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Holdgate Castle motte and bailey castle and garden remains at Hall Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Abdon, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.5023 / 52°30'8"N

Longitude: -2.6454 / 2°38'43"W

OS Eastings: 356284.443179

OS Northings: 289575.037211

OS Grid: SO562895

Mapcode National: GBR BN.HKFJ

Mapcode Global: VH83L.3CBK

Entry Name: Holdgate Castle motte and bailey castle and garden remains at Hall Farm

Scheduled Date: 10 November 1964

Last Amended: 3 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012859

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19192

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Abdon

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Holdgate

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the remains of Holdgate Castle, a large motte and bailey
castle, with two baileys, a 13th century tower, garden remains, secular
college and later ice house. The castle is situated at the northern end of a
low ridge on the east side of Corve Dale in Holdgate village and lies in close
proximity to the parish church, with which it is historically associated.
Holdgate takes its name from the Norman landowner Helgot, who is recorded in
Domesday as holding the manor, which was then known as Stanton, along with
16 others in the county of Shropshire. Helgot was a sub-tenant of Roger de
Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, and is said to have built a castle here as his
main residence, one of the three earliest castles to be documented in the
county of Shropshire. Domesday also records an existing church and priest at
Stanton. A new church, presumably replacing an earlier church, is recorded as
being consecrated by Bishop Geoffrey de Clive sometime between 1115 and 1119.
This 12th century church is described as being built within the perimeter of
the pre-existing castle and some 12th century work survives in the fabric of
the present Holy Trinity Church. A small college of secular clergy was founded
in a dwelling within the castle sometime before 1210. The college is known to
have survived until at least 1373, being dissolved sometime after this date.
The castle was held by the Royalists during the Civil War and was laid siege
to by the Parliamentarians. It was recorded as being deserted and abandoned by
The motte and bailey earthworks at Holdgate include a large castle motte,
slightly oval in plan with base dimensions of 50m north to south by 46m east
to west and standing up to 10m high. The flat summit of the motte measures 18m
north to south by 13m east to west and has been disturbed in the north west
and east quarters at some time in the past. There are several dressed stones
visible in these diggings which may be part of the foundations of a tower keep
which once occupied the summit of the mound. A stone lined ice house, blocked
3m from its entrance, is set into the base of the motte in the west quarter of
the motte. A section of the surrounding ditch is visible as a substantial
earthwork up to 11m wide and 2.1m deep running for 50m around the south west
and west sides of the motte, separating the motte from the churchyard to the
south west. Around the remaining sides of the motte, farm buildings and access
roads have removed any surface indications of the ditch. However, it will
survive as a buried feature.
There are two baileys attached to the motte: these would have contained the
domestic buildings associated with the castle. The larger of these baileys
forms a level platform to the immediate north east of the motte, the area now
occupied by Hall Farm. Although a large part of the bailey earthworks has
been reduced by the construction of the farm buildings, sufficient evidence
remains to show that the bailey platform was roughly rectangular in shape with
internal dimensions of 130m north west to south east by 60m transversely. It
includes a well defined length of scarp, 70m long and 0.8m high, which runs
from the north corner of the motte to curve around to the east forming the
north west corner of the bailey. This continues along the north side for 50m
before turning south and fading out after 26m. The north west scarp is flanked
on its outer edge by a berm up to 3m wide, separating the inner scarp from a
shallow outer scarp which merges into the natural hillslope falling to the
west. This outer scarp, up to 0.6m high, continues around the outside of the
motte to join with the outer scarp of the second bailey south of the motte.
The east side of the north bailey is no longer visible as a surface feature,
having been levelled to accommodate farm buildings. Similarly the south
western section of the bailey perimeter is no longer visible as an earthwork.
However around the south eastern edge of the bailey platform the perimeter
scarp is present as a steep scarp 2.2m high falling from the platform to the
roadway below. In the north west quarter of this bailey and included within
the scheduling, is a large semicircular mural tower believed to be 13th
century in date. It is built into the rear of the later farmhouse and is of
ashlar construction with narrow slit windows and a conical, tiled roof. Access
to the interior of the tower is from the interior of the farmhouse, though it
is not presently used for any purpose. Both the tower and the farmhouse are
Listed Buildings Grade II.
To the south west of the motte, its north east side conjoined with the
south west section of motte ditch, lies a smaller, possibly earlier, bailey.
This level platform, edged by a steep scarp averaging 2m high, now forms the
churchyard of Holy Trinity Church. It is roughly triangular in shape with
internal dimensions of 77m north to south by 65m east to west. The parish
church lies at the centre of this enclosure, a siting which agrees with the
early reference to the church being constructed within the confines of
the castle. The church and churchyard are still in use and are excluded from
the scheduling but the perimeter scarp of the enclosure is included within the
scheduling. The church is Listed Grade B.
To the south east of the motte and bailey complex, occupying ground falling to
the south east, is a complex of earthworks forming a series of rectangular
enclosures. They are believed to represent the remains of formal gardens
associated with the later phases of the castle complex. The enclosures are
bounded by strong cross-slope scarps up to 1m high with down-slope banks
arranged at right angles to the scarps. At least four distinct rectangular
plots with an average internal area of approximately 0.7ha can be recognised.
To the south west of the enclosures lies a pond which appears to be associated
with the earthworks. A well defined north west to south east orientated
hollow way, up to 1.5m deep, marks the south western extent of the garden
All modern farm buildings, fences, structures, metalled surfaces, including
the tennis court in the north west corner of the bailey and the perimeter wall
of the churchyard are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath all of these features is included. The church, churchyard and intake
pit are totally excluded from the scheduling.

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.

Holdgate Castle motte and bailey survives well and is a fine example of its
class. It has a well documented history which demonstrates an early foundation
and longevity of occupation. The substantial motte and bailey earthworks will
contain important archaeological evidence concerning their construction and
stratified evidence relating to the occupation of the site. The summit of the
motte will contain evidence for the building which stood upon it and
archaeological material relating to its occupation. The interior of the
northern bailey, although overbuilt by farm buildings, will contain important
archaeological material relating to the domestic occupation of the site buried
below the ground surface. The southern bailey, which forms the churchyard and
which has documented historical links with the foundation of the church,
demonstrates the close association between church and castle in the medieval
The garden earthworks to the south east are thought to relate to the later
medieval and early post medieval occupation of the castle and are thus a
comparatively rare survival. They survive well and will provide valuable
information concerning the physical arrangement of gardens in this early
period. They will also contain archaeological and environmental material
relating to their original plant communities. Environmental material relating
to the landscape in which the castle itself was built will be preserved sealed
beneath the motte, the various banks and ditches. The complex, considered as a
whole, is one of the most complete medieval castle complexes in Shropshire and
contributes valuable information pertaining to the development of the castle
in the Marches and to an understanding of the settlement pattern, economy and
social organisation of the countryside during the medieval and early post-
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Holy Trinity Church Holdgate
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 415,427
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire, (1908), 395

Source: Historic England

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