Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Higham Ferrers Motte and Bailey Castle, with Ponds, Warren and Dovecote

A Scheduled Monument in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.3083 / 52°18'29"N

Longitude: -0.5915 / 0°35'29"W

OS Eastings: 496128.303746

OS Northings: 268733.491205

OS Grid: SP961687

Mapcode National: GBR DYK.794

Mapcode Global: VHFPD.P7PS

Entry Name: Higham Ferrers Motte and Bailey Castle, with Ponds, Warren and Dovecote

Scheduled Date: 30 January 1952

Last Amended: 28 January 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012113

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13607

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Higham Ferrers

Built-Up Area: Higham Ferrers

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Higham Ferrers St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


William Peverel was granted the manor of Higham Ferrers at the
Conquest, and built an early Norman motte and bailey castle here,
probably in the late 11th century. Extensive records show that the
castle was of major stone construction with an inner and outer bailey
and had complex defences including inner and outer gateways and a
drawbridge. Within the castle and the baileys were a considerable
variety of buildings and lodgings. Documentary sources indicate that
the castle had several owners and eventually was forfeited to the crown
in 1266. By the 1360s the castle had passed to the Duchy of Lancaster,
but in the late 15th century it had begun to fall into ruin and was
demolished in 1523, although a map of 1591 shows foundations still
upstanding. Today these and other features are no longer visible but
remains will be preserved below ground. Early records show that the
castle also had a garden, dovecote and fishpond. The well preserved
remains of a dovecote, most probably the one built in 1406-7, are still
present in the outer bailey area and are incorporated in part of a more
modern wall. The warren which lies in the northernmost part of the site
was first documented in 1313, and further records show that it was
walled and had its own gateway. A water-filled ditch which lies to the
east and south of the warren was constructed from two original fishponds
which lay in the outer bailey of the castle. Except for the dovecote,
all permanent above ground structures including the buildings, car
parks, access roads and garden walls are excluded from the scheduling,
but the land beneath them is incorporated.

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.

Higham Ferrers is a motte and bailey castle with important royal
connections in the Early Norman period. Well-documented historical
evidence shows that it was major fortified location with multiple
defences and occupied a powerful tenurial position over the manors of
the Nene Valley. Although the original buildings were demolished the
preservation of the below ground archaeological remains has not been
affected by subsequent development.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beresford, M, History on the Ground, (1957)
Kerr, W J B, Higham Ferrers and its Ducal and Royal Castle and Park, (1925)
Sergeantson, R M, The Court Rolls of Higham Ferrers, (1916)
Sergeantson, R M, The Court Rolls of Higham Ferrers, Part II, (1917)
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Past and Present' in Higham Ferrers Castle - or Otherwise, (1974)
P.R.O. DL. 42. 117 and SC 12 13 33,
P.R.O.E. 317, Parliamentary Surveys Northants 32,
Public Record Office, D.L. 42, 117 and SC 12 13 33, (1590)

Source: Historic England

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