Ancient Monuments

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Clifford Hill motte castle

A Scheduled Monument in Little Houghton, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.2381 / 52°14'17"N

Longitude: -0.8211 / 0°49'15"W

OS Eastings: 480602.303215

OS Northings: 260640.900072

OS Grid: SP806606

Mapcode National: GBR CXP.P70

Mapcode Global: VHDS6.Q09M

Entry Name: Clifford Hill motte castle

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 18 February 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012328

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13648

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Little Houghton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Little Houghton St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The motte castle of Clifford Hill lies to the north of the present village
beside the River Nene. The site owes its name to its situation on a cliff,
close to the old ford crossing of the River Nene from Little Houghton to
Little Billing.
The mound is round and stands to a height of about 14m and has a basal
diameter of approximately 125m. The top of the mound is flat and about 30m
across, and is surrounded by a wide, deep ditch up to 5m deep in places. On
the north side of the motte beyond the ditch and alongside the river, lies
a bank about 4m high which formed part of the original castle defences. The
south side of the motte suffered from a series of landslips soon after it was
constructed, causing the south ditch to be recut. The recutting of this ditch
formed a low bank which has since been ploughed. The detailed history of the
site is not known, but the present name of the site is recorded in the 13th
century. The summit of the motte saw later use as a bowling green in the 17th

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.

Clifford Hill is a massive motte situated strategically beside a crossing
place of the River Nene. The motte ditch on all but the south side is largely
undisturbed and together with the mound of the motte has considerable
potential for the preservation of archaeological and environmental evidence.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of Archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire, (1979), 87-8

Source: Historic England

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