Knockin Castle: a motte and bailey castle immediately east of St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019304

Date first listed: 18-Feb-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Knockin Castle: a motte and bailey castle immediately east 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: Knockin

National Grid Reference: SJ 33491 22357


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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 immediately to the east 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 eastern side of the bailey. The remains of the structures that stood on the motte and within the remaining part of 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. Organic remains surviving within the buried ground surface under the motte and within the ditches surrounding the motte and to the north of the bailey will provide information about the changes to the local environment and the use of the land before and after the castle was constructed. The proximity of the castle to the church and the neighbouring planned settlement provides a clear indication of the inter-relationship between the different sectors of medieval society in the early Middle Ages. The importance of the castle is further enhanced by the documentary sources which indicate when the castle was founded and provide details of ownership. The motte remains a prominent feature within the landscape.


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


The monument includes the earthwork, structural and buried remains of a motte and bailey castle, immediately east of St Mary's Church which was established by Ralph Le Strange between 1182 and 1195. The castle and the church lie at the eastern end of the village of Knockin, which is believed to have been deliberately planned and laid out in the mid- to late 12th century. The castle was founded by Guy Le Strange between 1154 and 1160, and it was to remain the principal holding or `caput' of the Le Strange family for most of the Middle Ages. It is not known when the castle was abandoned, but Leland in about 1540 describes it as `a ruinous thing'. The castle occupies a low-lying position in an area of of gently undulating land and is bounded to the east and west by tributaries of the Weir Brook. The steep sided rectangular motte measures approximately 60m by 70m at its base, 46m by 54m across the top, and stands up to 4m high. Quarrying for sand and gravel has modified much of the surface of the southern half of the motte, and there is a modern mound, into which a concrete flag base has been set, on top of the motte next to its eastern side. The ditch which surrounds the motte and separates it from the bailey has largerly been infilled. The L-shaped bailey, about 0.6ha in area, lies to the east and north of the motte and is defined by a series of scarps between 0.4m and 1.2m high. The northern side of the bailey is bounded by a ditch, now a shallow depression, between 11m and 14m wide, and by an outer bank about 8m wide and 0.4m high. On the eastern side of the motte there are the remains of a medieval stone built causeway, about 5m wide, which originally connected the motte to the bailey. It is constructed of dressed red sandstone blocks and stands 1.5m high and is included in the scheduling. Much of the eastern part of the bailey is occupied by The Rectory, built in 1901, associated outbuildings and the surrounding garden. Extensive landscaping of this area in the 20th century is considered to have severely affected the preservation of archaeological remains and as a consequence the area is not included in the scheduling. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling these are; all fences gates and stiles, the concrete flag pole base, the water trough and the concrete base on which it stands, and the poles carrying electric cables; 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: 33820

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (1958), 162
Watson, M, Musson, C, Shropshire from the Air. Man and the Landscape, (1993), 71

End of official listing