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Motte and bailey castle, deserted village and monastic grange at Old Wolverton

A Scheduled Monument in Wolverton and Greenleys, Milton Keynes

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Latitude: 52.0634 / 52°3'48"N

Longitude: -0.8319 / 0°49'54"W

OS Eastings: 480177.6496

OS Northings: 241203.2322

OS Grid: SP801412

Mapcode National: GBR CZT.LHG

Mapcode Global: VHDSZ.JDLJ

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castle, deserted village and monastic grange at Old Wolverton

Scheduled Date: 19 June 1967

Last Amended: 7 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013660

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13609

County: Milton Keynes

Civil Parish: Wolverton and Greenleys

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Wolverton Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument consists of two areas of earthworks and buried remains at Old
Wolverton divided by a canal. The northern area lies around the Manor Farm and
the southern area around Holy Trinity church. In the southern area the Norman
motte and bailey castle lies just to the north of the deserted village and to
the east of Holy Trinity church. Adjacent to the mound of the castle motte is
the bailey area in which stood a variety of buildings serving the castle. The
deserted village next to the castle survives as extensive and well preserved
earthworks within which roadways, house platforms, boundaries and field
systems can be clearly identified. The second area to the north east and
separated by the canal consists of earthworks surrounding the Manor Farm.
Hollow trackways, a pond, building platforms and field systems can be
identified and documentary records indicate that this area contains the
remains of an agrarian monastic grange of the Gilbertine order. The site
of the grange buildings is considered to be overlain by modern farm
buildings. Buried remains of a Roman building have been found east of
Manor Cottages. Roman and Saxon coins and metalwork have also been found
in the area.
All the farm buildings within the two areas are excluded from the scheduling
but below ground remains are included. Holy Trinity Church, its surrounding
churchyard, and the vicarage which lies to the south of the castle, 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.

The village, comprising a small group of houses, gardens, yards, streets,
paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community
devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural
landscape in most areas of medieval England, much as it is today. Villages
provided some services to the local community and acted as the main focal
point of ecclesiastical, and often of manorial, administration within each
parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied
continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were
abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly
during the 14th and 15th centuries. As a result over 2000 deserted medieval
villages are recorded nationally. The reasons for desertion were varied but
often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use such as
enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread
epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment these
villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-
preserved archaeological deposits. Because they are a common and long-lived
monument type in most parts of England, they provide important information on
the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy between the
regions and through time.
A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon
imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers
(secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident
labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were
specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms,
bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and
industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the
wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands
immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange.
Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands.
On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the
parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular
farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to
be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was
without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed
is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of
monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small
percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of
identifiable sites, continued extensive use of many has destroyed much of the
evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to
medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological
survival are identified as nationally important.
Old Wolverton presents a particularly well preserved medieval landscape
with an unusual variety of surviving components including a motte-and-
bailey castle, a deserted village, a monastic grange and earlier buried
remains of the Roman and Saxon periods.
In the medieval period both this village and the parish were large and
important and the castle was the seat of the Norman lords of Wolverton. The
significance of the monument is further enhanced by the presence of earlier
Roman remains and, particularly, by the evidence for early medieval

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Wolverton, (1927), 505-9
Sheahan, J J, History and Topography of Bucks, (1863)
Cambridge University, Old Wolverton DMV, CIM 73 & 68,
Cambridge University, Old Wolverton, CIM 65,
Deed No. 129, Bucks Rec Soc, Snelshall Cartulary (13th century),

Source: Historic England

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