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Pinxton Castle motte and fortified manor with moated site and five fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in South Normanton, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.1072 / 53°6'25"N

Longitude: -1.315 / 1°18'54"W

OS Eastings: 445951.033917

OS Northings: 356880.997908

OS Grid: SK459568

Mapcode National: GBR 7D8.B9X

Mapcode Global: WHDG3.R5ZB

Entry Name: Pinxton Castle motte and fortified manor with moated site and five fishponds

Scheduled Date: 25 February 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010025

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23295

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: South Normanton

Built-Up Area: South Normanton

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Pinxton St Helen

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument known as Pinxton Castle, or sometimes Wynn Castle, includes the
motte of a 12th century earthwork castle and a later medieval fortified manor.
Remains include a moated site and five fishponds along with a range of
perimeter earthworks. The motte comprises a 3m high conical mound whose level
summit has a diameter of c.20m and would have been the site of a shell keep, a
type of early castle keep in which timber buildings were arranged around the
inside of a circular palisade or wall. In addition to the motte, there would
originally have been a bailey or outer enclosure in which further domestic and
service buildings would have existed together with corrals for stock and
horses. It is possible that the bank extending along the north-west side of
the later fortified manor originated as a bailey rampart. The motte is
believed to have been associated with Roger de Wynn who held the manor of
Pinxton from 1120.
The motte is situated at the north-west corner of the fortified manor site and
appears to have been reused in the later medieval period as part of the
perimeter defences. This is inferred from the existence of a level, 10m square
platform at the base of the motte to the north. This platform was the site of
a building, possibly a gatehouse. The perimeter bank extends north-eastwards
from the platform and measures c.2m high by 6m wide at the base. Together with
the banks along the north-east and south-east edges of the enclosure, which
are of similar dimensions, it would, in the later Middle Ages and after, have
been the site of a wall. Most likely, this wall was crenellated. This would
explain why the site continued to be called a castle. Along the inside of the
north-west bank there is a 10m wide berm or terrace. Parallel with this, a
pair of rectangular fishponds extend from north-west to south-east and are
connected by a sluice. Both ponds are c.1.5m deep and 7m wide, but the one
nearest the motte measures 13.5m long while the other is c.15m long. They are
set 5m apart and the sluice, formerly the site of wooden gates used to control
the flow of water and fish between the two ponds, is 2m wide and 1m deep. At
its north end, the larger fishpond is connected via a 5m wide channel to a
third rectangular fishpond which extends south-eastwards from the north corner
of the site. This channel is currently partially filled-in by a rubble
causeway which is assumed to be relatively modern although it may be on the
site of an original bridging point. This is indicated by a break in the outer
bank and the existence of a flat-topped sub-rectangular mound overlooking the
causeway to the north. The mound measures 12m by 6m and stands c.1.5m high. It
is interpreted as the site of a tower incorporated into the perimeter wall of
the manor.
The third fishpond is c.2m deep and measures 40m long by 15m wide. To the
south-west is a level area which would have been the site of buildings and
other features associated with the manor. Also, 10m to the south-east, there
is a fourth fishpond which is now largely filled-in and measures 30m long by
15m wide. To the south-east of this, in the east corner of the monument, is a
level area measuring c.25m square which would have been the site of further
buildings and structures. Along the south-east edge of the site, a fifth
fishpond extends for 40m at 7m wide then opens out, at the south corner of the
site, to form a pool measuring c.10m square. There is no outer bank along the
south-east edge of the monument, though a raised feature indicates that the
wall continued at least part of the way along this side. The pond along this
side remains waterfilled and is connected to the south corner of the moat by a
2m wide sluice. This indicates that the moat itself probably also served as a
The moated site comprises a 1.5m high platform, measuring c.30m by 40m,
surrounded by an 8m wide partially waterfilled moat which is up to 2.5m deep
on the north-west and north-east sides, 2m deep on the south-west side and 1m
deep on the south-east side. This variation is caused by the moat having been
dug into a south-facing slope. Partial excavations were carried out on the
platform in the 1950s by the Pinxton Archaeological Society. Unfortunately,
the records of this work have been lost but it is assumed that the society was
responsible for uncovering the overgrown building remains which are currently
visible and include the level floors of rooms or small structures, wall
footings and trenches, sandstone rubble and pieces of brick and roof tile.
These remains appear to be of a post-medieval building and overlie the buried
evidence of the earlier timber buildings which would originally have occupied
the site.

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.

Pinxton Castle motte is reasonably well preserved and sufficiently intact for
archaeological remains relating to the structures on the motte to be preserved
and its relationship with the later medieval fortified manor to be determined.
Fortified manors were the residences of the lesser nobility and richer
burgesses and date from the late 12th century and throughout the rest of the
Middle Ages. Generally they comprise a hall and residential wing, domestic
ranges, and fortifications such as a moat or crenellated wall or both. The
site at Pinxton is fairly unusual in that the moat is located inside a larger
fortified enclosure. In addition to the tower and perimeter wall, extensive
building remains will survive as buried features throughout the monument.
Around 6000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally waterfilled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings, or, in
some cases, gardens, or orchards or fishponds. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was
between 1250 and 1350, but many remained in use for much longer than this and
some are still occupied today. By far the greatest concentration lies in
central and eastern England, but they exist in most other areas and exhibit a
high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a significant
class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the
distribution of wealth and status in rural areas.
The example at Pinxton survives well and illustrates not only the diversity of
form of this class of monument but its longevity. In addition it is associated
with five well preserved fishponds, one of which is waterfilled and retains
conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains and environmental

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Monk, G E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations at Castle Wood, Pinxton, (1951)
Monk, G E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations at Castle Wood, Pinxton, (1951)
Stevenson, W, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Pinxton Castle, , Vol. 40, (1918)

Source: Historic England

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