Ancient Monuments

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Motte castle at Abinger Manor.

A Scheduled Monument in Abinger, Surrey

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Latitude: 51.2021 / 51°12'7"N

Longitude: -0.4069 / 0°24'24"W

OS Eastings: 511394.987523

OS Northings: 145975.614654

OS Grid: TQ113459

Mapcode National: GBR GFG.KYJ

Mapcode Global: VHFVX.W1RR

Entry Name: Motte castle at Abinger Manor.

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 9 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012579

English Heritage Legacy ID: 12779

County: Surrey

Civil Parish: Abinger

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Abinger

Church of England Diocese: Guildford


The monument, a motte castle of the early Norman period dating to around
1100-1150AD, is adjacent to the later Manor House. It includes not only the
prominent earthen mound but also the partially-excavated moat which
surrounds it and, to the north and west of the mound, a low outer bank of
earth. The flat-topped mound measures some 30m in diameter at its base and
stands to a height of nearly 4m above the level of the surrounding land. The
mound was originally surrounded by a substantial moat which provided
defensive strength as well as the earth for the motte itself. This moat was
deliberately infilled in antiquity and is now only visible in two areas. To
the south-east, where it was excavated in 1949, it features a natural step
left unquarried by the moat diggers to provide sound footings for an access
bridge. To the north- west of the mound the position of the moat is marked
by a pond considered likely to have been dug into the upper part of the moat
relatively recently. Only on the north-east side does an outer bank to the
moat survive, this bordering the footpath.
The excavations demonstrated that a timber look-out tower, surrounded by a
palisade fence, had stood on the mound during the first half of the 12th
century. The postholes of both were marked with concrete once dug.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern buildings and other lengths of
walling (but not the ground beneath them), the areas of paving or Tarmac
(but again not the ground beneath them), all fences and the existing
spotlights with their supply cables.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and the centre 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 or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples
known from most regions. As such, and 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 Abinger is of especial importance as the site of the first
modern-style excavation of such a monument and hence it formed an important
stage in the evolution of thought on the origin and use of these mounds.
Waterlogging in the base of the ditch holds high potential for the survival
of normally-perishable organic remains such as timber. The monument has
been laid out to be easily understood and is excellently maintained. It is
therefore of high amenity value.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cathcart-King, D J, The Castle in England and Wales, (1988), 39,48
Hope-Taylor, B, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavation Of A Motte At Abinger In Surrey, , Vol. 107, (1950), 15-43
Surrey Ant. No. 51,

Source: Historic England

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