Motte and bailey castle, moated site and Roman villa immediately east of All Saint's Church


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle, moated site and Roman villa immediately east of All Saint's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wycombe (District Authority)
Great and Little Kimble
National Grid Reference:
SP 82773 06393

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 to the east of All Saint's Church survives well, with both the major components clearly visible. The surface of the motte and the interior of the baileys will retain buried evidence for former structures which will illustrate the appearance of the castle during the period of occupation and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Artefacts from the period of habitation will be preserved both here and in the silts of the surrounding ditches, the latter also containing sealed environmental evidence illustrating the appearance of the landscape in which the castle was set. The proximity of a second motte and bailey castle (Cymbeline's Mount) is of particular interest since comparison of the two fortifications may provide evidence for the social or political circumstances under which they were constructed and, perhaps, the reason for the disparity in their later development. Although some 6,000 medieval moated sites are known nationally, very few are found in circumstances such as these, directly adjacent to a preceding fortification. Moated sites, islands of dry ground partly or wholly surrounded by wide, sometimes water-filled ditches, generally served as prestigious aristocratic or seigneurial residences; the ditch intended as a status symbol rather than a practical means of defence. The peak period for their construction occurred between the mid-13th and mid-14th centuries, and the wide distribution of examples across England exhibits a high level of diversity in terms of form and size. A significant class of monument, moated sites are particularly important for our understanding of social order in the medieval period, the economy of the countryside and the lifestyles of a broad spectrum of English nobility. Like the castle, the moated site survives well, and there are indications that the island (and perhaps the platform to the south) will retain valuable evidence for the buildings which formerly stood there. Again, artefacts dating the occupation will be found in the area of the former buildings and within the surrounding ditches, in this case providing important evidence for the date at which the moated site superseded the castle as the principal residence. The fact that the castle and moated site overlie the site of a Roman villa appears to reflect the suitability of the location for settlement and does not imply any continuity of occupation between the two periods. The term `villa' is commonly used to describe the highly Romanised farming estates which developed in England during the period of Roman occupation. At the focus of these estates were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings, sometimes arranged around courtyards and surrounded by paddocks, yards and trackways. Villa buildings, particularly the domestic ranges, vary enormously in size and complexity depending on the wealth and influence of the settlement. Many also demonstrate remarkable continuity, with successive alteration and remodelling resulting from occupation over several hundred years. Between 400 and 1000 examples have been recorded nationally, and villas therefore serve as a valuable index of the rate, extent and degree to which native British society became Romanised. They provide a significant indication of the developing economy of the province which bears comparison over wide areas within Britain and the rest of the Roman Empire. The villa near All Saint's Church doubtless benefitted from the communication links provided by the Icknield Way, from the light soils on the marl shelf at the foot of the Chilterns and the ready supply of water provided by the stream. Artefactual evidence clearly indicates that it developed into a significant settlement, with at least one very substantial building with tiled roofs, composite floors and decorative plaster walls. Bath houses are commonly associated with buildings of this character, and the stream would certainly have allowed such a feature to be constructed. Although the evidence for the villa is presently rather vague, this is due in no small part to the layers of slope-washed soil which, although masking the buried remains, denote a high level of preservation.


The monument includes the buried and visible remains of a medieval motte and bailey castle and an adjacent moated site, located on the lower northern slopes of the Chiltern escarpment to the south east of the Lower Icknield Way (B4010) and to the west of the original line of the Icknield Way, a prehistoric trackway traversing the spur above. The monument also includes the buried remains of an extensive Romano-British villa, artefacts from which have been recorded in the area since the mid-19th century.

The motte and bailey castle is visible as a complex of well-preserved earthworks at the base of a shallow vale immediately to the south east of All Saint's churchyard. The main stronghold of the castle is situated on the eastern side of this complex, bordered by a brook which was enlarged in the 19th century to form a series of artificial ponds. The motte, the earthen mound which would have supported a timber tower or keep, occupies the northern half of an oval platform measuring some 50m in length and surrounded by a ditch averaging 12m in width and 1.5m deep. The motte is roughly circular in plan with the flattened summit raised about 1.5m above the level of the platform. Two defended enclosures, or baileys, extend across the area between the motte and the churchyard. The inner bailey is clearly marked by an extension of the motte ditch, enclosing a small triangular area along the north western side of the motte platform. A second bailey, perhaps a later development, surrounds the first. It can be traced as a shallow ditch and low bank flanking the south eastern boundary of the churchyard and returning towards the southern end of the motte.

