Walkern Bury ringwork
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017470
Date first listed: 29-Oct-1957
Date of most recent amendment: 03-Aug-1998
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 30545 26107
Reasons for Designation
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.
Despite the part infilling of the ditch, Walkern Bury ringwork remains well preserved and will retain valuable archaeological evidence relating to its construction and occupation. The interior of the ringwork is largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for the structures and other features from the period of occupation. The silts within the ditches (and the upcast silts forming a low bank around the southern perimeter) will contain artefacts related to the ringwork function and duration in use. The waterlogged areas, in particular, will allow the preservation of organic remains, including environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the ringwork was set. The later adaptation of the ringwork to form a component of a landscaped garden is also of note, especially the construction of the prospect mound on the north east side of the rampart. The Walkern Bury ringwork is thought to form part of a group of fortifications constructed on the eastern side of Hertfordshire during the Anarchy. Comparisons between these sites provides valuable insights into the nature of the conflict.
The medieval ringwork castle at Walkern Bury occupies a slight spur on the
north side of the upper valley of the River Beane, approximately 1.25km to the
south east of Walkern parish church.
The ringwork is defined by an oval circuit of ditch and inner bank enclosing a
natural knoll and measuring approximately 130m north to south by 100m east to
west across the interior. The north western part of this ditch survives as a
buried feature, having been infilled and overlain by agricultural buildings
around the turn of the century. Elsewhere, the ditch averages 15m in width and
up to 2m in depth, with deep deposits of humic silt in the base. To the north,
adjacent to Walkern Bury Farm, a section of the ditch has been enlarged to
form a pond and both this and a short length immediately to the east are water
filled. Sections of the internal bank, doubtless built using upcast from the
ditch and perhaps originally surmounted by a timber palisade, survive around
the edge of the interior, ranging between 2.5m to 3.5m in width and up to 1.5m
in height. An external bank, approximately 7m in width and 0.3m in height can
also be traced around the southern half of the ditch circuit. This is thought
to have resulted from periodic ditch cleaning, and therefore to contain
artefactual remains originally deposited in the ditch during the period of
occupation. The original access to the interior is believed to have been
provided by a narrow causeway which spans the ditch at the most southerly
point, and corresponds to a gap in the internal bank. The interior itself
contains numerous undulations. Some of these contain modern brick and tile
reflecting former tipping of builders' waste. Others, however, reveal
fragments of masonry and large flint nodules and are thought to indicate the
survival of buried foundations contemporary with the ringwork's occupation. A
low mound, oval in plan (although partly removed by farm buildings on the
western side) occupies the northern quarter of the interior. This mound, which
may indicate the location of the principal building within the ringwork, may
have resulted largely from the enlargement of the northern part of the moat to
form an ornamantal pond either in the 1880s when the farmhouse was
constructed, or during the life of an earlier house which occupied the same
site. A small prospect mound located just outside the ditch on the north
eastern side of the circuit, may also belong to this period of landscaping.
The mound, which measures about 15m in diameter and 2m high, would overlook
the pond and provide a vista across the present gardens toward the house. It
represents an interesting later use of the ringwork as part of a formal garden
arrangement and is included in the scheduling.
The ringwork has been attributed to Hamo St Clare, whose manor at Walkern
formed the centre of the St Clare barony in Hertfordshire. Hamo was an
adherent of Geofrey de Mandeville during the mid-12th century civil wars known
as `The Anarchy', and the Walkern Bury ringwork may form part of a group of
adulterine, or unlicensed, castles in this area including Anstey, Pirton,
Great Wymondley and Therfield, constructed for the protection of manorial
property during this turbulent period. As with the majority of unlicenced
works, the ringwork was probably abandoned in the latter part of the 12th
century as order was restored under Henry II.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the stable
yard buildings overlying the north western part of the defences, the retaining
wall on the west side of the pond, all made surfaces, fences, feed bins and
telephone poles; the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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: 29384
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Hertfordshire, (1908), 118
The Victoria History of the County of Hertfordshire, (1908)
The Victoria History of the County of Hertfordshire, (1912), 152
Munby, L M, 'The Making of the English Landscape' in The Hertfordshire Landscape, (1977), 116-8
'1888' inscribed on W side of house, (1888)
conversation with owners, Trower, Mr and Mrs , The Old Manor House, (1996)
NAR entry, RCHME, Tl 32 NW 8, (1991)
RCHME, Inventory of the Monuments of Hertfordshire, (1910)
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