Ancient Monuments

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Moat Hill, motte and bailey castle and earlier ringwork

A Scheduled Monument in Aldingham, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1196 / 54°7'10"N

Longitude: -3.1063 / 3°6'22"W

OS Eastings: 327786.127336

OS Northings: 469866.818933

OS Grid: SD277698

Mapcode National: GBR 6NRT.90

Mapcode Global: WH72K.8Q17

Entry Name: Moat Hill, motte and bailey castle and earlier ringwork

Scheduled Date: 10 September 1962

Last Amended: 30 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013819

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27682

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Aldingham

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Aldingham St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthwork remains of Moat Hill, the 12th/13th
century Aldingham motte and bailey castle, together with the early 12th
century ringwork upon which the motte was later built. It is situated on a
cliff top on the most prominent headland, other than Humphrey Head, on the
northern coast of Morecambe Bay. It includes an earthen mound, the motte,
which measures approximately 30m in diameter across its flat summit and stands
about 5m high. Surrounding the motte is a substantial ditch 7.5m wide and up
to 3m deep. On the seaward side of the monument, coastal erosion has destroyed
part of the ditch and mound. To the north and north east of the motte and
ditch there is a bailey which is protected by a ditch, now partly infilled,
but measuring c.3.7m wide by 3.5m deep on the north east side.
Limited excavation of the motte in 1968 as a response to erosion revealed
three periods of occupation. The first consisted of an early 12th century
ringwork measuring c.40m in diameter which was defended by an earth rampart
c.3m high. Later in the 12th century the site was converted into a motte and
bailey by infilling and heightening the ringwork to form a motte 4m high and
by adding the bailey. In the late 12th/early 13th century the motte was
further heightened and defended with a vertical timber revetment. The site
appears to have been abandoned in the 13th century probably when the moated
site at Moat Farm, which was home to the le Fleming family until they moved to
Gleaston Castle, was built.
All fences and gateposts are excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath these features is included.

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.

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprise a small defended
area containing buildings, which was surrounded by a substantial ditch and a
bank surmounted by a timber palisade. Occasionally a more lightly defended
embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as
strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic
or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded
examples and less than 60 with baileys. As one of a limited number and very
restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of
particular significance to our understanding of the period.
Despite some destruction by the sea, Moat Hill motte and bailey castle and
ringwork survives reasonably well and remains largely unencumbered by modern
development. Its earthworks in particular remain well preserved. It is a rare
example, confirmed by excavation, of a motte and bailey castle which developed
from an earlier ringwork. Excavation in 1968 was not total and the monument
will retain significant archaeological evidence.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Trans Lancs & Chesh Antiq Soc.' in Proceedings, , Vol. III, (1885), 212-3
'Trans Lancs & Chesh Antiq Soc' in Proceedings, , Vol. III, (1885), 212-3
Wilson, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain In 1968, (1968), 258-9
Wilson, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain In 1968, (1968), 258
Leach, P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Motte & Bailey Castles, (1988)
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Ringworks, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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