Ancient Monuments

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Bury Hill: a motte and bailey castle west of Castle Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Saffron Walden, Essex

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Latitude: 52.0253 / 52°1'31"N

Longitude: 0.2413 / 0°14'28"E

OS Eastings: 553869.402519

OS Northings: 238690.222696

OS Grid: TL538386

Mapcode National: GBR MBX.V52

Mapcode Global: VHHL4.4CD8

Entry Name: Bury Hill: a motte and bailey castle west of Castle Lane

Scheduled Date: 13 December 1929

Last Amended: 28 July 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009307

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20671

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Saffron Walden

Built-Up Area: Saffron Walden

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex


Bury Hill motte and bailey castle is situated on a promontory at the
confluence of two streams, the Madgate Slade and the King's Slade, commanding
the valley westards to the River Cam. The low motte, which is now almost
level with the surrounding ground, includes the ruins of a keep. This was 20m
square in plan built of 2.5m wide flint rubble walls with coursed facing; the
dressed facing stones have been removed. Two stages of the building remain
including the base of a forebuilding. The entrance would probably have been
on the third floor. Inside the keep is the base of a pier, which is believed
to have been for a column. On the floor above are traces of a circular
staircase, a well shaft and a fireplace. The keep is thought to have been
part of the original castle rather than a later addition. Situated to the
west of the motte is the bailey. Its original size is delineated by Castle
Street, Museum Street and Church Street on the west, but on the east it
followed the old road now under Castle Hill House. A transverse scarp across
the bailey may indicate a dividing wall forming two wards in the bailey.
There is no clear evidence about who built the castle at Saffron Walden. The
first reference to it is contained in Empress Maud's first charter in 1141
when Geoffrey de Mandeville II was given permission to move the market from
the neighbouring village of Newport to his castle at Walden. Geoffrey de
Mandeville changed his allegiance more than once during the period of The
Anarchy and in 1143 he was forced to surrender the newly built castle to King
Stephen. It was restored to Geoffrey de Mandeville III in 1156. In either
1157 or 1158 the castle was partially destroyed by order of Henry II. The
castle then passed, eventually, to Maud, the wife of Henry de Bohun, Earl of
Hereford. On her death in 1236 it passed to her son, Humphrey, who became the
seventh Earl of Essex. In 1346 Humphrey VII de Bohun, Earl of Essex was given
a licence to crenellate. The de Bohuns opposed Edward III and in 1362 the
castle was confiscated and endowed to the Duchy of Lancaster. It later passed
into the hands of Henry IV and remained a royal manor until the reign of Henry
VIII. In 1538 the manor was given to Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor. It
then passed by marriage to the Howard family. In 1797 the manor passed to
Richard Aldworth Neville in whose family it remained until 1979 when the
ownership of the castle passed to the Uttlesford District Council.
Excavations carried out between 1911 and 1913 confirmed the location of the
castle ditch surrounding the bailey. More recent excavations, in 1973 and
1975, located the northern extent of the bailey, along Castle Street, the
extent of the bailey eastwards to Castle Hill House, and confirmed documentary
evidence relating to the building of the castle.
The museum building, paths, tennis courts, fences and air raid shelter are all
excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is,
however, 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.

Bury Hill is a well-documented example of a Norman motte and bailey castle
with historical records dating from the 11th century until the present day.
Limited excavations have increased knowledge about the site and confirmed the
survival of further remains containing important archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the development of the castle, the economy
of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Walden Castle, (1986)
SMR No: 411, Information from SMR (No: 411),

Source: Historic England

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