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Motte castle, chapel, post-medieval house and garden remains east of Urishay Castle Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Peterchurch, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 52.0325 / 52°1'57"N

Longitude: -2.9878 / 2°59'16"W

OS Eastings: 332327.812181

OS Northings: 237583.097836

OS Grid: SO323375

Mapcode National: GBR F6.G5HZ

Mapcode Global: VH788.559Q

Entry Name: Motte castle, chapel, post-medieval house and garden remains east of Urishay Castle Farm

Scheduled Date: 13 October 1951

Last Amended: 2 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014547

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27516

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Peterchurch

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Peterchurch

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of a medieval
motte castle, a partly ruined chapel, and ruined post-medieval house and
garden. The monument is situated on gently sloping ground on the west side of
the Golden Valley, between headwaters of the Trennant Brook.
The remains of the motte castle include a substantial earthen mound of
circular form, with a diameter at the base of c.50m. The motte's steep sides
rise c.6m above the bottom of the surrounding ditch, which averages 12m wide
and survives to a maximum depth of 2m. A slight terrace half way up the side
of the motte has a post-medieval retaining wall, but may indicate the position
of an original palisade or walkway around the motte. Two causeways, one
crossing the north west and one the south east quarter of the ditch, represent
the original method of access to the motte. Both are c.7m wide, and retain
traces of a masonry revetment which may have originated in the medieval
period. Sections of retaining wall survive on both inside and outside edges of
the ditch, in some areas to its full height, and at least two phases of
construction are evident. The later phase relates to modifications associated
with the construction of the house, however earlier stretches may be
contemporary with the motte itself. The ditch to either side of the north west
causeway has become almost completely infilled, but large dressed blocks from
the retaining wall remain at its foot and along the top of the inside edge of
the ditch to either side. The north facing section has been dislodged by tree
fall. A line of stones c.0.5m below the level of the motte summit may indicate
the existence of a vault below ground. The retaining wall around the south
east causeway is more complete as the ditch survives to a greater depth, and
the causeway itself has a cobbled surface which continues onto the summit of
the motte. This surface will have been laid when the house was constructed, as
one of several enhancements befitting a high status residence. The terrace,
retaining walls and causeways were rebuilt, the latter now having a rather
fan-shaped appearance. A bridge was constructed across the north east quarter
of the ditch to provide access and an ornamental focus to the garden beyond.
The footings of this feature survive on either side of the ditch, on the east
side of which, a section of retaining wall has subsided revealing the rubble
core of the bridge foundations. Against the motte, some dressed blocks from
the top steps remain, and south of this a stone buttress supports a well
preserved stretch of retaining wall. Construction of the house will have
reused much of the masonry from the tower which originally surmounted the
motte, and has removed all surface evidence for this feature. However its
foundations will survive below ground.

The house is of mainly 17th century date and consists of two ranges, the
larger orientated NNW-SSE, the main front therefore facing ENE towards the
garden. Now unroofed, it originally had three floors, and the south, west, and
parts of the east walls remain almost to their full height. The windows and
fireplaces were adapted several times during the occupation of the house. The
internal plasterwork has fallen away to reveal that the original deeply
chamfered windows were narrowed, probably in the late 17th century, to house
sashes. The square jambs of the earlier windows are of tufa. The broad
fireplaces were similarly replaced with two successively smaller brick
versions. The north wall of the house is no longer standing, however part of a
polygonal room survives in the north west angle of the cross range. A window
in the south west wall of this range retains the top of a central mullion
which suggests it survived unmodified, and is probably a feature surviving
from an earlier period. Much of the outside of the house retains a 19th
century concrete rendering. The remains of a small ancillary building are
recessed into the motte against the south east wall of the house; the north
east and west sides and part of the front or south wall are now visible. In
use throughout the 19th century, the house was advertised to let in Country
Life in 1903, however the estate was offered for sale some ten years later.
The fixtures and fittings were removed in the 1920s, one entire room being
shipped to Chicago, and much of the panelling being transported to the Isle of
Mull. Amongst the last features to survive was a moulded 17th century ceiling.
The house was described as ruined by 1927.

The earthwork and buried remains of its terraced garden are situated downslope
to the ENE of the house, which would have commanded fine views across the
garden towards the countryside beyond. The garden is rectangular in plan,
measuring c.38m NNW-SSE by c.25m transversely, and has been terraced into the
hillslope, so that its north and west sides are recessed and the south and
east sides are scarped. This level area will have been laid out with a series
of flowerbeds and paths which are no longer visible on the surface, but will
survive as buried features. A broad walkway approaches the garden across its
front or east side, with another path leading past the north side towards the
house. A number of ornamental trees survive around the edges of the terrace,
including box and laurel, which were popular garden species between the 16th
and 18th centuries. A sunken lane or hollow way runs past the monument east to
west, parallel to and south of the existing road, and was shifted northwards
when the house was built to create more space for the gardens. It can be seen
as an earthwork feature c.6m wide approaching the gardens from the ENE and
ending at the top of the terrace, after which it has been infilled and planted
with trees. However it survives here as a buried feature and reappears as an
earthwork near the farm. A second hollow way approaches the monument as a
trackway from the south east, which now continues around the east and north
edges of the motte.

