Motte and bailey castle on Castle Hill, and the associated remains of a park pale, a fishpond and a formal garden
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 31-Mar-2020 at 08:20:37.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 61336 28453
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were superseded by other types of castle.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 on Castle Hill is a well-preserved example of this class of monument, which has been partly modified for its incorporation within the grounds of Hodnet Old Hall. Archaeological excavation of the castle in the late 19th century has helped to demonstrate the nature, extent and date of the structural remains and associated deposits existing on the motte. Contemporary structures within the baileys are expected to survive as buried features, which together with those on the motte, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the castle. Organic remains surviving within the buried ground surfaces under the motte and the defensive banks, and within the ditches, will provide information about the changes to the local environment and the use of the land before and after the castle was constructed. The majority of deer parks were laid out between AD 1200 and 1350, coinciding with a time of considerable prosperity amongst the nobility. They illustrate the influence of aristocratic leisure pursuits on the landscape. The park pale defining the eastern side of the deer park at Hodnet survives well and will retain information about its construction. The deer park has greatly influenced the land holding patterns in this area, including the extent of the subsequent estate. The establishment of the fishpond next to the castle provides further evidence of the dietary requirements of the castle's inhabitants. Fishponds were constructed throughout the medieval period, with many examples dating to the 12th century. 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 during the 11th and 12th centuries. The importance of the castle is further enhanced by the documentary sources which indicate when the castle was founded and provide details of ownership. In the post-medieval period the remains of the castle were modified in order to create a formal garden within the grounds surrounding Hodnet Old Hall. Formal gardens dating from the early 16th century onwards were created close to many large country houses. Within this garden the earthworks would suggest that the buried remains of walkways, parterres and other ornamental features have survived, together with the evidence of planting schemes. These remains will provide valuable information about the functional and artistic development of gardening and landscape design in the early post-medieval period.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey
castle, the standing structural remains of a tower keep, and the associated
remains of a park pale, a fishpond and a formal garden.
The motte and bailey castle is situated to the south east of St Luke's Church,
a 12th century building which was extensively altered in the 14th century. The
present church is thought to occupy the site of an earlier chapel which lay
within the Anglo-Saxon settlement and administrative centre of Odenet, a royal
manor belonging to Edward the Confessor. The existence of this settlement is
believed to have influenced the location of the castle, which was probably
constructed in the late 11th century when the manor and hundred of Odenet were
granted by William I to Rodger de Montgomery. The first known reference to the
castle is in a document of 1223. In the mid-13th century Odo de Hodnet, the
manorial lord, was given the right by Henry III to hold a weekly fair and an
annual market at Hodnet. It is likely that this provided the stimulus for the
planned extension of the village to the north and east of the castle.
The castle is situated within Hodnet Park, a 20th century designed landscape,
which is a Registered Park and Garden Grade II, incorporating earlier elements
including a medieval deer park. The castle is situated on a gradual south
facing slope in an area of gently undulating land. The steep-sided oval-shaped
motte measures approximately 45m by 50m at its base and 25m by 30m across the
top, and stands up to 7m high from the base of its encircling rock-cut ditch.
Material excavated from the ditch has been used to create an external bank,
about 12m wide to the south and east. To the north the bank is much wider and
appears to have been modified in order to create a broad, raised level area
within the inner bailey.
On top of the western half of the motte are the ruins a circular masonry tower
keep. Its embanked walls of red sandstone, about 1.5m wide and standing up to
0.7m high, define a circular area approximately 11m in diameter. This
structure was partialy excavated by Major Herber-Percy in 1892, who found the
remains of an arched doorway which led into the building and a floor paved
with pebbles. Depressions resulting from this excavation are evident in the
southern half of the building. In the debris overlying the tower keep burnt
stone, cinders and deposits of lead were found, which suggests that this
structure was destroyed by fire. On the lower part of the motte, to the east
of the tower keep, the remains of another structure with ashlar faced walls
were also found. It apparently post-dated an earlier masonry building. At the
base of the ditch which surrounds the motte, sherds of pottery, including a
yellow glazed earthenware vessel, and the bones of ox, horse, wolf or dog, and
boar were discovered.
