Ancient Monuments

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Watch Hill motte and bailey castle, 450m south of Streethead Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Bowdon, Trafford

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Latitude: 53.3702 / 53°22'12"N

Longitude: -2.3803 / 2°22'49"W

OS Eastings: 374792.807692

OS Northings: 385990.831601

OS Grid: SJ747859

Mapcode National: GBR CYTG.GL

Mapcode Global: WH98V.DKR6

Entry Name: Watch Hill motte and bailey castle, 450m south of Streethead Farm

Scheduled Date: 24 February 1978

Last Amended: 22 March 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014377

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25727

County: Trafford

Electoral Ward/Division: Bowdon

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Bowdon St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle on a triangular promontory
formed by the bank of the River Bollin on the south side and the steep side of
a gorge on the north side. The site has been known variously as Watch Hill,
Castle Hill and Yarwood Castle. The castle lies 300m to the east of the Roman
road, which became an important medieval highway, and appears to dominate a
crossing point by bridge or ford of the River Bollin which lay at what is now
New Bridge.
The motte is on the west side at the point of the promontory. It stands 6m
high and is 40m broad at the base. It is surrounded by a ditch 5m wide which
cuts the promontory and separates it from the bailey. On the east side the
ditch is 3m deep with a possible original ramp or entrance work on the western
side. The bailey is on the promontory to the east of the motte. This an
enclosed platform in the shape of a triangle with the eastern side 80m long
and the other two sides 60m long. The northern and southern sides are
defined by a rampart on the crown of the steep slopes on each side. This can
still be seen although it is ploughed down to a height of 0.3m. On the east
side the rampart is barely visible, but an outside ditch 4m wide can be seen
as a depression, particularly at the line of the hedges on each end. There is
a possible counterscarp outside this ditch.
The motte was constructed during the years after the Norman Conquest and was
part of the barony of the family de Massey who gave their name to Dunham
Massey, a hall and settlement to the west of the site. Excavations in 1985,
which revealed evidence of the construction and size of the motte, suggested
that it was speedily erected, possibly during the rebellion of Hamon de Massey
against Henry II in 1173.
There is a boundary stone in the bottom of the ditch to the west of the motte
bearing the initials S on the west face and C on the east face. This marks the
limit of the estate of Lord Stamford at the time that he gave the farmland and
castle to the Church Commissioners early in this century.
The boundary stone is included in the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 motte and bailey castle at Watch Hill survives well and still has traces
of entrance works and clearly defined earthworks for the bailey. There will be
significant surviving remains of the post holes for the wooden keep and the
timberwork of the interior. The bailey will contain evidence of the internal
buildings for the staff and the wooden fortifications on the rampart.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brown, K, Johnson, B, 'GM Archaeological Journal' in Watch Hill Bowden, (), 35-38
Letter EH 1993, Yarwood, BN,

Source: Historic England

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