Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Bedford Castle motte and bailey

A Scheduled Monument in Castle, Bedford

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 52.1357 / 52°8'8"N

Longitude: -0.4635 / 0°27'48"W

OS Eastings: 505258.91269

OS Northings: 249713.708256

OS Grid: TL052497

Mapcode National: GBR G25.3N4

Mapcode Global: VHFQ7.XLB4

Entry Name: Bedford Castle motte and bailey

Scheduled Date: 1 May 1952

Last Amended: 2 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010366

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20412

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Castle

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Bedford St Paul

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument is the motte and part of the bailey of the Norman castle. The
motte is an earthen mound circa 10m high and 70m diameter at the base with a
flat top of about 50m diameter. The foot of the motte was encircled by a
ditch some 15m wide. Although partially infilled, the outer scarp of the
ditch can still be observed to the north-east of the motte and a narrow
section, excavated in 1972, revealed that the ditch was up to 4m deep, with a
stone-faced revetment. The ditch was still partially open at the end of the
19th century and is known from maps to have discharged into the river Ouse in
the area to the south of the motte. The motte was the central stronghold of
the castle and additional quarters for the garrison were housed in a fortified
outer court, or bailey, which was subdivided into two separate defended areas.
Although partially excavated in 1969-73 and to some extent truncated by
post-medieval buildings, a substantial part of the bailey is considered to
survive to the east of Castle Lane and the deeply basemented properties now
serving as carparks. The bailey defences consisted of an earthen rampart and
outer ditch. The ditch is infilled but its outer lip is considered to run
along the edge of Newnham Road and then to turn westwards at the corner of
Castle Lane where it lies beneath the road. Close to this corner is a mound,
about 3m high, which is the surviving north-east angle of the rampart. The
mound was partially excavated in 1970. The area to the north of the motte,
measuring about 80m square, is a part of the interior of the bailey considered
to contain below ground evidence of the castle buildings. The northern half
of the area lies beneath the buildings of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and
the Bedford Museum and the house at 31 Castle Lane. Part of the Gallery is a
Grade II Listed building. Documentary and topographical evidence shows that
the bailey was originally rectangular, extending west from Newnham road to the
rear of the properties fronting the High Street and from the medieval
foreshore at the Embankment to Ram Yard. This area has been heavily
disturbed by later foundations and was also extensively excavated in the
1970's. The excavations revealed Saxon and medieval timber and stone
buildings, determined the construction sequence of parts of the defences and
identified deposits relating to the final siege and destruction of the castle.
Bedford Castle was probably founded by the Beauchamp family who held it in
1130 when Milo de Beauchamp defended the stronghold against King Stephen.
Further sieges occurred over the next two decades. William de Beauchamp
finally lost the castle, in 1215, to Falkes de Breaute who refortified it for
his brother, William. In 1224-5, after a siege for which there are detailed
accounts, Henry III took the castle and ordered the dismantling of the
defences and the slighting of the motte.
The existing buildings at the north, along with any basements, are excluded
from the scheduling; an electricity substation on the Embankment is also
excluded, but the ground beneath all these structures 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.

Bedford Castle is a good example of a motte and bailey which although
partially excavated retains high potential for the preservation of structures
within the bailey and of organic remains in the defensive ditches and the
buried landsurface beneath the motte. The history of the castle is well
documented and it is one of few such monuments in Bedfordshire which have
associations with historical events.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blyth, T A, History of Bedford, (1868)
Farrar, C F, Old Bedford, (1926)
Goddard, A R, Siege of Bedford Castle, (1906)
Goddard, A R, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1904)
Wadmore, B, Earthworks of Beds , (1920)
Wadmore, B, Earthworks of Beds , (1920)
Baker, D, 'Beds. Archaeological Journal' in Excavations in Bedford 1967-77: Bedford Castle (pag 9-11), , Vol. 13, (1979)
Baker, D, 'Beds. Archaeological Journal' in Excavations in Bedford 1967-77: Bedford Castle (pag 9-11), , Vol. 13, (1979)
Baker, D, 'Beds. Archaeological Journal' in Excavations in Bedford 1967-77: Bedford Castle (pag 9-11), , Vol. 13, (1979)
Baker, D, 'Beds. Archaeological Journal' in Excavations in Bedford 1967-77: Bedford Castle (pag 9-11), , Vol. 13, (1979)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.