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Motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar

A Scheduled Monument in Dorstone, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 52.0629 / 52°3'46"N

Longitude: -3.0539 / 3°3'14"W

OS Eastings: 327842.079994

OS Northings: 241028.914269

OS Grid: SO278410

Mapcode National: GBR F4.D14C

Mapcode Global: VH781.0DVX

Entry Name: Motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar

Scheduled Date: 15 March 1972

Last Amended: 2 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014542

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27510

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Dorstone

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Dorstone

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle,
situated on the eastern tip of an east-west ridge, near the head of the Golden
Valley. The ridge slopes steeply down to tributaries of Pont-y-Weston Brook to
north and south.

The remains include an earthen motte mound of circular form, c.32m in diameter
at the base, whose steep sides rise c.3m to a top of roughly 22m diameter. An
earthen bank runs around the rim of this otherwise flat top, barely visible in
the eastern quarter but standing to a height of c.0.6m and c.2m wide to the
west. This bank will have supported a timber palisade around the motte to
enhance its defences. The motte is surrounded by a ditch which is now mostly
infilled, but is clearly visible as an almost continuous circle of thicker and
darker grass up to 4m wide. Around the north and west it remains as a
depression c.0.3m deep, and is narrower around the south and east where the
ground slopes steeply away. Where the ground slopes less steeply to the north,
north east, and westwards along the ridge, an earthen bank has been cast up
outside the ditch, to improve the defences of these more vulnerable areas. To
the north west and east this counterscarp bank is visible as a slight rise
some 3m wide, but to the north it survives up to 0.5m high, probably due to
its incorporation into a later field boundary bank. To the ENE the ditch is
interrupted by a causeway which continues as a hollow up the side of the
mound. A small amount of masonry is visible in this hollow, at the foot of the
mound to the right of it, and in the counterscarp bank near its junction with
the causeway. This causeway probably represents the original access to the
motte, the masonry perhaps being the remains of stairs or footings for a

The motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar is part of a concentration of
medieval defensive monuments in the area. It commands impressive views in all
directions, and is most closely associated with the separately scheduled motte
and bailey at Mynydd Brith, only 500m to the NNE.

The monument is currently fenced off from stock, and this fence and gate, and
the field boundary fence to the north, are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included.

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 230m north west of Nant-y-bar is a well preserved example of
this class of monument. The motte mound will contain details of its method of
construction, including post holes for revetments and palisades, and
foundations for its wooden or stone tower. Evidence for structures such as a
bridge will be preserved by the material which has accumulated in the ditch,
and in the form of masonry remains within the mound and counterscarp bank. The
ditch deposits will contain environmental evidence relating to the activities
which took place at the motte and for land use in the surrounding area. The
buried land surface beneath the mound and bank will preserve evidence for land
use immediately prior to the motte's construction. The bank itself will retain
evidence for its construction and for any defensive enhancement which may have
surmounted it.

In its commanding position on the ridge, 500m from Mynydd Brith motte and
bailey (scheduled separately), Nant-y-bar motte castle forms part of a larger
group of the medieval defences of Herefordshire. When viewed in association
with the many other defensive sites in the area it can contribute to our
understanding of the medieval political and social organisation of the county.
Clearly visible from the road, the motte is a prominent local landmark.

Source: Historic England


quoted on SMR record, Brown, Sterling , Preliminary Results Of Castle Survey, Herefordshire Archaeological News, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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