To the north and west of the motte are two baileys. The internal area of the
inner L-shaped bailey, next to the motte, is about 0.5ha, which is
approximately double the area of the adjoining outer triangular-shaped bailey
to the west. They are separated by a steep-sided 10m wide ditch, flanked on
the western side by a bank about 8m wide and up to 0.5m high. The western side
of the outer bailey is defined by a ditch, approximately 16m wide and 1.2m
deep, which has been partly cut by a later drainage gully. Access to the outer
bailey would appear to have been from the north via a 10m wide causeway at the
northern corner of the enclosure. The southern side of outer bailey defences
appears to have been altered when the course of the adjacent stream was
Much of area of the inner bailey appears to have been subsequently modified to
create a post-medieval formal garden. The northern and eastern sides of the
bailey are defined by a ditch between 9m and 15m wide, of which slight traces
are visible. Although it has been extensively infilled, it will survive as a
buried feature. The ditch is bounded internally by a low flat-topped bank,
between 9m and 10m wide and standing up to 1.1m high. This bank continues
alongside the northern part of the ditch that divides the baileys. The area
defined by these earthworks contains a series of gullies and low linear raised
areas, which are believed to represent parterres and walkways of the garden. A
later causeway across the southern part of the ditch separating the baileys
provides access to this inner enclosure. This formal garden is situated about
250m north east of the former Hodnet Hall, a large timber-framed mansion
demolished in 1870. The former hall is not included in the scheduling.
In the area adjacent to the castle a deer park was established. In 1275 Odo de
Hodnet was granted a licence to divert two routeways which ran through the
park to new courses around its perimeter. The original extent of the park in
the medieval period is not known, but by the late 16th century, when it is
depicted on Saxton's Map of Shropshire, it occupied the hill to the west of
the former hall.
To the south east of the castle there is a substantial linear bank,
approximately 80m long and running north west-south east, which is
considered to be the remains of the eastern boundary or park pale of the
medieval deer park. At its northern end the bank is about 19m wide and stands
up to 3m high, while at its southern end it is about 12m wide and stands to a
height of 1.4m. The difference in the height of the bank reflects the sloping
ground on which it was built. In common with other park pales it probably
would have been surmounted by a fence or a hedge. Further south, the bank has
been modified by later quarrying for marl and to the north it has been cut by
the canalised stream. These areas are, therefore, not included in the
Immediately to the east of the castle are remains of a rectangular fishpond,
now dry, measuring approximately 20m by 75m with a dam, 9m wide and 1.3m high,
to the south. The eastern side of the pond is defined by the northern end of
the park pale and by the external bank of the motte to the west. Following its
use for storing and breeding fish, the pond probably served as an ornamental
feature adjacent to the formal gardens created within the inner bailey.
References indicate that a watermill was situated close to the castle, but its
exact location is not known.
An area of ridge and furrow cultivation, situated within the grounds of the
park, exists about 80m to the south of the castle. This area is not included
in the scheduling as there is no direct relationship between it and the
All fence and gate posts, stiles, electicity poles and the disused brick shed
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all 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
Cathcart-King, D J, Castellarium Anglicanum, (1983), 424-25
Fletcher, W G D, The Register of Hodnet, (1910), iii
Fletcher, W G D, The Register of Hodnet, (1910), iii
Watson, M, Musson, C, Shropshire from the Air. Man and the Landscape, (1993), 72
'Shropshire Notes and Queries' in Shropshire Notes and Queries, (1892), 36-37
Stamper, PA, Register of Parks & Gardens: Hodnet Hall, (1998)
Stamper, PA, Register of Parks & Gardens: Hodnet Hall, (1998)
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