Bryn-y-Castell and a section of Wat's Dyke adjacent to Preeshenlle United Reformed Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Bryn-y-Castell and a section of Wat's Dyke adjacent to Preeshenlle United Reformed Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
Selattyn and Gobowen
National Grid Reference:
SJ 30395 34048, SJ 30434 34061

Reasons for Designation

Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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 and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as motte castles. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 castle adjacent to Preeshenelle United Reformed Church is a well-preserved example of this class of monument, despite the partial removal of the eastern edge of the motte in the 19th century. The mound will retain evidence of the buildings constructed upon its summit, which together with the associated artefacts and organic remains, will provide valuable evidence about the nature of the occupation and the life styles of those who inhabited the castle. Organic remains preserved within the buried ground surface under the motte and within the ditch will provide information about the local environment and use of the land prior to and following the construction of the motte. The importance of this motte castle is further enhanced by its close proximity to Wat's Dyke. In the medieval period this section of the Dyke may have been reused to serve as a defensive outwork to the castle. The organic and artefactual remains preserved within the ditch of the dyke will provide dating evidence relating to the construction of the dyke and the period of its use. The organic remains preserved within the ditch also have the potential to enhance and add to the information about the changes to the environment and land use in this area.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle, traditionally known as Bryn-y-Castell, meaning the castle on the hill, and an adjacent section of Wat's Dyke, which lie within two separate areas of protection. The motte occupies an elevated position at the northern end of a spur above the flood plain of the River Perry. From this location there are extensive views of the uplands to the west and the undulating lowlands to the east. The motte lies immediately to the west of Wat's Dyke, an earlier territorial boundary. The motte is oval in plan, measuring approximately 46m by 60m at its base and 36m by 44m across the top. In order to create a level building platform, in relation to the sloping ground on which its stands, the height of the motte increases from 0.7m on the western side to 1.7m on its southern side, where the natural slope appears to have been artificially enhanced. The deep cut into the eastern side of the spur for the construction of Preeshenlle United Reformed Church in the 19th century has partly removed the lower portion of the edge of the motte on this side. The church is not included in the scheduling. A ditch was constructed around the motte, except to the north east where the natural slope is steepest. The ditch, which is visible as a shallow depression about 6m wide to the west, has become infilled over the years, but will survive as a buried feature. Wat's Dyke is a major territorial boundary consisting of a bank about 7m wide, bounded by a deep ditch, also about 7m wide, on its western side. It mostly runs in a north to south/north easterly to south westerly direction, and generally defines the lower land to the east from the higher ground to the west. It has been traditionlly interpreted as an Anglo-Saxon frontier earthwork, marking the western extent of the Mercian kingdom in the 8th century AD. Scientific dating of a section of the Dyke, following an archaeological excavation to the south of Oswestry town centre, has indicated that the Dyke was probably constructed in the 5th century AD. The stretch of the Dyke to the south of the flood plain of the River Perry follows the lower ground immediately to the east of the spur on which the motte castle was built. A section of the Dyke ditch, 22m long, is visible as a broad, flat depression, about 7m wide, to the north east of the motte. The western side of the ditch is discernible as a scarp, which has cut into the natural slope. Surviving largely as a buried feature, this infilled part of the ditch is thought to be as much as 4m deep. There are no visible indications of the adjacent bank. This area has been landscaped over recent centuries, and as a consequence is not included in the scheduling. Other sections of Wat's Dyke to the north and south are the subject of separate schedulings. The electricity poles and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.

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Books and journals
Hannaford, H R, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in An excavation on Wat's Dyke at Mile Oak, Oswestry, Shropshire, , Vol. 73, (1998), 1-7


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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