Ancient Monuments

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Preston Capes motte and bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Preston Capes, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.1897 / 52°11'23"N

Longitude: -1.1583 / 1°9'29"W

OS Eastings: 457636.813329

OS Northings: 254943.606491

OS Grid: SP576549

Mapcode National: GBR 8SV.MZ6

Mapcode Global: VHCVR.W705

Entry Name: Preston Capes motte and bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1954

Last Amended: 7 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010661

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13635

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Preston Capes

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Preston Capes St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The earthwork remains of the motte and bailey castle at Preston Capes stand on
the summit of a north facing spur on the north east side of the village.
The motte consists of a conical mound over 4m high with a flat top about 27m
across. The motte is surrounded on all sides except the south by a partially
waterlogged ditch over 1m deep, and the land slopes steeply in a series of
narrow scarps from the edge of the motte ditch. Below the motte on the north-
east side, a bank up to 2m high indicates the extent of the original bailey
area on that side. The part of the bailey which lay on the flatter ground to
the east and south-east of the motte has been built over and archaeological
remains are not thought to survive.
The motte was the site of a castle built soon after the Norman Conquest, most
likely by Nigel of the Count of Mortain who held Preston in 1086. The castle
was certainly established by 1090 when it was recorded that Hugh de Leicester
founded a Cluniac Priory adjoining his castle at Preston Capes. The site
remained as the centre of the manor through the medieval period.

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.

Preston Capes motte is good example of an early post-Conquest castle and is
located close to a Cluniac Priory. Although the motte mound is relatively
small, the earthworks are well preserved and the surrounding waterlogged ditch
retains considerable potential for the survival of organic remains.

Source: Historic England

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