Ancient Monuments

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Ascott Earl motte and bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.8639 / 51°51'50"N

Longitude: -1.5704 / 1°34'13"W

OS Eastings: 429677.974518

OS Northings: 218456.747391

OS Grid: SP296184

Mapcode National: GBR 5SC.5RL

Mapcode Global: VHBZM.QDNZ

Entry Name: Ascott Earl motte and bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 17 August 1971

Last Amended: 16 November 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016562

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21806

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Ascott-under-Wychwood

Built-Up Area: Ascott-under-Wychwood

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Ascott-under-Wychwood

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of Ascott Earl motte
and bailey castle and earlier Iron Age settlement evidence beneath the castle
earthworks. The castle is situated immediately south east of the River
Evenlode with its bailey extending to the north west to enclose the land
between the river and the motte at the edge of the flood plain on a slight
natural spur. A second motte and bailey castle lies less than 1km to the east
and is the subject of a separate scheduling. The two castles are linked by the
linear development of Ascott-under-Wychwood and Ascott Earl along the Shipton
The motte has a base diameter of approximately 56m and stands 3.5m high above
the present bailey interior. It has a flat summit which measures 45m from
north east to south west and 30m transversely. The top of the mound is
believed, from excavated evidence, to have had a rampart around its edge, and
a short section of this survives as a visible earthwork 4m wide and 0.6m high
on the north side of the motte. This feature now forms part of a modern
property boundary.
The bailey is crescent shaped with its interior measuring approximately 70m
north to south by 30m from east to west. It is bounded by a rampart bank which
varies in width from 3m to 4.5m wide at its base and stands up to 1.7m high in
places. Beyond this, enclosing the bailey and all but the east side of the
motte, is a largely infilled outer ditch which measures between 12m and 20m
The motte is separated from the bailey by a ditch approximately 10m wide and
although partly infilled, this is still open to a depth of 0.8m in places. It
was crossed by means of a 4m wide causeway which can still be seen to the
south west of the motte.
To the east of the motte, later changes to the village have obscured the exact
nature of the castle, but it would seem likely that access to the castle from
the Shipton Road might have been possible along a natural spur from the motte
Limited excavation work and other observations since the castle was first
identified in 1946 by Jope, indicate that the castle lies on the site of
earlier settlement including Iron Age and possibly Saxon activity. In
addition, the excavations have identified pottery and other artefacts relating
to the occupation of the castle as well as physical evidence of the nature and
construction of the motte and the castle walls which has been dated to the
11th or early 12th century.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and walls, ornamental garden
features and standing buildings, although the ground beneath these features is

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

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 Ascott Earl is unusual in being one of a pair
of similar monuments in close proximity, a factor which contributed to the
subsequent development of the surrounding settlement.
The majority of the motte and the adjacent bailey survive despite some later
alteration and are visible as upstanding earthworks. The infilling of much of
the bailey ditch will, in association with the water-logging from the adjacent
river, have enhanced the survival of archaeological and environmental deposits
which will provide a source of information relating to the construction,
function and occupation of the site as well as the earlier landscape on which
it was built. Limited excavation has shown the existence of earlier settlement
remains beneath the mound of the motte. These remains will almost certainly
also survive beneath the rampart banks of the bailey and quite possibly below
the bailey interior as well, providing evidence for earlier precursors of the
medieval settlement.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Aston, M, '1972 Newsletter CBA Group 9' in Motte And Bailey Castle, , Vol. N/L 2, (1972)
Jope, E M, Threlfall, R I, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Ascott Earl Motte And Bailey, (1959), 239
Jope, E M, Threlfall, R I, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Ascott Earl Motte And Bailey, (1959), 239
PRN 1532, C.A.O., Motte and Bailey Castle, (1994)
PRN 3190, C.A.O., Motte and Bailey Castle, (1976)
PRN 3191, C.A.O., Iron Age pottery, (1976)

Source: Historic England

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