Tadcaster motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Tadcaster motte and bailey castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 31-Mar-2020 at 09:31:58.


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

North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 48503 43547

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 Tadcaster survives reasonably well despite building encroachment over part of the bailey and the part infilling of the surrounding moat. Archaeological remains will survive within the infilled moat and across the remainder of the site. These will retain information on the history of the site and the range of buildings and other features originally located within it. The castle is one of the early Norman fortifications in the north of England and incorporated earlier existing defences. The remains at Tadcaster are important for the study of the development of both castles and towns and the effect of Norman control in the early Norman period in North Yorkshire.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on the west bank of the River Wharfe, to the north of Tadcaster town centre. The northern side of the motte and bailey slopes steeply down to an outer moat, now infilled, whilst the outworks to the east of the motte have been reduced by embanking of the river and are no longer visible as earthworks. The south part of the bailey has been built over, although its extent can be extrapolated from street patterns. As the full extent, nature and survival of archaeological remains at the southern area of the bailey cannot as yet be confirmed, the area is not included in the scheduling. The motte stands at the east end of the monument overlooking the river and is an earth and stone mound 7m high and 25m in diameter. The east side of the motte has been cut into by the construction of 19th century cottages which have since been demolished, although the brick rear wall still stands against the edge of the motte. There is a small inner bailey 20m across on the west side of the motte, divided from the outer bailey further to the west by a ditch 20m wide and 2m deep. The ditch is infilled at the southern end but significant archaeological deposits will still be preserved within it. The outer bailey includes a level platform 60m long and 30m wide, standing 10m above the ground to the north and west. A low bank 1m high extends along the northern perimeter of the bailey, with a small mound standing 4m high at the north west corner. This mound is believed to be the remains of a gun emplacement, dating to the re-fortification of the castle during the Civil War. A further small mound stands at the west end of the bailey. To the north of the castle lies an outer moat, now mostly infilled but still visible as a slight hollow at the west end. Excavations conducted in the 1980s at the west end of the bailey revealed the moat to be a substantial ditch up to 11m wide and 5m deep, curving around the north and south of the bailey. The castle is early Norman in date and its founding is attributed to William de Percy in the late 11th century. It is thought that the castle is built upon, and partly incorporates, the pre-Norman defences which occupied the north east corner of Tadcaster. The castle became neglected from the 12th century when the Percy family ceased to have a dwelling in Tadcaster. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1642, the Parliamentarian, Thomas Fairfax refortified the castle site with bastions and cannon placements. The new defences withstood several Royalist assaults before Tadcaster was taken in 1643. All fences, walls, surfaces of paths, and modern garden features 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. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Parish Files N Yorkshire SMR,


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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