The date of the castle's construction is open to question but it may have been built as early as the 11th century, following the Norman Conquest and the acquisition of the manor of Little Kimble (then Chenebelle Parva) by Turstin, son of Rolf. Alternatively, some indication of the castle's date and function may be apparent in its proximity to Cymbeline's Mount, a second motte and bailey castle (the subject of a separate scheduling) located some 500m to the east, on the far side of a dividing spur. It has been suggested that the castle near All Saint's Church originated in the civil wars of the mid-12th century (The Anarchy), and was intended as a siege work from which to harry the other, more prominently placed, fortification. Whatever the circumstances of their origin, the castle near All Saint's Church appears to have been ultimately the more successful, as this less prominent castle clearly evolved into a manorial centre, while Cymbeline's Mount shows no sign of development beyond its original design. The siting of All Saint's Church, which dates from the 12th or 13th century, itself provides another clue to the continuing importance of the lower-lying castle.

The moated site which lies immediately to the south of the motte, is thought to represent the subsequent elaboration of the manor of Little Kimble as the need for fortification diminished. The island is roughly rectangular, measuring approximately 50m from east to west by 30m transversely. The surface is slightly raised and the greater part of the interior is overlain by a low platform, indicating the location of the principal building which is also represented by quantities of medieval tile and early post-medieval brick and pottery brought to the surface by erosion and burrowing animals. Except to the east, where the development of the 19th century pond bay impinged on the island, and to the south where the island is approached by a broad causeway, the island is surrounded by a broad ditch measuring up to 10m in width and 2m deep. The northern arm of the moat runs parallel to the southern section of the motte ditch, which appears to have been partly infilled around the time of the moat's construction. A level terrace, similar in size to the island, extends into the hillside to the south of the moated site, and is defined by a pronounced scarp on the same alignment as the western arm of the moat. This is thought to represent a second building platform, possibly a later addition to the manor.

Although the successive holders of the manor of Little Kimble are well documented from the early 13th century there is no historical evidence for the date of the moated site's construction. Two buildings, described as the `Mansion House Homestead', and possibly representing modified medieval structures, were depicted in the area of the platforms on the Enclosure Map of 1805. Unfortunately, these were demolished in 1830 without any further record of their appearance.

The flight of artificial ponds which flanks the eastern side of the medieval earthworks was first recorded in 1885, and the brick and stone built causeways, dams and sluices along its length point to a date of construction no earlier than the mid-19th century - after the demolition of the manor house. Three of the ponds (from a total of six) follow the stream course around the eastern side of the medieval earthworks, where the enlargement of the stream to a channel some 30m in width appears to have removed the outer banks from the eastern arms of the moat and the motte ditch. However, it is possible that the castle and the moated site originally utilised a natural marshy area on one side, or that an earlier flight of ponds existed within the lifetime of the manor. These three ponds are included in the scheduling, together with the 19th century structures which controlled the water levels.

Roman occupation in the area of the castle has been suggested by occasional artefacts reported from the area since the early 19th century, although the discovery of wall foundations during the construction of the turnpike road from Little Kimble to Butlers Cross (the B4010) roused further interest and led to small-scale excavations in the vicinity of the church. Trenches were laid out in the fields to either side of the new road, and although no precise records or plans remain from this work, it is known that the excavators uncovered further wall foundations, tesserae (tile squares from composite floors), tiles, coloured wall plaster, pottery sherds, glass and coins. A survey of artefacts brought to the surface by ploughing in 1957 revealed high concentrations of pottery and tile extending between the motte and the church and over a distance of about 100m to the north and south of this line - an area now broadly defined by two denuded field boundaries which run parallel to the stream and may themselves be medieval in origin. The combination of evidence from 1957 and the mid-19th century clearly indicates that the medieval castle readopted the location formerly occupied, between the 2nd to the 4th century AD, by an extensive Romano-British villa containing substantial and elaborately constructed buildings. Archaeological observation of a cable trench immediately to the south of Church Farm in 1993 demonstrated that the Roman occupation horizon is sealed beneath a considerable depth of colluvium derived from the slopes above, providing conditions eminently suitable for the preservation of buried structures and other remains.

All fences and gates 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.


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

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Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908), 476
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire303-307
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
Burgess, B, 'Records of Bucks' in Earthworks at Hampden and Little Kimble, , Vol. 1, (1858), 140-41
RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments, Buckinghamshire, (1910)
Schedule entry: Inspector's Report, Went, D A, SM:27143 Cymbeline's Castle, (1995)
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble Source Date: 1812 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: BRO 1R91.B.R
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble Source Date: 1812 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: BRO: 1R91.B.R.
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble Source Date: 1812 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: PRO 1R91.B.R
Title: Diversion of Highway (Ellesborough Church to Risborogh Turnpike) Source Date: 1797 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: PRO Q/H/14
Title: Enclosure Map of Great and Little Kimble Source Date: 1805 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: PRO IR/91Q
Title: Inclosure Map of Great and Little Kimble Source Date: 1805 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: BRO IR/91Q
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Edition, sheets 33 and 37 Source Date: 1885 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Unpublished report in Bucks SMR (901), Thomson, RD, The Roman Villa site at Little Kimble, (1957)


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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