Reasons for Designation
Motte 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 the centre of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte 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 such, and 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which they were superseded by other types of castle.
Hastings Castle was the first such castle to be built after the Norman
invasion of 1066 and features in the Bayeux Tapestry. Its subsequent history
is well documented both historically and archaeologically.
Promontory forts were defensive enclosures, some being occupied continuously
while others were used as places of refuge. They were constructed during the
Iron Age (700BC-AD43), most being abandoned during the 1st century BC. Such
monuments are rare nationally, and are especially rare outside Cornwall. The
Ladies' Parlour survives well despite in places having been damaged and
partially buried by the earthworks of the later Norman castle and disturbed
by recent partial excavation. Colleges were groups of ecclesiastical
buildings used by small communities of priests living under a less strict
rule than in monasteries. Their purpose was to offer prayers on behalf of a
patron or founder. Most were established between the 11th-15th centuries.
Early examples, such as at Hastings, are rare survivors.
Together, the association of the promontory fort, the castle and the
collegiate church, each important in its own right, greatly increases the
significance of the monument as a whole.
The monument includes the castle of Norman origin together with its rock-
cut ditch, the remains of a Collegiate church and the earthworks and
interior area of an enclosure known as the Ladies' Parlour which has been
identified as an Iron Age promontory fort.
The Ladies' Parlour is part of a defensive enclosure which occupied the
whole promontory although one half of its original area was subsequently
taken over by the Norman castle. The crescent-shaped earthwork bank stands
as high as 4m in places, but diminishes in height to both south and west.
The ditch runs NW-SE between Castle Hill Road and the cliff edge above
Burdett Place increasing in size to the south-east to a maximum of 2.4m deep
and 20m wide.
Within this defended area, William Duke of Normandy (later the Conqueror)
built a motte and bailey castle immediately after landing with his army in
1066. The original motte, however, lies buried within a later enlargement on
which stood a stone keep after 1172. The rock-cut tunnels to the north-west
of the mound are storage chambers of Norman date. Much of the castle curtain
wall dates from the later 12th century using sandstone cut from the 6m deep
ditch east of the mound. Coastal erosion later undermined the south side of
the bailey and the castle had been abandoned by the 15th century.
Within the bailey area a college of priests had been established by 1094.
The ruins of their church survive against the north wall of the castle and
feature an upstanding square tower. The college was dissolved in 1546.
The West Hill Lift and tunnel are excluded from the scheduling. The castle
ticket office, fence, toilets and service trenches and the building
adjoining the Lift are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath is
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.