Motte and bailey castle in Wormegay village


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018651

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Jan-1999


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle in Wormegay village
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Wormegay

National Grid Reference: TF 65926 11735


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 in Wormegay village is a good example of this class of monument. The earthworks of both motte and bailey survive well and they and the buried remains of the tower on the motte, and of buildings within the bailey, will contain archaeological information concerning the date of construction and the manner of the subsequent organisation and use of the castle. The lower deposits in the fill of the ditches are thought to be waterlogged. Organic materials, including evidence for the local environment during the medieval period, are therefore also likely to be preserved within them. Evidence for land use prior to the construction of the castle will be retained in soils buried beneath the motte and the raised platform of the bailey. The manor of Wormegay is well documented, and the importance of the castle as the administrative centre of a barony associated with families prominent in the medieval history of England gives the monument additional interest.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on the western side of what was once an island in the peat fen to the south of the River Nar, controlling the causeway between the island and the higher ground to the west of the fen. The present village is thought to have developed around the castle after the Norman Conquest, replacing an earlier settlement in the vicinity of St Michael's Church, which now stands in isolation some 1.4km to the east of the castle.

The motte is visible as a large, sub-circular earthen mound approximately 5m high and measuring about 77m north-south by 62m east-west at the base, surrounded on the north, west and south sides by a ditch 12m to 15m wide which remains open to a depth of up to 2m. On top of the mound is a slightly uneven platform with maximum dimensions of 50m north-south by 40m east-west on which would have stood a tower, probably built of timber. A broad indentation in the eastern side of the mound, where there is no visible evidence for a continuation of the ditch around the base, perhaps marks the site of a bridge or stair giving access to the tower, and on the edge of the platform above this indentation there is a bank up to 1m in height.

The bailey adjoins the motte on the eastern side and takes the form of an enclosure measuring approximately 150m NNW-SSE by 88m, raised about 1m above the external ground level and bounded by a semicircular ditch which runs outward from the motte ditch and ranges in width from 9m on the south side to 19m on the east. A causeway across the ditch on the eastern side of the bailey is thought to mark the original entrance and is in line with the eastern part of the main east-west street through the village, opposite the point where it bends north westwards to skirt the northern side of the castle. On the northern side of the bailey, along the inner edge of the ditch, are the remains of a flat-topped bank about 0.5m high and 8m wide, and adjoining the inner edge of this is a sub-rectangular platform about 25m long north west- south east by 8m wide and of similar height which would have supported one or more of the many buildings ranged around the bailey. Slight traces of two other, rectangular buildings against the inner edge of the bailey bank, between the south eastern end of this platform and the entrance causeway, have been recorded on aerial photographs.

After the Norman Conquest Wormegay was granted, together with extensive landholdings elsewhere in West Norfolk, to Hermer de Ferrers, and it became the chief manor and administrative centre of the barony. The castle was probably built by de Ferrers or one of his immediate descendants, who took the name of de Wormegay. The manor and other holdings subsequently passed by marriage into the de Warren and then the Bardolph families. A garden wall and the surface of a drive on the north western side of the monument, together with all field fences, gates, service poles and street signs bordering the road on the north side 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.

Legacy System number: 30557

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 493-502
Silverster, R J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 3: Norfolk Survey, Marshland and Nar Valley, , Vol. 45, (), 146-150

End of official listing