retains significant archaeological deposits. It will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the Norman Conquest of northern Britain.


The monument includes the remains of a medieval motte castle, with an associated bailey or outer enclosure. The castle is situated on a natural hill defending the crossing of the River Wansbeck and overlooking the town of Morpeth which both lie to the north. The motte and bailey were created by the artificial scarping of the north east end of a narrow ridge. The motte is sub- oval in shape with steep vertical sides to the north, east and west; the southern side is separated from the bailey or outer enclosure by a steep sided ditch, up to 3.5m deep. The artificially enhanced motte measures 80m east-west by 80m north-south, and the natural mound on which it is constructed has maximum dimensions of 88m north-south by 108m east-west. The northern part of the summit of the motte has a raised level platform, standing to about 0.2m high and measuring 16.5m by 17m. Partial excavation in 1830, by William Woodman, recovered carved stones including scalloped capitals and wedge shaped arch stones. The foundations of what was interpreted as a long narrow building were also uncovered. These stone fragments suggest that there was a stone keep on the motte in the 12th century. The site of a bailey or outer enclosure occupies the central part of the ridge to the west of the motte. This has also been created by the artificial scarping of the ridge and its western edge is defined by a shallow gulley which had been cut across the ridge in a north-south direction. The western edge of the bailey is enclosed by a bank 2.3m wide and standing up to 0.2m high. The interior of the bailey is irregular in shape and has maximum dimensions of 40m by 12m. Remains of at least two internal banks, aligned north-south across the ridge, stand up to 0.35m high. The castle is believed to have been built by William de Merlay, who was granted the barony of Morpeth in about 1080. The earliest documentary reference to the castle is in 1095 when it was captured by William Rufus. It was burned by King John in 1216 and eventually replaced in the 13th century by a new castle to the south; this later castle is the subject of a separate scheduling. The concrete steps running up the south side of the motte and the stone retaining wall at the base of the east side 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.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


NZ 18 NE 5,


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

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