Motte with two baileys immediately east of Bristol Road, Down End


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Motte with two baileys immediately east of Bristol Road, Down End
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Oct-2019 at 11:21:32.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 30896 41366

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Somerset: Ancient Earthworks518-9
Chater, A G, Major, A F, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in Excavations at Downend, near Bridgewater, , Vol. 55, (1909), 162-174


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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