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Motte and bailey castles, fishponds, deserted medieval village and manor site north east of St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Hampstead Marshall, West Berkshire

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Latitude: 51.3992 / 51°23'57"N

Longitude: -1.3959 / 1°23'45"W

OS Eastings: 442123.132781

OS Northings: 166861.202961

OS Grid: SU421668

Mapcode National: GBR 81W.7WK

Mapcode Global: VHC21.R3F5

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castles, fishponds, deserted medieval village and manor site NE of St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 26 August 1924

Last Amended: 3 September 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007924

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19010

County: West Berkshire

Civil Parish: Hampstead Marshall

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Berkshire

Church of England Parish: Hamstead Marshall

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument, which consists of two areas, includes two motte and bailey
castles, fishponds, the remains of the deserted medieval village of Hamstead
Marshall and a possible manor site. The two castles lie in close proximity,
their centres only 115m apart, below and to the northeast of the church and
the remains of the former village. Both occupy low spurs which overlook the
valley of the River Kennet. The most south-easterly and smaller of the two
castles has a diameter of 50m and stands to a height of 4.7m. It is surrounded
by a ditch up to 2m deep and has a roughly square bailey adjoining the ditch
to the north-east. The bailey is orientated north-east to south-west; it has
internal dimensions of 48m by 52m and is defined in extent by a bank with
prominent outer scarp. A linear bank and ditch, immediately to the east of the
bailey, appears unrelated to the bailey or to a park pale which runs through
the parkland to the east of the site. It is possible that this linear feature
may be associated with a formal approach to the late 17th century mansion
house, now destroyed, which lay on the plateau top, above and to the south
west of the monument. The second and larger motte lies to the north-west. It
is steep-sided and circular in plan and has a diameter of 62m rising to a flat
summit at a height of 6.8m. Around the southern half of the mound, a
substantial ditch survives averaging 10m wide and 2.7m deep. This is crossed
at its most southerly point by a causewayed ramp which appears to be of a
later date than the ditch or motte. To the north are the probable remains of a
small bailey projecting towards the River Kennet. Today its shape and form are
obscured by the modern road which cuts it off from the motte. A second larger
and better preserved bailey can be traced around the west side of the motte,
again cut by the modern road but surviving as a bank with a prominent outer
scarp averaging 1.5 to 2m in height and enclosing a roughly rectangular area
some 0.65ha in extent. Platforms and hollows within the bailey identify the
site of former buildings, possibly the manor house. At the head of the narrow
valley,formed between the spurs upon which the mottes are built, is a spring-
fed, rectangular pond measuring 69m by 20m and 1.5m deep. A second, now dry,
hollow to the immediate north, with dimensions of 32m and 14m by 0.5m deep,
may represent a similar pond. Together these may represent fishponds
associated with the medieval complex. Further up the slope to the south-west,
between the ponds and St Mary's Church, are a series of low banks and scarps,
believed to be the remains of a small deserted medieval settlement. These
earthworks continue, though much less pronounced, south of North Lodge garden
boundary to terminate against a shallow east-west hollow way in Hamstead
Marshall Park. The abandonment of this settlement probably relates to a period
of parkland landscaping associated with the now destroyed 17th century mansion
which occupied the plateau top south-west of the church. All modern buildings,
property boundary features, roads and metalled surfaces are excluded from the
scheduling though the ground beneath 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.

The motte and bailey castles at Hamstead Marshall survive well and are unusual
in terms of their proximity to each other, which may be a result of dual
ownership, siege warfare or a movement of the site. Associated with the motte
and bailey castles are fishponds and medieval village remains, the latter
providing important information on the diversity of medieval settlement
patterns and farming economy between regions and through time, When considerd
as a whole, this monument provides a particularly complete example of what has
been interpreted as a defended medieval settlement.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bonney, D J, Dunn, C J, 'Cornwall to Caithness, Aspects of British Field Archaeology' in Earthwork Castle & Settlement at Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire, , Vol. 209, (1989), 173,182
Bonney, D J, Dunn, C J, 'Cornwall to Caithness, Aspects of British Field Archaeology' in Earthwork Castle & Settlement at Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire, , Vol. 209, (1989), 173,182
Bonney, D J, Dunn, C J, 'Cornwall to Caithness, Aspects of British Field Archaeology' in Earthwork Castle & Settlement at Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire, , Vol. 209, (1989), 173,182

Source: Historic England

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