Reasons for Designation
Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Inner Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised by large numbers of nucleated settlements, both
surviving and deserted, many of which are thought to have been established in
Anglo-Saxon times. Most of the sub-Province's thinly scattered dispersed
settlements were created in post-medieval times, but some of the local regions
are characterised by higher proportions of dispersed dwellings and hamlets,
which probably mark the patchy survival of older landscapes.
The South Midlands local region is large, and capable of further subdivision.
Strongly banded from south west to north east, it comprises a broad succession
of clay vales and limestone or marlstone ridges, complicated by local drifts
which create many subtle variations in terrain. The region is in general
dominated by nucleated villages of medieval origin, with isolated farmsteads,
mostly of post-medieval date, set in the spaces between them. Depopulated
village sites are common, and moated sites are present on the claylands.
The medieval village of Cublington is well documented and physical evidence of
its existence is clearly defined in the area surrounding the motte castle.
Buried evidence for the former parish church will survive together with
evidence of other structures, arranged alongside the hollow ways and
accompanied by a range of features such as boundaries, refuse pits and
drainage channels. Artefacts found in association with these features will
provide valuable insights into the date and duration of occupation and the
lifestyle of the settlement's inhabitants. Environmental evidence may also be
recovered, illustrating the appearance of the landscape in which the
settlement was established and providing information about its economy.
Many modern villages in the local region have medieval origins, although in
most cases much of the archaeological evidence has been obscured by later
development. The earthworks at Cublington provide an opportunity to study the
structure of the early settlement, and to compare its development and
subsequent failure with other similar sites in the region. The Vale of
Aylesbury contains a number of completely abandoned medieval settlements such
as Littlecote, which is located less than 2km to the north of Cublington.
Cublington's curious history of abandonment and subsequent revival is,
however, most unusual, and of particular interest.
The relationship between the development of the village, the original church
and the motte castle is also a matter of considerable interest. This form of
medieval fortification was introduced into Britain by the Normans and
continued in use until the 13th century. The large conical mounds of earth and
rubble (the mottes) were surmounted by palisades and by stone or timber
towers. They served as strongholds, as garrison forts during offensive
operations and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and centres of
administration. Over 600 motte castles are known nationally, the majority of
which were accompanied by outer defences (motte and bailey castles). They are
considered particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the
development of the feudal system. Examples such as The Beacon, which appears
to overlie evidence of earlier land use and to have prompted the location of
the parish church and the development of the associated village, are
particularly significant in this respect.
Fishponds, artificially created pools of slow moving fresh water, were largely
the province of the wealthier sectors of medieval society. By the 12th century
they become common features of royal residences, monastic institutions and the
more affluent manors, where they provided constant and sustainable food
supplies and served as a reflection of status. The existence of the fishpond
near The Beacon is seen as an indication of the castle's evolution, from a
military stronghold towards a more settled manorial holding.
The monument includes the visible and buried remains of part of the medieval
village of Cublington, centred around a medieval motte castle known as `The
Beacon' which stands on a pronounced spur, below and to the west of the
present village. The visible remains include the motte itself, a large
fishpond to the south, the site of the former parish church to the south east,
and a pattern of hollow ways, low building platforms and cultivation
The motte castle lies near the centre of the complex, which covers an area of
approximately 5.5ha. The castle mound, or motte, is conical in appearance
with a flattened summit, measuring in total about 35m in diameter and 8m high.
The northern and western sides of the mound have been disturbed by small scale
sand quarrying, which has also obscured the line of the encircling ditch. To
the east, this ditch survives intact and measures approximately 10m in width
and 1.5m deep. The castle is thought to have been constructed either by
Gozelin the Breton, who acquired the manors of Cublington as a result of the
Norman Conquest, or by the de Chesney family, who held the land in the 12th
century. Prior to the Conquest, two manors of Cublington were held from Edward
the Confessor, and some slight traces of ridge and furrow cultivation in the
area to the north of the motte and to the east of the former church may relate
to these earlier manors' field systems, overlain by the castle and the ensuing
The earthworks surrounding the motte reflect part of the post-Conquest village
of Cublington, a settlement which included at least 39 households in 1283. A
subsequent decline in the village population can be traced in records of
taxation which list only 16 households in 1334 and describe increased poverty
in 1341. The village was abandoned soon after 1341, possibly as a result of
the Black Death, although it was resettled around 1400 when the focus shifted
eastwards around the newly built parish church of St Nicholas (some 500m to
the east of the motte). The original parish church, which is believed to have
been demolished to provide materials for the construction of the new church
stood only 50m to the south east of the motte, its location now marked by a
rectangular enclosure measuring 50m by 40m. The shallow ditch which surrounds
the enclosure may date from the early 16th century, as records of a visitation
by Bishop Atwater of Lincoln in 1519 describe how the Bishop, scandalised by
the condition of the former graveyard, ordered it to be enclosed from animals.
The Reverend B R Perkins excavated within this enclosure in the mid 19th
century and, according to later reports, disinterred between 30 and 60
A broad hollow way approaches the northern corner of the churchyard from the
east, where it may once have formed part of the present village street known
as Ridings Way. A lesser hollow way branches to the north of the main route
near the motte, and slight earthworks surrounding this junction are thought to
suggest the location of former buildings. The main section of the hollow way
continues past the northern end of the churchyard in the direction of a large
rectangular fishpond immediately to the south west of the motte. The fishpond
is spring fed and measures approximately 60m by 50m. The base retains deep
deposits of waterlogged silts. A small square extension on the north eastern
side of the pond may have served to separate the breeding stock, and is
connected to an inlet channel from the churchyard and an outflow leat
extending to the south.
A pair of square enclosures, probably used as paddocks, extends between the
fishponds and the western side of the field. The enclosures are each
approximately 50m square and defined by shallow banks and ditches. The slight
scarp which marks the limit of the northern enclosure is aligned with a more
pronounced scarp following the upper contour of the spur to the east. Some 60m
further to the east this scarp merges with the southern side of a substantial
ditch, which continues for some 100m along the top of the spur to the north of
the motte and is accompanied by traces of a bank along the southern side. It
has been suggested that this ditch represents part of the village boundary
although, given the scale and location of the feature, it is now thought to
indicate part of a defensive enclosure, or bailey, associated with the castle.
The timber shed to the north of the motte and all fences and fenceposts are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.