Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Conger Hill: a motte and bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Toddington, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.9495 / 51°56'58"N

Longitude: -0.5299 / 0°31'47"W

OS Eastings: 501132.906971

OS Northings: 228906.121323

OS Grid: TL011289

Mapcode National: GBR G46.QV4

Mapcode Global: VHFR5.R8QC

Entry Name: Conger Hill: a motte and bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 13 December 1929

Last Amended: 9 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010059

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20439

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Toddington

Built-Up Area: Toddington

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Toddington

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Details

The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on a ridge of the
Chilterns some 100m east of St George's Church. The motte is a steep-sided
earthen mound 40m in diameter surrounded by a ditch which is between 8m and
12m in width. The ditch is about 2.5m in depth and the mound rises some 5m
from the base of the ditch. The mound is conical in profile with a flattened
area 20m across at the top. An irregular depression 0.3m deep at the east side
of this area indicates the remains of the buildings on the motte. The motte
was surrounded by an outer defended court or bailey. Although partially built
over to the west and south, the eastern rampart of the bailey is still visible
as a bank and outer ditch running at a north/south tangent to the motte and
curving slightly to the south west. The rampart is very slight in contrast to
the size of the motte but it is thought that over the years the ditch has been
partially infilled with material from the bank. The bank is now 2m wide by
about 0.5m high and the ditch is 6m wide by 0.5m deep. Although the extent of
the bailey to the north, west and south is not proven, it is thought that the
bounds of the bailey correspond approximately with the modern field boundary
and that the area contained within the field west of the rampart has potential
for the preservation of below-ground remains of buildings associated with the
bailey.
The castle is identified as the stronghold of Sir Paulinus Pegure in the 13th
century. The name Conger Hill is recorded from 1597 and it has been
considered that the name is a corruption of an earlier Celtic British name.
The mound was used in the 16th century as a rabbit warren. There is a local
Shrove Tuesday custom associated with the castle in which the village children
assemble at the monument to listen for a witch frying pancakes beneath the
earth.
Excluded from the scheduling are the made surfaces of the asphalt footpath
along the western boundary, the metalled track, the concrete slabs, the
hardstanding and the shed at the north of the monument, although the ground
beneath these items is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

The motte at Conger Hill is well preserved and although the ramparts have been
altered to some extent by infilling and encroachment of adjacent buildings, a
substantial area of the bailey survives. The monument retains conditions
favouring the preservation of building remains in the bailey and on the motte
and the recovery of environmental evidence from the fills of the ditches and
from the old ground surface beneath the motte.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Beresford, M, History on the Ground, (1957)
Blundell, J H, Toddington, its Annals and People, (1925)
Fisher, , Colls. History, Genealogy and Typography of Bedfordshire, (1812)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1806), 43
'The Observer' in The Observer, , Vol. 03/03/63, (1963)

Source: Historic England

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