Ellesmere Castle: a motte and bailey castle 200m south west of St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019303

Date first listed: 03-Mar-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 03-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Ellesmere Castle: a motte and bailey castle 200m south west of St Mary's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ellesmere Urban

National Grid Reference: SJ 40337 34658


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 200m south west of St Mary's Church is a well- preserved example of this class of monument, despite later modification to the top of the motte and the southern side of the bailey. Extensive remains of the structures that stood on the motte and within the bailey are expected to survive as buried features, which together with the associated artefacts and organic remains will provide valuable evidence about the activities and the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the castle. The wealth of documentary sources from the medieval period relating to the castle and the adjacent town gives a clear indication of the military and economic importance of the castle and the neighbouring settlement to the English and the Welsh. The bailey is accessible to the public and the monument remains a prominent feature within the landscape.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey castle, on the south eastern outskirts of Ellesmere near to St Mary's Church which dates from the 12th century. The castle is thought to have been constructed by Roger de Montgomery, the head of a marcher lordship, soon after 1086. In 1101, following a rebellion by Roger's son and heir, Robert de Bellesme, the castle and its lands were confiscated by the Crown. In 1138 Henry I granted the manor of Ellesmere, including the castle, to William Peverel of Dover. After the civil war Henry II confirmed the manor on Dafydd ab Owain, a north Welsh prince, when he married his sister Emma in 1174. During the early to middle part of the 13th century the manor of Ellesmere passed in and out of royal control and throughout much of that century there are numerous accounts of building or repair works to the castle. In 1263 the manor, castle and hundred of Ellesmere were granted to Hamo le Strange and continued to be held by the le Strange family until they passed by desent to the Stanleys, the Earls of Derby. It is not known when the castle was abandoned, but it is apparent from Leland's description of the site that by the mid-16th century little if anything remained visible of the former castle buildings. By the early 18th century the top of the motte had been levelled in order to form a bowling green. The castle occupies a glacial mound that forms part of a pronounced north west - south east ridge. From this location there are extensive views of the surrounding area. The flat-topped roughly circular motte has been created by cutting into and artifically enhancing the slope of the sides of the mound and dumping the excavated material on top. It is approximately 80m in diameter at its base, 52m across the top and stands about 11m high. A steep-sided ditch, about 20m wide and 3m deep, separates the motte from the bailey to the south east. This ditch continues around the base of the motte to the north east, but has been largely infilled and is now apparent as a shallow depression. The ditch surrounding the southern part of the motte has been completely infilled, but survives as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling. The sub-rectangular bailey is situated on the eastern end of the prominence. It consists of a terrace, approximately 34m by 70m (maximum dimensions), and is bounded on its northern and eastern sides by a ditch that cuts into the steeply sloping ground and by a counterscarp bank. A causeway crosses the northern part of the eastern defences and provides access to this enclosure. The curving scarp which defines the southern side of the bailey is largely the result of later quarrying for sand and gravel. Slightly raised and levelled areas within the bailey are believed to be remains of platforms on which buildings were originally constructed. Earthworks to the north west of the motte were once thought to be the remains of a second bailey. Later work has deemed that they are the result of 19th and 20th century landscaping associated with the vicarage. Terraces created to the north of the motte are also modern. None of these modern landscaping features are included in the scheduling. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; the bowling green, the club house and the wooden shelters around the green, the flood lights, the electricity poles, the flag pole, all fences, gate posts, stiles and handrails, driveways, paths, paved areas and associated steps, and modern walls; the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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: 33819

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hannaford, H, A Watching Brief at Ellesmere Castle, Ellesmere, Shropshire, (1999)
Nankivell, J W, Chapters from the History of Ellesmere, (1983), 21-22
Buteux, V, 'Report 314' in Archaeological Assessment of Ellesmere, Shropshire, (1996)

End of official listing