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were superseded by other types of castle.
Despite part of the mound of the motte having been truncated, the earthworks
of the monument at Down End survive well. Their form is indicative of a
motte with two baileys constructed in a strategic position on high ground
above the marshland, which would have offered some natural defence in former
times. The monument is known from partial excavation to have been occupied in
the Norman period and to contain further archaeological and environmental
evidence relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its
inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.
The monument includes part of a mound and three broadly concentric banks,
collectively forming the earthwork remains of a motte with two baileys. The
major part of the earthwork is located in an area known as the Bally Field,
situated at the extreme northern end of the Polden Hills, a long ridge of high
ground aligned broadly from north west to south east above the adjacent
Somerset Levels. The mound forms a motte and the banks, which are located at
the foothill of the mound to the north and east, define the extent of the
inner and outer baileys.
The natural contours at the end of the narrow Polden ridge have been modified
to create the mound. A trench was cut along the western side of the hill and
the inner edge scarped thus forming a sub-circular mound approximately 30m
across and rising to approximately 4m high above the surrounding ground level
on the west side, gradually diminishing in height to the east. Part of the
mound on the south and the south east side has been truncated in antiquity by
the construction of a track.
A single linear bank up to 6m wide located 25m to the north of the mound and
curving to the east to form an angle, defines an area which is considered to
represent an inner bailey. A second area, representing the probable outer
bailey is located approximately 30m to the north and is defined on the north
and east sides by two broadly parallel banks, little more than 2m apart with
an average width of 10m and an average height of 1m. There are no indications
on the ground to suggest that the baileys were enclosed on the west and south
sides by earthwork banks and it has been suggested that the site would have
been protected in those areas by the surrounding, now reclaimed, marshlands.
A partial excavation adjacent to the bank of the suspected inner bailey was
undertaken in 1908 and revealed evidence for Norman and later occupation of
the site. Pottery identified as pre-Conquest in date was also recovered, which
suggests that the site may have an earlier origin.
The buried gas pipeline which runs from north to south across the site, the
workshop built into the southern lee of the mound, and all fencing and cattle
troughs are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these
features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.