Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Barrow Hill: a motte castle 250m south of Barrow Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Widford, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 51.8322 / 51°49'55"N

Longitude: 0.0551 / 0°3'18"E

OS Eastings: 541704.922432

OS Northings: 216837.848087

OS Grid: TL417168

Mapcode National: GBR LCV.2RJ

Mapcode Global: VHHLZ.X60S

Entry Name: Barrow Hill: a motte castle 250m south of Barrow Farm

Scheduled Date: 7 September 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009452

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20649

County: Hertfordshire

Civil Parish: Widford

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Widford

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a motte castle situated near the crest of a south-east
facing slope overlooking the River Ash. It includes a large conical mound
which measures 43m in diameter at the base and c.6.6m in height. The mound
has a flat top which measures 14.3m north-south by 5.5m east-west. Also
identifiable at ground level is a 3m wide ditch from which material was
quarried during the construction of the mound and which formed a deep
defensive ditch which may have been waterfilled. This has been infilled over
the years but survives to a maximum depth of c.0.3m. The mound was once
thought to be a barrow but this is now disputed.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.

Despite partial excavation and disturbance caused by animal burrowing, Barrow
Hill motte is well preserved and will retain archaeological information
showing the construction sequence and other details of the duration of the
monument's use. Additionally, environmental evidence will survive relating to
the landscape in which the monument was constructed.

Source: Historic England


SMR No 0503, Information from SMR (0503),

Source: Historic England

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