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Clun Castle: a motte and bailey castle and formal garden earthworks

A Scheduled Monument in Clun, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.4221 / 52°25'19"N

Longitude: -3.0338 / 3°2'1"W

OS Eastings: 329792.514211

OS Northings: 280962.336167

OS Grid: SO297809

Mapcode National: GBR B4.NKRR

Mapcode Global: VH769.CDH1

Entry Name: Clun Castle: a motte and bailey castle and formal garden earthworks

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1915

Last Amended: 9 October 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011021

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19179

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Clun

Built-Up Area: Clun

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Clun

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the earthwork and masonry remains of Clun Castle motte
and bailey and a series of water management earthworks situated adjacent to
the River Clun below the confluence of the River Clun with the River Unk. The
motte and its two baileys occupy a small but strategically strong prominence
of high ground contained around the west and south sides within a meander of
the River Clun. The castle was the seat of the Honour of Clun, a border
barony, and is believed to have been founded between 1090 and 1110 by the
Norman knight Picot de Say who fought with William the Conqueror in 1066. The
castle buildings were originally of timber but these were destroyed by fire in
1196 when the castle fell to the Welsh Prince Rese, though by 1233 the castle
had been rebuilt and withstood a second attack by the Welsh. In the second
half of the 13th century the castle was rebuilt in stone by the Fitz Alan
family. At its greatest extent it included inner and outer baileys with tower
and keep, domestic buildings, a water garden and fishpond and a bridge linking
the two baileys. By 1300 Clun was no longer a permanent residence, the Fitz
Alans having moved to Arundel Castle in Sussex. Clun Castle, however,
continued to function as a centre for the administration of the border barony
and as a hunting lodge until its desertion by 1540.
The castle motte lies in the north west quarter of the site with its two
baileys to the east and south east. The motte has been created from a natural
prominence, rather than built up. On the west side the site is protected by
the river and the steep scarp slope of the hill which has been artificially
steepened to enhance its defensive strength. Around the remaining sides a
ditch has been cut to isolate a portion of the hill summit so forming the
motte. At its base it measures some 80m north to south by 76m east to west
rising 12m from the bottom of the ditch to a summit 50m by 40m. On the summit
are the ruins of the castle keep: a fragment of the western curtain wall and
an impressive late 13th century great tower. The latter stands 28m high built
into the north face of the motte. It appears to have been built for prestige
rather than defence as its position on the side of the motte makes it
vulnerable to assault by undermining. It originally contained well-appointed
chambers on three floors over undercrofts. An entrance to the tower in the
west wall shows similar lack of regard for security, facing outwards rather
than inwards towards the motte summit.
The larger bailey lies to the immediate south east of the motte, separated
from it by a substantial ditch 10m wide, except at its north western corner
where a causeway allows access to the motte. The ditch continues around the
north and east sides of the bailey. Along the south west the natural hillslope
and river provide defence, the hillslope being cut back to increase the
steepness of the scarp and create a berm averaging 4m wide towards the base of
the slope. The level plateau-like summit of the bailey is roughly triangular
in plan with dimensions of 80m north west to south east by 40m transversely.
There are traces of an inner bank 0.7m high running along the eastern edge of
the bailey.
To the north of this enclosure and linked to it by a causeway is the second
smaller bailey. It lies at a slightly lower level than the former, its upper
surface being some 8m above the base of the ditch. This small roughly
rectangular enclosure has internal dimensions of 42m east to west by 40m north
to south. An engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck in 1731 shows that a court
house was situated on this bailey. The court house was demolished in 1789 when
Clun Town Hall was built. To the north of this bailey and of the motte are the
remains of a strong bank. It runs for some 80m curving around the base of the
bailey and motte, averages 8m wide and stands up to 3.6m high. To the
north west of this bank the natural prominence from which most of the castle
earthworks have been created continues as a flat topped spur running to the
east of and parallel to the river course. After approximately 60m the western
scarp wraps around to the east to form the northern end of the prominence,
continuing for approximately 30m as a low scarp up to 1.3m high before ending
on the rising ground to the east. The area between this northern extremity and
the castle earthworks themselves is hollowed to an average depth of 2.5m
forming a flat bottomed depression measuring some 60m north west to south east
by 60m transversely. Although now dry this feature may have originally
contained water in the form of a small ornamental mere or fishpond.
To the west of the castle, on the west bank of the River Clun, are a series
of linear earthworks believed to be the remains of garden features associated
with the castle. The earthworks appear to be designed to control and manage
water. At their southern extent a well defined north east facing scarp up to
3.2m high curves from the river towards the north west for 160m before turning
to the west and fading out towards the modern roadway. To the east of this
scarp and parallel to it, is a second, south facing, scarp 1.2m high forming
the eastern side of a broad channel 6m wide. Some 80m along this channel and
adjoining its north side is a sub-circular mound or platform 14m in diameter
and up to 0.5m high. The central portion of this is hollowed to a depth of
0.2m and may represent the site of a building. To the north west of this
feature the main channel continues bounded on its east side by a low bank.
Between this and the river are a series of shallow channels up to 1.5m wide
and 0.3m deep arranged in a rectangular pattern. These are bounded along their
northern side by a bank with a channel 6m wide and 0.5m deep parallel to it on
its north side. Further north again a roughly square ditched enclosure can be
recognised. This enclosure, the full extent of which is visible on aerial
photographs of the area, is orientated roughly north to south and has sides of
60m. It is crossed by a modern field drain and hedge which cuts diagonally
through it north west to south east. Differential management of the two fields
has resulted in the southern half, which lies in undisturbed permanent
pasture, being better preserved than the northern portion. Even so substantial
buried remains still survive in the northern part of this feature. The
southern part of the enclosure is bounded by a well defined shallow ditch 5m
wide and 0.5m deep. To the north of the hedgeline the ditch remains visible as
a very slight earthwork. To the north east of the enclosure a shallow plough-
spread scarp curves north towards the river. It may represent the edge of a
shallow mere which would have lain in the angle of the river supplying water
to the channel system to the south through a system of sluices.
The bowling green pavilion on the smaller, eastern, bailey, all boundary
features, notice boards and metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling
though the ground beneath these features is included.

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.

Clun Castle with its second bailey and medieval garden earthworks is one of
the finest examples of its class in the county. The castle earthworks will
contain valuable archaeological evidence concerning their method of
construction and the nature and periods of the castle's occupation. The
substantial ruined buildings which survive on the motte will contain
significant details relating to the dating and function of Clun Castle and to
the development of castle architecture more widely. The earthworks on the west
bank of the River Clun are rare examples of late medieval gardens. They
survive in good condition and provide valuable information both for the layout
of individual garden features relative to each other and relative to the
castle, the setting for which they provided. As they are waterlogged, they
will provide rare evidence for the plants they contained, in the organic
deposits in the bases of the ditches. The site, taken as a whole, also
illustrates, particularly, how water was used both for practical and
decorative purposes.
Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the monument was
constructed will be preserved sealed on the old land surface beneath the
ramparts and in the ditch fills.

Source: Historic England


Oblique AP file SMR, untitled series,
On site information,

Source: Historic England

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