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Rockingham Castle, shrunken medieval village, moat and warrens

A Scheduled Monument in Rockingham, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.5126 / 52°30'45"N

Longitude: -0.7226 / 0°43'21"W

OS Eastings: 486787.373143

OS Northings: 291289.509347

OS Grid: SP867912

Mapcode National: GBR CTJ.J3P

Mapcode Global: VHDQX.F3CP

Entry Name: Rockingham Castle, shrunken medieval village, moat and warrens

Scheduled Date: 13 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010647

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13638

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Rockingham

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Rockingham

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument consists of the motte and bailey castle, with a moat and warrens,
and of the earthworks of the shrunken medieval village with its associated
enclosures. It is divided into two constraint areas which lie to the north
east and south west of the Rockingham Road.
Rockingham Castle is sited on an escarpment which overlooks the Welland
Valley. The castle consists of a motte which lies between two baileys, one to
the north and one to the south. The motte and the south bailey were altered
in post-medieval times, but the motte still survives as a mound up to 3m high.
Originally a stone keep stood on the summit of the mound, but the present
castle stands in the north bailey. The south bailey shows traces of ridge and
furrow cultivation. Both north and south baileys are surrounded by ditched
outer banks.
The original castle was constructed on the summit of the motte in the 11th
century by William the Conqueror and was last in use as a royal residence by
Henry V in 1422. The motte castle may have been refortified in 1664 at the
time of the Civil War. However, in 1544 Edward Watson began to convert the
castle remains in the north bailey into the present Tudor residence and this
is now a Grade I listed building. Part of the curtain wall and gatehouse are
dated to the 13th century and are listed Grade II*.
About 450m to the south east of the castle site, and to the north east of the
present driveway, lies the remains of a moat known as the Bottom moat; this
consists of a small rectangular moat with four complete and waterfilled arms.
To the south west, part of the Top Moat survives as a long ditch which widens
to form a pond at the north eastern end. In early maps the two moats were
joined together. The moats are considered to be medieval and associated with
the original castle. Approximately 300m to the south east of the castle, in
the south east of the park grounds, are several mounds which are the remains
of medieval rabbit warrens. Three rectangular mounds about 25 to 30 metres
long run from east to west and another rectangular mound further north was
also part of the warren. To the north again, and running at right angles, are
two mounds over l00m long which sit on top of the adjoining hill; these too
are identified as rabbit warrens of medieval origin but also known to have
been in use in the 17th century.
To the north and north east of the castle, around the church, lies the
earthwork remains of the shrunken medieval village of Rockingham; a map of
1615 shows houses still standing around the church. The church of St Leonard
is a Grade II* listed building and is dated to the 13/14th centuries, with
later additions. A distinctive hollow way runs north eastwards through the
settlement earthworks from the area of the castle. On each side of the
hollow way lie the banks and ditches of building platforms, and small
enclosures which formed the settlement. To the north of the present main road
there are also clear earthwork remains of the village.
A further hollow way runs eastwards from the castle and is surrounded by banks
of ditches of small rectangular enclosures. It is considered that these are
the earthwork remains of medieval enclosures and terraces. The small size of
these enclosures could indicate that they are derived from the much earlier
fields of Prehistoric or Roman date, usually known as Celtic fields.
All buildings on the site, including the castle and the church, and all made
up roads and paths are excluded from the scheduling but all below ground
remains are included. The churchyard is totally excluded from the

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.

Rockingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman
invasion, and remained an important royal castle used by successive kings
throughout the medieval period. By the 13th century the castle was one of the
seven main royal residences in the country. Extensive documentary records
also show that Rockingham was a major administrative centre during this time.
Successive phases of building at the site are well documented throughout the
medieval and post-medieval periods, and remains of a substantial village
settlement are also seen around the castle.
The site has a diversity of very well preserved and well maintained earthworks
including those of the motte and baileys of the castle, warrens, moats, and
the associated settlement. These features combine to present an exceptional
and largely undisturbed medieval landscape of important historical value and
with considerable archaeological potential.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Guide Book to the Castle: Rockingham Castle, (1990)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of Archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire, (1979), 126-30

Source: Historic England

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