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Cuckney motte and bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Norton and Cuckney, Nottinghamshire

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Latitude: 53.2367 / 53°14'12"N

Longitude: -1.1538 / 1°9'13"W

OS Eastings: 456574.759018

OS Northings: 371410.961518

OS Grid: SK565714

Mapcode National: GBR 8D8.33S

Mapcode Global: WHDFF.7XT1

Entry Name: Cuckney motte and bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 28 April 1953

Last Amended: 23 October 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010909

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13393

County: Nottinghamshire

Civil Parish: Norton and Cuckney

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Norton Cuckney

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham


The monument includes the motte, outer bailey and part of the inner bailey of
the twelfth century motte and bailey castle at Cuckney. Originally, the inner
bailey extended further east into the area now occupied by the parish church
of St Mary and the churchyard to the south. Although archaeological remains
will survive here, these areas are not included in the scheduling as they are
in current ecclesiastical use. The outer bailey may also have extended further
south into the built-up area south-west of the church. This area is not
included in the scheduling as the extent and state of preservation of the
remains is not sufficiently understood.
The inner bailey is a sub-rectangular platform orientated east to west. It
measures 90m from north to south and 150m east to west. Only the western 80m
are included in the scheduling. The motte occupies the north-west corner
of the inner bailey and consists of a flat-topped oval mound, 4m high and
measuring 45m from north to south by 20m east to west. Both the motte and the
scheduled part of the inner bailey are occupied by the now disused graveyard
associated with the church. The perimeter wall of the graveyard occupies the
inner edge of a 10m wide ditch that encircles the west side of the motte and
encloses the inner bailey on the north side. Originally, it would also have
enclosed the south side of the bailey but has been filled-in to the south of
the church so that, on this side, only the area south of the motte remains
open. The remainder will survive as a buried feature in the unscheduled part
of the inner bailey. The ditch does not appear to have extended along the east
side of the inner bailey, which also lies in the unscheduled area. This
indicates that the original entrance would have occupied this side. Encircling
the inner bailey on the north and west sides is a 40m wide ribbon of open
ground which functioned as an outer bailey. This is partially encircled by a
double bank and ditch which lies roughly parallel with the River Poulter and
is approximately 15m wide. The river would have formed another line of defence
on this side and, in addition, could be commanded from the castle. The castle
was built by Thomas de Cuckney during the reign of King Stephen (1135-54),
which was a time of civil strife between Stephen's supporters and those of the
Empress Matilda (Maud), daughter of his predecessor Henry I. The castle may
therefore have been an adulterine fort; that is, one built without the king's
permission. During the underpinning of the church in 1951, up to 200 burials
were found which antedate the building of the church in c.1200. They occupied
three or four communal graves; that is, trenches dug north to south so that
the bodies could be laid with their feet to the east. No associated finds have
been recorded, neither have the remains undergone scientific analysis.
However, it is assumed that the bodies were casualties from a skirmish
associated with the Maudian rebellion. After their discovery, the skeletons
were reinterred in a fresh communal grave.
Excluded from the scheduling are the boundary walls crossing the monument and
the graves on the motte and within the scheduled part of the inner bailey,
although the ground beneath these exclusions is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.

Cuckney motte and bailey castle is a reasonably well-preserved example of an
adulterine fort built to command a river valley. Although the motte and inner
bailey are partially disturbed by modern burials, a sufficient amount remains
intact for the structure of the motte to be preserved and also the
relationship between these areas and the outer bailey. The outer bailey itself
has suffered little disturbance and so will retain the archaeological remains
of ancillary features such as garrison buildings and corrals for stock and
horses. The defensive earthworks associated with both the inner and outer
baileys also survive well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968), 161
'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Account of church underpinning, , Vol. 55, (1951), 26-28

Source: Historic England

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