Ancient Monuments

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Castle Tower: a motte and bailey castle 100m north of Hill House

A Scheduled Monument in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.6882 / 51°41'17"N

Longitude: -0.6607 / 0°39'38"W

OS Eastings: 492676.005903

OS Northings: 199674.22198

OS Grid: SU926996

Mapcode National: GBR F60.1SR

Mapcode Global: VHFS8.HTKQ

Entry Name: Castle Tower: a motte and bailey castle 100m north of Hill House

Scheduled Date: 20 July 1948

Last Amended: 19 November 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009534

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19056

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Little Missenden

Built-Up Area: Hyde Heath

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Little Missenden

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a small motte and bailey castle situated above the north
slope of a shallow valley, sited to overlook the natural valley routeway which
is today followed by the course of the A413. The motte survives as a mound
27m in diameter with an average height of 1.7m. The bailey lies on the south
side of the mound and is oval in plan measuring 35m north-south by 30m east-
west. It is enclosed by an earthen bank 12m to 18m wide and up to 1.2m high
on its exterior side and 0.3m high on its interior. There are traces of a
ditch which surrounds both motte and bailey around the north-east side of the
monument. This survives here as a low earthwork 4m wide and 0.4m deep;
elsewhere it survives as a buried feature of similar width. There is no trace
of any entrance or causeway, though this probably lay in the southern quarter
of the site. The earthworks have been reduced and spread by past ploughing,
unusual in that the motte as well as the bailey has been ploughed, suggesting
that it was never a large mound. Though slight, the monument is a very
complete example of a motte and bailey castle probably built as part of a
military campaign and occupied for only a short time. The motte is likely to
have been surmounted by a wooden tower, designed to create a secure vantage
point, while the bailey may have been surrounded by a wooden palisade designed
to provide a secure camp.

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 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.

Castle Tower motte and bailey is unusual in its diminutive size and, though
reduced by past ploughing, it survives well as a very complete example of this
class of monument. Despite the past ploughing of the site, its isolation from
subsequent settlement and probably short duration of occupation indicates that
primary deposits will survive largely undisturbed. The monument also contains
environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which it was constructed
and the economy of its inhabitants. Such evidence will survive in the land
surfaces sealed beneath the motte, and in buried features within the bailey.

Source: Historic England

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