Ancient Monuments

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'The Hills' motte and baileys

A Scheduled Monument in Meppershall, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0096 / 52°0'34"N

Longitude: -0.3509 / 0°21'3"W

OS Eastings: 513286.245611

OS Northings: 235855.294141

OS Grid: TL132358

Mapcode National: GBR H50.VHB

Mapcode Global: VHFQW.VRWB

Entry Name: 'The Hills' motte and baileys

Scheduled Date: 13 December 1929

Last Amended: 30 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010370

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20417

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Meppershall

Built-Up Area: Meppershall

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Meppershall

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The castle known as `The Hills' is a motte with two baileys located to the
north-east. The motte is an earthen mound about 25m in diameter and almost 5m
high from the bottom of the encircling ditch. This ditch is about 10m wide
and 1m or so in depth. (The motte was the central stronghold of the castle
and would have held a stout wooden tower.) The inner bailey is in the form of
an island, fortified by an extension of the motte ditch, and is kidney-shaped
in plan, measuring 50m long by up to 20m wide. The bailey is raised to a
level of 2-2.5m above the bottom of the ditch. Beyond the inner bailey,
separated by a 10m wide ditch, is a second, outer bailey. This is larger and
roughly triangular, measuring about 60m north-south, by 40m wide at is south
end. The outer bailey is also lower, being only 1m or so above the bottom of
the ditch, but is strengthened on the north-east side by a bank 0.5-1m in
height. (The respective decline in height was intentional, enabling a clear
line-of-sight from the top of the motte with no potential blind-spots to
shield attacking forces.) The defensive ditch completes its circuit around the
eastern side of the bailey and at the north-east corner is the remains of a
leat which once supplied water to the ditch. This leat is about 8m long by 3m
wide and 1m deep.
The castle is considered to date to the reign of Stephen and to have been
beseiged by him in 1138, during the seige of Bedford.

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 Hills' is a very well preserved motte and bailey castle which is
essentially undisturbed and retains high archaeological potential. It is
one of few such monuments in Bedfordshire which have clearly documented links
with historical events.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
P.O. Directory, (1864)
The Victoria History of the County, (1908)
Goddard, A R, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1904)
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia, (1813)
Wadmore, B, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, (1920)
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Beds. Magazine 8, Winter 1962-3, (1962)
Ruhlicke, F W, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Beds. Magazine I, No 6, (1948)
Cambridge AP Index: LJ 57-8, (1953)
Pagination 116, Baker, D, Beds. SMR record: ref.10, (1978)

Source: Historic England

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