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were superseded by other types of castle.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
All fences, walls, surfaces of paths, and modern garden features are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.
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.