Ancient Monuments

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Benefield Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Benefield, Northamptonshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4851 / 52°29'6"N

Longitude: -0.5477 / 0°32'51"W

OS Eastings: 498715.502839

OS Northings: 288459.780284

OS Grid: SP987884

Mapcode National: GBR FXT.0CZ

Mapcode Global: VHFNG.GS9R

Entry Name: Benefield Castle

Scheduled Date: 10 December 1951

Last Amended: 21 February 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015535

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17130

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Benefield

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Benefield St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of Benefield Castle, a
medieval ringwork castle believed to have been constructed in the mid-12th
century. It is recorded in documentary sources of the 13th century but went
out of use before 1315. In the early 18th century a stone wall remained
standing but there are now no architectural features surviving above ground.
The remains of the castle are located on the end of a natural spur which
projects north eastward towards the western edge of the present village of
Lower Benefield. They include a rectangular platform with rounded corners,
measuring approximately 60m by 50m and raised up to 2m above the surrounding
land. The interior of the platform, which is now largely level, includes
slight earthworks which are considered to indicate the survival of the buried
remains of the castle's defensive, domestic and agricultural buildings. The
platform is surrounded on three sides by a broad ditch, over 10m wide and up
to 2.5m deep, representing the remains of a moat; on the west and north it is
still water-filled while on the south, where it has been partly infilled, it
is visible as an earthwork depression. Outside the ditch are the remains of
an earthen bank; on the south and west it survives as a substantial feature up
to 1m in height and on the north, where it has been altered by later activity,
it is visible as a low earthwork. The area to the east of the central
platform, now largely level, includes the infilled remains of the eastern arm
of the castle moat, and in the south eastern part of the monument is a raised
trackway. Mapped representations of the site in the early 19th century
indicate that the entrance to the castle was formerly from the east in the
direction of St Mary's Church and Manor Farm. The castle is thought to have
originated as a defended manor which was superseded in the late medieval
period by a manor house adjacent to the north east.
All modern fences, gates, bridges and garden buildings are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. 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 such, and 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.

The remains of Benefield Castle survive well as substantial earthwork features
occupying a prominent position in the landscape. Although there are no
building remains standing above ground, archaeological evidence relating to
both their construction and to the construction of the platform on which they
sit will survive in the form of buried structures and deposits. Part
infilling and waterlogging of the ditch will preserve additional artefactual
and environmental evidence for the nature of occupation on the site which will
provide valuable information about its role, both social and economic, in the
local and regional landscape.
As a result of the survival of early documentary sources the historical
context of the remains is well understood, and the topographical relationship
of the monument to the church and manor of Lower Benefield provides further
valuable information about the development of these central elements of the
medieval and post-medieval landscape.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of N, Archaeological Sites in North-East Northamptonshire, (1975)

Source: Historic England

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