The buried and ruined remains of the chapel are situated to the north of the
motte, and the ruins are Listed Grade II*. The chapel is of stone rubble
construction, with some tufa mainly in sills and jambs. The earliest remains
date from the 12th century, and several phases of rebuilding and modification
have been identified, much of which is contemporary with the house. The chapel
is rectangular in plan and of two cell construction. The nave is now separated
from the chancel by a modern wall set roughly 1.5m west of the chancel arch.
The arch itself is a reconstruction, and has reconstructed stone altars set
against each end on the nave side. The slab floor probably dates from the 17th
century, and excavation has revealed earlier floors surviving beneath it. The
chancel has been reroofed with stone tiles and the east gable rebuilt, but the
remains of the original east wall retain traces of two narrow windows with
semicircular heads and steeply sloping sills. These were subsequently replaced
by the existing single light with broad shallow splay. The south wall of the
chancel contains two windows. The eastern, broad splayed, square headed window
replaced a 12th century light with round-headed arch. The western window is
small and high with a flat top and splayed jambs. The priest's doorway in the
north wall of the chancel has a segmental headed interior arch: the door leaf
itself is a modern replacement. Within the chancel the altar is a modern
reconstruction. The edge of the raised sanctuary retains sockets for a
communion rail, and south of the altar are the, now blocked, niches for the
aumbry and piscina, in the east and south walls respectively. The western part
of the nave has no roof or north wall, and its south wall has been rebuilt,
but retains an earlier door. The modern wall dividing the western unroofed
nave from the eastern nave and chancel (both roofed) has blocked the window in
the south wall, however it is apparent that the original narrow light with
semicircular head was later widened. The west end of the south wall and the
west wall and buttress at its north end are of 17th century date. The west
wall contains two square, barred, windows, the northern one being wider and
set lower than the southern. Both have splayed sides and oak sills and lintels
internally, with stone lintels externally. Much of the glazing in the chapel
was reinstated during the restoration of 1914, as was the 19th century
pedestal of the font which remains at the west end of the nave. Excavations
have shown the original chapel had a semicircular apse, which was demolished
in the late 12th or early 13th century and replaced with the chancel, which
was itself extended eastwards. Two infant burials were found, post-dating the
demolition of the apse and below 16th century floor levels. Earlier and
probably original foundations of the west wall of the nave were located c.1.6m
west of the existing wall, and survive as buried features.

The estate at Urishay probably took its name from Urri de la Haie, to whom the
land was granted by Roger I de Chandos some time after the death of Henry I in
1135. Urri would have constructed the chapel soon after completion of the
castle, to serve his family and garrison, and the later 12th century
extensions to the chapel may correspond with his grandson Roger's success
under Richard I and King John. The estate remained with the de la Hay family
until the demise of the house in the 1920s. The monument is a fine example of
a medieval motte castle adapted as a high status post-medieval residence. In
its strategic position near the head of the Golden Valley, the motte is one of
a concentration of similar monuments, its nearest neighbour being the motte
and bailey castle at Snodhill 3km to the north (scheduled separately). The
close association and continued use of the chapel until the First World War
attests the high status of the site throughout its medieval and post-medieval
occupation, and into the present century.

The new door in the north wall of the chapel chancel is excluded from the
scheduling; the fences around the chapel and the modern wall near the entrance
to the farm are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath all of
these features 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 at Urishay is a well preserved example of this class of
monument, and is of particular interest because of its association with the
house and gardens which superseded it, and with the chapel which remained in
use throughout the medieval and post-medieval occupation of the motte. There
is thus a variety of types of information surviving as both above and
below ground features. The motte mound will retain details of its method of
construction, including post holes for palisades and foundations for its
medieval tower. The fills of the ditch will preserve evidence for the
activities which took place at the motte castle and subsequently. The ground
surface sealed beneath the motte mound will preserve environmental evidence
for land use immediately prior to the motte's construction. Within the
standing remains of the house the sequence of its construction and subsequent
modifications are preserved. Associated with the construction of the house are
modifications to the retaining walls around the ditch and motte terrace,
elaboration of the causeways, and the construction of the bridge, all of which
contribute to our understanding of the development of this high status

Gardens were known in Britain from Roman times, with documentary references
appearing in the medieval period, and by the 16th century detailed plans and
descriptions are common. Gardens can survive as earthworks, standing remains
and buried features. Between the mid-16th and early 18th centuries formal
gardens, which combined massive earthworks with exotic and intricate planting,
were in vogue, and their extent and design reflect not only artistic aims and
changing fashions but also the social aspirations and status of their owners.
The terraced garden at Urishay is a good example of a small 16th or 17th
century formal garden, designed to complement and enhance the high status
residence which occupied the motte. The flower beds and paths on the terrace
will survive as buried features, retaining evidence for the plants used, and
structural evidence relating to any changes in design over time. The presence
of imported tree species, and the repositioning of the hollow way to create
more garden space, both attest the power and influence of the de la Hays. The
proximity of the chapel further increases interest in the site. Both buried
and standing remains retain evidence for its original design and subsequent
alterations, including the construction methods employed. Its early
construction, continued use, and subsequent modifications are further
indicators of the wealth and status of its patrons throughout the occupation
of the site.

The spatial and chronological association of the different elements of the
monument enhance interest in the site as a whole, and contribute to our
understanding of the development of this high status holding from the early
12th through to the 20th century. The motte castle is one of a chain of
similar defensive monuments in the Golden Valley and as such forms part of the
wider picture of the county's medieval defences. The monument as a whole
increases our knowledge of the political and social organisation of medieval
and later Herefordshire.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cathcart-King, D J, Castellarium Anglicanum, (1983)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Herefordshire, south west, (1931), 211
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Herefordshire, south west, (1931), 211
Shoesmith, R, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club' in Urishay Chapel, (1987), 690
Shoesmith, R, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club' in Urishay Chapel, (1987), 686-715

Source: Historic England

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