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Motte in Hamstead Marshall Park, 340m north east of The Dower House

A Scheduled Monument in Hampstead Marshall, West Berkshire

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Latitude: 51.3969 / 51°23'48"N

Longitude: -1.3835 / 1°23'0"W

OS Eastings: 442986.313685

OS Northings: 166610.038934

OS Grid: SU429666

Mapcode National: GBR 81W.C21

Mapcode Global: VHC21.Y4YZ

Entry Name: Motte in Hamstead Marshall Park, 340m NE of The Dower House

Scheduled Date: 3 September 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007925

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19011

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 includes the remains of a substantial motte situated at the
northern end of a prominent gravel-capped spur, a strong strategic position
overlooking the valley of the Kennet. The motte, which appears to be an
unfinished work, is horseshoe shaped in plan, open at its north-east quarter
and has an overall diameter of 60m. It stands up to 7m high above the bottom
of the ditch on its most complete north-western side, declining in height
southwards. Around the eastern half of the site the mound is incomplete but a
low bank marks its intended extent. The surrounding ditch is also incomplete,
reaching a maximum depth of 2.7m around the north-west side but remaining
uncut in the north-east. The form of the mound indicates that the site was
abandoned during construction and also suggests the way in which the mound was
built. A circular marking ditch was cut initially and the spoil piled on
its inner edge to form a bank. Further material was then quarried from the
ditch and taken into the interior area through a gap left in the ditch on the
uncut north-eastern section. The quarried material was dumped on and within
the retaining bank to fill the interior and thus raise the mound. The mound is
most complete around its western side, facing two motte and bailey castles
that lie some 800m to the west. Viewed from the direction of these sites the
unfinished motte is an impressively strong and threatening fortification.
Though there is no direct proof, it is believed that the motte was constructed
as a siege work opposing these more established castles. The initial emphasis
on the construction of the western facing side of the mound and its
peripheral location within the manor but away from the church and village,
tend to reinforce this interpretation. If the motte is a siegework, it was
probably constructed during the reign of Stephen, opposing the Marshall family
who supported the rebellion against the crown.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 partial completion of the motte in Hampstead Marshall Park allows an
unusual insight into the methods of construction employed on this type of
monument, while its close association with a pair of motte castles some 800m
to the west, offers potential for understanding the way such early
military works were designed to function in warfare.

Source: Historic England

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