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Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle 300m west of St John's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.8802 / 51°52'48"N

Longitude: -0.8397 / 0°50'23"W

OS Eastings: 479961.995254

OS Northings: 220818.119956

OS Grid: SP799208

Mapcode National: GBR C0S.4HT

Mapcode Global: VHDTY.D0FG

Entry Name: Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle 300m west of St John's Church

Scheduled Date: 15 July 1938

Last Amended: 27 November 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009536

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19058

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Built-Up Area: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Whitchurch with Creslow

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument, which is divided into two areas, includes the remains of
Bolebec Castle, a motte and bailey castle situated on the northern end of a
small spur and commanding the main north-south routeway now followed by the
A413. The castle motte comprises an artificially scarped natural mound some
5m high and constructed by cutting across the neck of a natural spur to create
a raised platform. It is oval in shape with dimensions of 80m north to south
by 60m east to west. The top is bounded around its northern arc by a low
internal bank up to 0.8m high; elsewhere it remains open. Presumably the
castle itself once included a curtain wall around the summit protecting the
main castle buildings. The remains of some such structures can be identified
as a line of turf covered foundations which run for some 24m towards the south
side of the summit. The south eastern area of the summit is level and flat
and would seem to be the most likely site for the main castle buildings.
There are two modern entrances to the interior of the platform, in the west
and north-east, the former of which corresponds to the supposed position of an
original drawbridge. Surrounding the motte is a ditch averaging some 8m wide
and 0.6m deep. Although now dry, except for a marshy area around a spring in
the south-east quarter, this was once filled with water supplied by the
spring. The infilled sections of this moat may survive as the course of
Castle Lane to the north while the western arc has been destroyed by later
disturbance. The bailey lies to the north, further along the neck of the spur
in the garden of Bolebec Place, and is separated from the main castle mound by
Castle Lane. Though modified by later landscaping, it consists of a
substantial earthen bank up to 3m high enclosing a roughly triangular area of
level ground some 40m north to south by 50m east to west. The castle is
believed to date from the reign of Stephen. It was recorded as being built
during the time of the Anarchy and is first mentioned by Pope Eugenius who
writes of `castleworks wrongfully exacted by Hugh de Bolbec in 1147',
indicating that the fortification was an adulterine castle built to oppose
the crown. The site served in these early years as the stronghold of the De
Bolbec and De Vere families. Little is known of the subsequent history of the
site, though a masonry castle is recorded as being finally demolished during
the Civil War, having long been in a ruinous condition. Local tradition
records a stone keep near to Market Hill Close and a drawbridge near Weir
pond. All modern structures, metalled areas and boundary features 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.

Bolbec Castle survives well as a very complete example of its class. Though
the area of the bailey now forms a part of the garden of Bolbec Place House
and has been landscaped accordingly, disturbance seems minimal. The main
castle enclosure appears to have remained largely undisturbed since the
demolition of the castle buildings in the 17th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968)
Card No 0306.00.000,
Ordnance Survey, NAR (Card No. SP 72 SE 3),

Source: Historic England

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