Ancient Monuments

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Downton motte, a motte castle 100m north west of St Giles' Church

A Scheduled Monument in Downton, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 52.3562 / 52°21'22"N

Longitude: -2.8425 / 2°50'32"W

OS Eastings: 342718.387134

OS Northings: 273464.904071

OS Grid: SO427734

Mapcode National: GBR BD.SQWY

Mapcode Global: VH76S.P14J

Entry Name: Downton motte, a motte castle 100m north west of St Giles' Church

Scheduled Date: 6 January 1972

Last Amended: 4 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011018

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19176

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Downton

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Wigmore Abbey

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes a small motte castle situated on rising ground on the
west bank of the River Teme. It is visible as an earth and stone rubble mound
23m in diameter at base rising 3.5m to a summit 12m in diameter slightly
hollowed to a depth of 0.5m. Around the west, north west and north east
(uphill) sides of the motte there are traces of a ditch averaging 7m wide and
up to 0.5m deep. It is believed that the castle mound was once surmounted by
an octagonal stone keep and that it was originally built by the Mortimer
family. The now ruinous Church of St Giles, the subject of a separate
scheduling, stands close by the motte and Old Downton Farm is thought to stand
on the site of the medieval manor house, indicating that this was the focus of
the medieval agricultural community known as Downton on the Rock.

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 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-bai1ey 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 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
and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from
most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as
motte castles. 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 motte at Downton on the Rock remains a good example of its class. It will
contain valuable archaeological information relating to its construction and
occupation. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the
monument was constructed will be preserved sealed beneath the mound and in the
ditch fill. The motte is one of several medieval structures and buildings in
the vicinity and considered as a group they contribute valuable information on
the settlement, economy and social organisation of this area of countryside
during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


SMR Record 1645,

Source: Historic England

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