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Motte castle with associated courtyard and mill leat, 130m north west of Chanstone Mill

A Scheduled Monument in Vowchurch, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 52.0181 / 52°1'5"N

Longitude: -2.9258 / 2°55'32"W

OS Eastings: 336565.992477

OS Northings: 235928.870923

OS Grid: SO365359

Mapcode National: GBR F9.H2WJ

Mapcode Global: VH789.7JMR

Entry Name: Motte castle with associated courtyard and mill leat, 130m NW of Chanstone Mill

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1952

Last Amended: 18 March 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014108

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27497

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Vowchurch

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Vowchurch

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle,
situated on level ground on the east bank of the River Dore, near the head of
the Golden Valley. The remains include an earthen motte mound, of circular
form, c.42m diameter at the base. It is surrounded by a ditch from which
material for the mound's construction will have been quarried. The motte's
steep sides rise c.4m above the bottom of the ditch, to a flat top c.25m in
diameter. A slight scar on the north east side of the motte may be the result
of early investigation of the site. The ditch surrounds the motte from the
north west quarter round to the south, being absent on the river side. It is
also steep sided, 1.2m deep and c.8m wide. North of the motte the earthwork
and buried remains of a rectangular building and roughly triangular courtyard
area occupy a spur of land which projects south west towards the river. A
series of shallow ditches define a building platform which is roughly 12m
south west to north east by 9m transversely. The ditches marking the long
edges of this building continue for c.40m towards the road, enclosing a
courtyard area, the third side of which is defined by a contour leat running
south east to Chanstone Mill. The leat has been infilled in this area, but is
visible as a slight depression with darker grass cover; a slightly raised area
just south of its junction with the eastern courtyard boundary may be the
remains of a causeway. Further north, and fenced off from the rest of the
field, the leat continues as a ditch running north west along the field
boundary. It is heavily overgrown, but can be seen to be U-shaped, c.2m deep
and c.3.5m wide. Its western edge is defined by a bank 2m-3m wide and visible
in some places to a height of 1.5m. A masonry lining survives in some parts of
the ditch, and the southern end of the bank, where the leat becomes infilled,
is built up with a quantity of masonry blocks which may represent the remains
of a weir. At right angles to this masonry feature, and 10m south east of it,
an old track, or hollow way, is visible in the hedgeline against the road.
This feature represents the remains of the original access to the motte and
courtyard complex, and is 15m wide and 1m deep.

The motte is associated with a moated site and related features on the west
bank of the river, the subject of a separate scheduling (SM27504), which would
have provided the agricultural focus for the defended lordly residence. The
intention behind the design of these earthworks was that most of the area
would be surrounded by water, presumably provided by damming the river; an
arrangement which would also have filled the ditch of the motte. By the post-
medieval period the motte complex will have gone out of use, as the focus of
occupation shifted to nearby Chanstone Court.

The fence across the mill leat and along its bank is excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground beneath it is included. The fence along the eastern
edge of the leat, and the hedge along the roadside, are excluded from the

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.

The motte castle at Chanstone is a well preserved example of this class of
monument, and its association with the moated site, pond and related features
to the south east enhances its interest as an indicator of status and wealth
in medieval Herefordshire. The motte mound will contain details of its method
of construction, which may include postholes and foundations for its wooden
or stone tower. Evidence for structures such as bridges will be preserved by
the material which has accumulated in the ditch, and other bridges or
causeways may survive in the courtyard ditch or across the mill leat. All
these ditch deposits will contain environmental evidence relating to the
activities which took place at and around the motte during its period of
occupation. The buried land surface beneath the mound will preserve evidence
for land use immediately prior to the motte's construction. The spur to the
north will retain structural and environmental evidence for the function of
the buildings, and other structures which stood in the courtyard.

In its strategic position guarding a river crossing, the motte castle at
Chanstone forms part of the wider picture of the medieval defences of
Herefordshire. Its association with the moated site and related features on
the opposite bank of the Dore enhances interest in both monuments, and
increases our understanding of the medieval political and social organisation
of the county. Clearly visible from the road, the motte is a notable landmark
in the valley.

Source: Historic England


Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site
Source Date: 1950
held on SMR, author unknown
Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site
Source Date: 1950
held on SMR, author unknown
Title: Chanstone `Tumps', sketch plan of the site
Source Date: 1950
held on SMR, author unknown

Source: Historic England

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