Motte and bailey castle 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School


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


Ordnance survey map of Motte and bailey castle 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Newcastle-under-Lyme (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 84398 46029, SJ 84425 45940

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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School at Newcastle-under-Lyme has played a crucial role in the history and development of the area, and gave its name to the town. Despite its modification since the mid-19th century, the castle retains significant buried structural remains and associated deposits. The well-preserved nature of these remains is clearly demonstrated by the small-scale archaeological investigations undertaken here during 1904 and the 1930s. The structural timbers recorded during these investigations indicate the presence of intact waterlogged deposits containing a range of organic remains, which have the potential to provide insights into conditions and lifesyles of those who inhabited the castle. Organic remains preserved under the motte and the raised bailey platform, as well as in the surrounding ditch and the later pool, will provide important evidence about the contemporary environment and the use of the surrounding land. The importance of the site is enhanced by the wealth of documentary sources relating to the castle's inhabitants and the numerous works to buildings undertaken thoughout the medieval period. The motte, which is now situated in the Queen Elizabeth Park, survives as an important local landmark and public amenity.


The monument includes the earthwork, structural and buried remains of a motte and bailey castle, lying within two separate areas of protection. The extant structural remains of the castle are a Listed Building Grade II. The castle was built on low-lying ground and from this location there were extensive views of the surrounding land. The market centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme, probably established by the late 12th century, occupies the adjacent higher ground to the east.

The castle was probably founded in the early 12th century. In 1149 King Stephen granted the castle and the accompanying lands to Ranulf de Gernon, Earl of Chester. After Ranulf's death in 1153 the castle appears to have remained in royal control for many years and was staffed by officials appointed by the Crown. Numerous documentary references indicate that in the late 12th and early 13th centuries a considerable amount of work was being undertaken to strengthen the castle's defences, and to construct and repair the internal buildings. A major element of the castle's defence, mentioned at this time, was the large pool that surrounded the castle, which was created by damming the Lyme Brook and the adjacent streams. A bridge, connecting the castle to the land to the north east, was repaired in 1191 and two years later stone embattlements were added. Other buildings mentioned include the stone tower which stood on top of the motte, a chapel, private apartments, kitchens and a gaol. There are also references to timber palisades and to bretasches (or timber platforms) for the defence of the castle walls.

In 1267 Henry III granted the castle and manor of Newcastle to his younger son Edmund, who was created Earl of Lancaster. The castle was held by the Duchy of Lancaster throughout the rest of the medieval period. With the accession of Henry IV in 1399 the importance of the castle as a royal stronghold seems to have progressively diminished. Its low-lying situation surrounded by higher ground had rendered it particularly vunerable to the new methods of seige warfare, made possible by the introduction of gunpowder and the subsequent development of artillery. During the 14th and 15th centuries the many documentary references to the castle relate to the continued repair and refurbishment of the castle buildings. By the second half of the 16th century, however, expenditure on the castle seems to have ceased. When Leland visited Newcastle in 1541 he recorded that little was standing of the castle except for a single great tower, and when the castle was leased to Ralph Sneyd in 1610 it was described as `altogether decayed'.

In 1828 Walter Sneyd of Keele purchased the castle and the surrounding pool from the Duchy of Lancaster. He had much of the pool drained in order to create meadows and gardens. In the mid-19th century Silverdale Road was built across the castle site, resulting in the truncation of the north eastern part of the motte. The construction of the Castle Hill Iron Foundry in 1855 on the western side of the motte, also led to the disturbance of the castle site, including the cutting back of the motte on that side. Lyme Brook was also redefined by this time. This straight and deeply cut water course runs next to the south western part of the motte.

A map of 1832 shows the castle as an oval-shaped mound, approximately 75m east-west by 100m north-south, with a track (later John o' Gaunt's Road) leading to it from the north east. Archaeological investigations undertaken between 1933 and 1935 confirmed the size and shape of this artifically raised platform, which was constructed of layers of clay, sand and stone, with the remains of a timber palisade around its edge. At the south eastern end of the platform the earthen motte was constructed. This steep-sided, flat-topped mound was originally circular or oval-shaped. It is now D-shaped and measures approximately 26m by 40m at the base, 18m by 26m across the top, and stands to a maximum height of just over 4m. The lower part of the raised platform served as the bailey. A ditch, approximately 10m wide, was originally dug to define the motte and bailey, and to provide material for their construction. This ditch has been infilled and now survives as a buried feature. Within the bailey, to the west of the motte, the remains of a large rectangular stone building, thought to be a hall and kitchen, were found in 1934.

In 1904 and in 1933-34, along the southern part of John o' Gaunt's Road, well-preserved ashlar walls and large oak timbers were found. Some of this masonry probably formed part of the curtain wall, which was built around the bailey in the late 12th century. Other walls may have formed part of a barbican (outer defences around the entrance to the castle), while other portions appear to have been directly associated with the large timbers of a bridge, which provided access to the castle from the higher ground to the north east. All the structural features found in 1933-34, during the excavation of a sewage trench along John o' Gaunt's Road, were removed at the time. This road is not included in the scheduling.

A further archaeological investigation, in 1935, at the southern end of John o' Gaunt's Road revealed more well-preserved sections of ashlar masonry, considered to be the remains of part of the gateway to the bailey. A portion of this wall, nearly 11m long, has been left partially exposed, while a section of masonry unearthed to the north was covered over again following the excavation and now survives as a buried feature.

Development of the area to the north and north west of the upstanding remains of the motte since the mid-19th century is considered to have severely affected the preservation of archaeological remains, and as a consequence this area is not included in the scheduling.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: John of Gaunt's Cottage, all modern boundary walls and railings, all paths and the kerbs which define them, the gravel surface adjacent to the exposed portion of medieval masonry, the surface of the bowling green, the park benches, litter bins, and the wooden posts for information plaques; however, 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Stafford: Volume VIII, (1963), 11-15
Hargreaves, T, Newcastle under Lyme, (1832)
Pape, T, Medieval Newcastle under Lyme, (1928), 18
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Excavations at Newcastle, , Vol. 70, (1936), 71-76
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Discoveries at Newcastle, , Vol. 68, (1934), 169-72
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Excavations at the Castle of Newcastle, , Vol. 69, (1935), 65-70
Information about evaluation in 1991, Newcastle under Lyme Castle, (1992)


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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