Ancient Monuments

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Mote Hills motte and bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Elsdon, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2358 / 55°14'8"N

Longitude: -2.0997 / 2°5'58"W

OS Eastings: 393757.883441

OS Northings: 593516.542471

OS Grid: NY937935

Mapcode National: GBR F7SW.6X

Mapcode Global: WHB10.QNBJ

Entry Name: Mote Hills motte and bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 28 November 1932

Last Amended: 3 December 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007524

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21039

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Elsdon

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Elsdon St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


Mote Hills motte and bailey is situated in an elevated position on a natural
spur, which has been modified in order to construct the earthworks. The motte,
roughly circular in plan with a flat top, stands to a maximum height of 15m
and is 80m in diameter across the base and 46m across the top. The motte is
surrounded on the north and east sides by a strong earthen rampart ranging
from 1.5m to 3m high, while the western side is protected by steep natural
defence. The bailey is situated to the north of the motte and is separated
from it by a broad crescent shaped ditch 15m wide. The bailey is roughly
rectangular in shape and has maximum internal dimensions of 72m east-west by
48m north-south; it is strongly defended on all sides by a massive earthen
rampart, on average 20m across and 10m high. A shallow outer ditch 15m wide
surrounds the entire complex. The motte and bailey is considered to have been
constructed by Robert de Umfraville in the 11th century AD and is thought
to have been the predecessor of the Umfraville seat at Harbottle. Limited
excavation of part of the motte in the early 18th century uncovered a
Roman inscribed stone in two pieces; it is believed to have been brought from
the Roman fort at High Rochester to be re-used as building material.
Unconfirmed reports also attest to the 19th century discovery of a
pottery vessel containing burnt bone, the location of which is not known. The
stone walls which form the boundary of the area on the south and
east sides, and the stone wall which crosses the northern edge of the
area are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them
is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Mote Hills is exceptionally well preserved and is considered to be the best
example of a motte and bailey castle in Northumberland. Such monuments are
rare in Northumberland and the association of this one with the well
documented Umfraville family is of particular importance; it will
add to our knowledge and understanding of the spread of Norman occupation in

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hodgson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Northumberland: Volume 2 part 1, (1827), 97-98
Hope-Dodds, M, The Victoria History of the County of Northumberland: Volume XV, (1940), 36 &151

Source: Historic England

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